Woodridge girls track team looking to advance in playoffs
PENINSULA — Despite its overall youth, the Woodridge High School girls track team was able to post a seventh-consecutive Portage Trail Conference title this past weekend.
“The girls ended up 6-0 in the conference and 6-2 overall,” said head coach Jeff Howard. “This spring, we have been competitive at invitationals but really stood strong in our conference duals. Two of these meets came down to the final event, and the girls were able to finish in grand fashion and maintain their seven-year undefeated streak.”
Howard said his team doesn’t feel pressure to maintain that streak.
“I just think the kids have some pride, the same as the girls before them,” he stated. “We have great kids here. I really think they’re exceptional.”
Last year, Woodridge finished with a 6-0 record, but Howard said the team lost some strong performers to graduation.
“We lost three collegiate athletes [Maria Moore and Morgan Willis, The University of Akron; and Miranda Stockton, The University of Mount Union] and a number of all-state and all-conference performers,” he said.
According to Howard, the greatest strength of this year’s team has been “depth in many events.”
“We are especially deep in the hurdle events and the distance events,” he said. “If one kid had a rough day, then another kid would have a good one. We have a lot of kids that are able to contribute in a lot of places.”
Howard said the team’s depth proved invaluable at the league meet.
“We only had one winner. We had a ton of second- and third-place finishers, but when you only have one winner, and you still win the meet, that’s a testament to the fact that they are a real team,” he said. “We scored in every event. We have a lot of depth.”
Woodridge’s lone individual winner at the league event was sophomore Madison Spreitzer, who won the 1600-meter race.
“She was our No. 1 in the fall in cross country, and she’s really had a great year all the way around,” the coach said. “Last year, she had some injury issues that kept her from performing at a real high level, but this year she’s gotten all that stuff straightened out and she’s really performed well all year.”
Howard said he has seen improvement from the entire team as the season has progressed.
“We’ve had tons and tons of personal records and lifetime bests,” he said. “We’ve really gotten better as the year’s gone on.”
The team’s one weakness, Howard said, has been “consistency in our performances.”
“That is a by-product of being young,” he said. “We are very young on the track, and I think that’s one of the reasons we were up and down a bit. But we have plenty of experience from Caitlin Summers, Madison Cummins and Christi Hartshorn in the throws. Those three were relatively consistent all year.”
Howard said the team has received strong performances from the senior class.
“Caitlin Summers is a great discus thrower. She’s very consistent. Distance runner Angelina Moore is a four-year strong contributor and leader,” he said. “Christi Hartshorn is a field events competitor and a great athlete in the high jump and discus. And Alex AbouAbdallah is a middle distance runner.”
Howard called junior Paige Graham “the team’s MVP” this season.
“She is leading our team, by a long shot, in points as she competes in the hurdle races and two relays,” he said. “She’s really established herself as a hammer.”
Part of the reason for the team’s success, Howard said, has been the success of the team’s underclassmen.
“Our sophomore class is exceptional. Kelly Lockemer is a first-year pole vaulter and contributing well,” he said. “And [freshmen] Aijah Albert, Vivian Lessears, Emily Schuh and Aleah Taylor have really provided depth and talent in the sprint races.”
Next up for Woodridge is the district meet at Cortland Lakeview High School today, May 17, at 4 p.m. and May 19 at 10 a.m.
“I think we could qualify quite a few kids through to the next round,” the coach said. “I don’t think we’ll be in the hunt to win the whole thing necessarily, but we’re hoping we can be in the top five or six. Individually, we have a lot of possibilities, though.”
Howard said the competition this season also will provide valuable experience for the team’s younger athletes.
“Because of our youth, we’re hoping to get them out against the big-time competition at a meet where you either run well or you’re done,” he said. “We’re hoping this experience will help them for next year.”
Howard is in his 18th year of involvement with the Woodridge High School track program, with four years as an assistant and 14 years as a head coach. The team’s other coaches are co-head coach Lester Carney and assistant coaches Scott Mercer, hurdles and jumps, and Brian Wismer, throws.
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