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Woodridge girls track team looking to capture league title

5/16/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

PENINSULA — Woodridge High School girls track head coach Jeff Howard said his team, which has a 7-2 overall record and a 6-0 league mark, is on pace to achieve some of its preseason goals.

“Going into the year, we were looking to win the conference, which I think we can do. If we just keep performing the way we have been, I think we’ll win the league,” Howard said. “And I think we’ll advance quite a few kids to the regionals, which are the week after next. And, hopefully, we can get someone to state.”

Last weekend, the team finished sixth at the Woodridge Wrap-Up.

“There were a lot of big schools there, and I was happy with some of our performances,” Howard said. “There were 16 girls teams there. We had a pretty good meet, and we had some great performances by quite a few kids.”

This week, Woodridge is hosting the Portage Trail Conference meet, with the finals slated for tomorrow, May 17.

“I think us and Southeast and Rootstown are all in the mix to win it,” Howard said. “Our league championship is decided with 50 percent in the dual meets and 50 percent at the actual league meet. We’ve got 50 percent of it in the bag already, so all we need to do is finish second [at the league meet] and we’d have a share of the title. I think that if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll win.”

Howard said he has seen improvement in his athletes as the season has progressed.

“I think we’re getting more consistent,” he said. “With the early weather, I don’t think our sprinters were quite as fit as they have been in the past, because they weren’t able to get all of the work in. We’re a touch behind where we’d like to be, but we’ll be all right. And my distance crew is in really good shape. I think they’re coming along nicely.”

The team’s best distance runners this year, Howard said, have been juniors Allyson Dryer and Madison Spreitzer.

“Allyson is our top 800-meter runner. She’s been running really fast all year, and she’s a great kid,” he said. “Madison is one of our best distance runners as well. She was the Portage Trail Conference runner of the year in cross country.”

According to Howard, one of the team’s most valuable runners, senior Paige Graham, has been forced to overcome an injury for much of the season.

“She’s had back problems all year. She just started hurdling again this week after not hurdling since the first week of the season,” the coach said. “She was the league champ in the high hurdles last year and a regional finalist the last two years. She’s really a good kid and a great student. She’s going to Ohio State [University] in the fall.”

With Graham missing some time, Howard stated, some young hurdlers have stepped up for the team this season.

“One of our best hurdlers has been freshman Aamirah Howard, who moved into the district with her sister, Kahdesha Howard. And we also have Aijah Albert, who has been hurdling really well for us all year,” he said. “Kahdesha, who is a junior, has been our best sprinter all year. They’ve all done a really nice job for us.”

Two key seniors on this year’s team are Maggie Zimmerman and Emily Gillespie.

“Maggie’s been a huge shot in the arm for us. She’s done a nice job all year in the distance races,” Howard said. “Emily is a pole vaulter who was sixth at the indoor state meet in the pole vault. She has our school record.”

In addition, the coach said, the team has a pair of talented freshmen throwers in Tyne Miller and Chelsee Williams.

“They’ve both been doing really well,” he said. “We’ve been counting on them most of the year.”

The team’s strength this season, Howard said, is its depth.

“We’re deeper than most,” he stated. “We have 43 girls on the team, and I think our third, fourth and fifth runners can beat a lot of people’s first runners in some of the events in our conference.”

And with that depth, Howard said, the program is well equipped to maintain its success beyond this season.

“Our future looks outstanding,” he said.

Howard is in his 19th year with Woodridge and his 15th season as the team’s head coach. His assistants are Scott Mercer, Andrew Linebarger and Andy Sypherd.

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