By Drew Karpen
A total of 16 District 10 medals, including four last year, is a tough act to follow. But that is the position the Meadville girls track and field team is in after the graduation of Paige Kassab last year.
“She was a multi-talented athlete,” Meadville track and field coach Carl Roznowski said. “She will be missed. She was able to get a lot of points for us.”
Last year alone, Kassab — who moved on to compete at Slippery Rock University — was a district champion in the triple jump, and finished second in the high jump, long jump and 100-meter hurdles.
Kassab qualified for states in the triple, high and long jumps, finishing sixth in the triple jump.
Kassab was also a three-time district champ in the high jump.
On top of that, the Bulldogs will have to find a replacement for javelin thrower Chaykala Lindsey. Lindsey avenged her loss two years ago, crushing the competition to win the D-10 title last year with a throw of 119 feet, 3 inches — nearly eight feet farther than her competition.
“She was a very good javelin thrower for us,” Roznowski said. “Her backup was the discus and she did get a couple points for us in that.”
With the losses of those two and the entire senior class for both boys and girls, coach Roznowski knows that it is going to be a bumpy road to start the season.
“We did have a big senior class last year,” Roznowski said. “Our number of seniors are down a bit. We are looking for different athletes to fill the positions.”
After finishing in second place at last year’s District 10 meet, the Lady Bulldogs will focus on the key pieces returning to get them back to that point.
Junior Heather Sternby, who was the third Bulldog to taste gold at last year’s D-10 meet, will be one of the focal points of the season.
“She has been working out a little bit with us because swimming is still going on,” Roznowski said. “She will be back with us. She should be one of our top point getters.”
Sternby got her revenge on Grove City’s Courtney Corbin, who defeated Sternby in 2011 for the district title in the 100-meter dash, by beating Corbin by .13 seconds in the 200-meter dash last season.
On both squads, coach Roznowski plans to utilize the athleticism of his athletes more now that they must rely on a variety of team members to rack up the points. He even said not to rule out the possibility of crossing over distance, sprinters, jumpers and throwers to get the best possible lineup he can.
“We are going to be a young team,” Roznowski said. “We are going to better use our athletes. We are going to see some crossovers. People who were throwers, if they have decent speed, may be sprinters. Distance runners may be jumpers. We are going to try and utilize the athlete to his or her most potential.”
Some of the girls that coach Roznowski is looking to fill Kassab’s shoes are sophomore Jordan Lynn in the triple and high jump, as well as juniors Kendell Dickson, Ellen Moore and Kelly Vincent. As for the 100-meter hurdles, junior Emily Allen will be taking most of those runs.
As for replacing Lindsey, Cadi McCoy will be the primary javelin thrower. Also in the mix will be Kaitlyn Newman, who came over from the softball team.
“Kaitlyn is just doing track and field this year,” Roznowski said. “I was just talking to the javelin coach. It will take a little time working with her with the technique but she has potential.”
Another top runner for the girls this year will be Franki Mullen. Mullen will race on the 4-by-400 relay team.
The boys on the other hand had a different issue to deal with — competing with the other spring sports. With baseball, volleyball and lacrosse getting under way, the track and field team doesn’t have the full list of athletes to choose from.
“For the guys, it is tough because there is so many sports in the spring season,” Roznowski said. “Baseball and volleyball and now lacrosse is taking a couple away from us.”
Some of the top point getters for the boys this year should be Maxwell Cramer, Tyler Wickham and Matt Pendolino. Cramer will step in as the team’s top hurdler. Wickham will be the primary option for shot put and discus while Pendolino will serve as the team’s utility man.
“He’s a middle distance runner that we also will use for the long and high jump,” Roznowski said about Pendolino.
“Even at the opening meet I know all my questions won’t be answered,” Roznowski said. “We will still be moving athletes around so we can get the best times and distances that we can. This is just the beginning. You can easily bump in or be bumped out.”