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Younger athletes stepping up for Copley girls track team

6/6/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

COPLEY — Head coach John Legrair said the Copley High School girls track team, which finished with a 3-4 record in the Suburban League, was in a “developmental year” this season.

“We’re getting there,” he stated. “It’s a young team, but they’ve been getting better and better every week. We’ve been saddled with being barely a Division I school, and we have to compete with some major schools out there, but we do an adequate job with what isn’t really a level playing field. We go up against schools with 850 girls and I’ve got maybe 400.”

According to Legrair, there are 65 to 70 athletes on this year’s girls’ track team, with an atypically small senior class. The seniors on this year’s squad were Fatiah Al-Qaadir, Kaela Drake, Ashley Bradford, Tajah Smith, India Taylor and Brianna White.

“Those seniors were a core group,” the coach said. “They really did well and came on strong. They showed some good leadership for our juniors, sophomores and freshmen.”

One of the season’s highlights, Legrair said, was when Smith set a new school record in the 100-meter dash.

“She broke a 12- or 13-year-old record for the 100 meter for the girls,” the coach said. “Tajah had a great year. She started off the year a little bit injured to begin the season, but she kept working to get stronger. Her running form really, really improved later on in the season, and as the weather got warmer, everything started coming together for her. She finished her season really well.”

Legrair said the program features “a pretty interesting group” of athletes ready to return next season.

“Most of the team this year was sophomores and juniors,” he stated. “The majority of our juniors were here as 10th-graders, with one or two new athletes, and it’s a group of athletes that’s dedicated to getting better. Futuristically, they are looking to improve all the time. I expect some fantastic things from this junior class as well as the sophomore class.”

The team’s underclassmen did “a good job of stepping up” this season, Legrair said.

“I took them out of their comfort zones quite a bit since we weren’t very deep,” he said. “And we put them in situations that they actually did very well in.”

In the postseason, Copley qualified its 4x100 relay team — as well as Smith in the 100-meter dash and junior Leah Mancabelli in 400 meters — to the regionals.

“I still say it is the toughest district in Ohio, up in Nordonia, and qualifying our 4x100 team was a monumental task,” the coach stated. “That team is junior Dezarae Clark, sophomore Molly Schreiner, sophomore Da Vae Starks and Tajah Smith.”

Overall, Legrair said, the Copley girls track program is in “great shape” heading into next year.

“It’s been a work in progress. There’d be no Rembrandt without canvas,” he said. “We needed the canvas, which was this season. But next year, I expect much, much more.”

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