Stow girls track wins title at Bulldog Relays at Olmsted Falls

Steve Batko
Correspondent
Stow-Munroe Falls Bulldogs

Besides all the physical tools, the Stow girls track squad has shown that they work at their craft and know how to compete.

Leading up to the league and district championship meets, those are critical attributes.

In a few different ways, Stow showed that ability to compete and succeed at the Kiwanis Bulldog Relays at Olmsted Falls by capturing a team crown at the 46th annual event.

Stow was set to compete at the challenging Suburban League National Conference Championships May 12 and 13 at Nordonia.

“We finally have everyone back as healthy as we can be,” noted head coach Aaron Morris.

“Unfortunately, the time off for some of our injured athletes left them a little less physically prepared for the post season than we had hoped,” he added. “However, it is better to have them all back than to not have them back at all. We should look our strongest all season in post season.”

The Bulldogs will compete at the Nordonia Division I district championships May 19 and 21.

Morris and his staff have a slew of athletes capable of scoring in both the league and district meets.

One of those athletes is junior Kendra Cassiday, who was voted by the coaches as the Meet MVP at Olmsted Falls.

Cassiday won the 1,600-meter title at the Bulldog Relays as she crossed in 5-minutes and 26.65 seconds.

In addition, she helped the 6,400-meter relay shatter a new school record and a new meet record with a time of 21:54.87. That time broke the previous meet mark by North Royalton in 2009.

Joining Cassiday in the event was freshman Jayla Atkinson, junior Hannah Hartenburg, and junior Sam Fobean.

“Kendra had two great races on Friday,” said Morris. “She ran a 5:24 in the relay and came back to run a 5:26 to win the 1600-meters later in the meet.”

“The relay broke an 11-year-old school record set by Katie Betts, Abby Koch, Jessica DuHamel, and Tessa Wilson. Three of those girls were on the state runner-up 3,200-meter relay that year (2009). That bodes well for our current girls and their futures.”

That 2009 Ohio runner-up relay included DuHamel, Katee Wensinger, Koch, and Betts.

With 111 points, Stow won the team crown over Rocky River Magnificat (105), Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (102), North Royalton (86), Olmsted Falls (86), and Strongsville (83).

Senior Leah Bennington was a prime example of how Stow competes with grit and some hard work through adversity.

Bennington was the runner-up in the triple jump – an event that was new to her and she had just a couple of practice sessions prior to the meet. She reached 31-feet and 1.25 inches.

“Leah really stepped up for us in the triple jump,” stressed Morris. “Since triple jump is not an event that we typically do in Ohio, she had to learn the event in one week. She basically had three practices in the event prior to the meet.”

Bennington’s points – she also scored in the high jump – enabled Stow to win the team title.

“She (Bennington) led the event nearly the whole competition until she was out jumped on the last attempt by the athlete from Magnificat,” said Morris.

“Since the event was scored individually instead of as a relay, it was the most valuable event on the track,” pointed out Morris. “Leah scored eight points and (junior) Olivia Casalinova took eighth-place (27-8.5 feet) scoring one point. Since we only won the meet by six points, without the points in triple jump, we would not have won the meet.”

Sophomore Lily Baker was second overall in the pole vault with an effort of 9-0 feet as the Stow relay scored well in the event with the help of the versatile Casalinova, who reached 8-0 feet, which was fifth overall.

Showing how bright the future is, Stow scored well with underclassmen comprising the second-place 800-meter relay (1:52.46) and in the 800-meter sprint medley (1:54.53).

Making up the 800-relay was junior Lydia Payne, sophomore Nicole Kotsatos, sophomore Sophia Yoder, and sophomore Sydney Sheppert.

The sprint medley had Sheppert, Yoder, Kotsatos, and Atkinson.

Carly Feckley is a senior who was expected to score some points at the league meet – just as she did in the jumping events at Olmsted Falls.

With a strong leap of 5-0 feet, Feckley placed third overall at the Bulldog Relays and helped the relay crew to second-place along with Bennington (4-8) and junior Mariah Propst (4-6).

In the long jump, Feckley was fourth with a leap of 15-7.25 feet.

“Carly Feckley is indispensable – we are not the same team without her,” declared Morris. “She is jumping well in both the high jump and the long jump. She also holds down a spot in our 400-meter relay. She worked very hard in the off season to improve her marks from last year and it has paid off for her.”

Continuing to make strides, sophomore Paige Klingensmith ran third in the 100-meter hurdles in 16.68 seconds and also helped the 400-meter shuttle hurdle crew to a second-place (1:10.66).

“Paige has quietly been having a great season,” issued Morris. “She is a first-year sophomore for our team since her freshman season was lost to COVID last year.”

“She has the physical ability of a sophomore, but in a technical event like hurdles, she is still catching up on skills that she was cheated out of by losing last season,” stressed Morris. “She has adapted very well and has started to 3-step the first half of her race. She has been working very hard on this and this has led to her time drop in the second half of the season in the 100-meter hurdles.”

Joining Klingensmith on the shuttle hurdles were seniors Kaylee Lott and Rachel Rhodes, along with freshman Ellie Brosch.

While thrower Rosa Tate is a senior, her situation is similar to Klingensmith.

“We wish Rosa Tate wasn’t a senior,” said Morris. “We’d love to have her on the team for another year at the very least. She came out last year and we knew she would immediately help our shot putters. However, because she lost that season to COVID, she is in the same boat as Klingensmith where she had to learn a lot in one season instead of spreading her gains out over two seasons.”

At Olmsted Falls, Tate placed third overall in the shot put with a throw of 31-8.5 feet and helped the relay crew to second-place.

“We definitely would not look the same without Rosa this year,” revealed Morris. “She has been good for the program on and off the track. She is an inspiring young woman and the girls on the team absolutely love her.”

The relay crew was second with efforts from junior Emily Blasko, who was fifth individually with a heave of 29-9 feet, and sophomore Brooklyn Fitzgerald, who had a toss of 28-10.5 feet.

Stow’s distance medley ran third (13:41.39) with senior Ashley Hutchinson, Payne, freshman Deena Ingrassia, and sophomore Sydney Pitcovich.

Running fourth was the 1,600-meter relay (4:12.96) of Ingrassia, Payne, Atkinson, and junior Sam Tondiglia.

Kotsatos is another developing young athlete as she ran fifth in the 100-meter dash in 13.54 ticks and helped a young 400-meter relay grab fifth-place.

The 400-meter relay (54.71) also had Sheppert, freshman Paula Incorvati and Yoder.

Also scoring was Stow’s 3,200-meter relay (10:53.78) of Hartenburg, Fobean, junior Sarah Staudt, and junior Sophia Battenhouse.

Helping the discus relay to score was Fitzgerald, who had a heave of 89-5 feet (sixth), Blasko (76-11 feet), and junior Emma Hedderly (73-11).

Assisting Feckley for the long jump relay score was versatile athletes like Sheppert (14-6.5 feet) and Casalinova (14-0.5 feet).