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Firestone girls track team looking to defend City Series title

4/24/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

WEST AKRON — According to head coach Tim Carroll, this year’s Firestone girls track team is off to “a strong start.”

“We finished third at both the Don Faix Crestwood Invitational on April 5 and the Rough Rider Invitational at Kent on April 11. That is much better than we did last year at both invitationals,” he said. “We also finished third at the Big Ox Invitational this past weekend.”

Carroll said his team is “really strong” in the sprints, hurdles and jumping events.

“I feel that we have regional- and state-quality runners, hurdlers and jumpers. We are improving throughout the season so far, and I expect us to be a lot better in May and, hopefully, the state meet in June,” he said. “We need some work in the throwing and distance events, but we are improving in those areas, and I expect to see some girls step up for us and get the job done in those areas by the end of the season.”

One of the team’s top seniors this year is Amari Johnson, the coach said.

“She does the long jump and has won it at several meets so far this year. Her best jump is 16-foot-10, and I expect her to get well in the 17s and hopefully the 18s this year and get to the regional and state meets,” Carroll stated. “Our school record is 17-foot-1, and I expect her to break that soon. Amari is also on our 4x1, 4x2 and 4x4 relays, which have done well this year.”

Other seniors on this year’s team who are making an impact include Megan Zanin, Kat Mastro and Hannah Baker.

“Megan Zanin did a nice job last year in the 1600 and 3200, and I expect more of the same this year,” the coach said. “Kat Mastro is looking strong, and I am expecting her to be right there with Megan in the distance events. Hannah Baker is a team captain that does well in the 300 hurdles, the 4x8 and wherever we need her. She has stepped up for us the past two seasons.”

Carroll said junior Dara Perry is having another strong season for the team.

“She started hurdling for the first time this year and has won nearly every race she has had so far and broke our school record in the 100 and 300 hurdles,” he stated. “I expected her to be good at the hurdles, but to be beating good, experienced hurdlers to start the season has impressed me. She also runs on several relays that have done well this year. Dara is very enthusiastic about track, and with her athleticism, she will be tough to beat.”

Another key junior is Janelle Perry, who is back on the team this year after not competing last year, Carroll said.

“She considers herself more of a volleyball player, but she has found some events that she likes, and you can tell she is enjoying them this season,” he said. “She has been impressive, clearing 5 feet in the high jump and has a best of 15-foot-9 in the long jump in her first year jumping. She won the long jump at the Rough Rider invite, and it was only her third time jumping. She has excelled in the hurdles, as well.”

In addition, the coach said, a few other athletes are posting notable performances for this year’s squad.

“Freshman Kameel Hood is off to a strong start in the sprints and has won the 100 and 200 several times this year. I expect her to help our relays make it to the regional and state level. Freshman Ciara Gisstand has also impressed. We are doing well in the sprints, so we moved her up to the 400 and 800, and she has done a nice job. I expect her to do well this year, and she is going to be a beast in the coming years,” he said. “Taliyah Carter is a veteran junior sprinter who I expect to do well in the 400 this season and our relays. Briana Culver is a sophomore who has done a nice job for us in the sprints so far and should help us get our relays to the next level. Freshman Lydia Sherman has jumped 4-foot-10 to start the season and is working on throwing, as well.”

Last season, Firestone finished 5-2 in dual meets and won the City Series championship by 5 points over Buchtel High School.

“We expect to contend for a city championship again this season. We hope to win, but Buchtel girls are always tough, so we will need to keep working hard to make it happen,” said Carroll, who is in his fifth year as the girls head coach. “We should be able to get our sprint relays to the regional and state level, and I expect Dara to get there in the hurdles. Amari, Janelle and Lydia will have a shot in the jumps. Kameel Hood should also have a chance in the sprint events, as well as a number of our other sprinters and hurdlers. We have a lot of depth and hope to be taking a group of girls down to Jesse Owens Stadium to compete at the state meet this season.”

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