By Drew Karpen
It’s amazing how much difference a year can make. Last year at this time, the Meadville girls track and field team was the Region 3 champion and a serious contender to dethrone Grove City as the District 10 Class AAA champion.
Going into today’s D-10 title meet, which starts at 3 p.m. at Harbor Creek High School’s Paul J. Weitz Stadium, the Lady Bulldogs are a respectable 3-3 in dual meets, but they will be playing the role of underdog if they want to capture the championship.
“We are definitely an underdog,” Meadville head coach Carl Roznowski said. “If we are in the top five, it would be good. We had more of a dominating force with the seniors last year. This year, you lose those athletes. It’s a new crop. We have athletes that we think will be in the top and some that will go into states.”
One of those dominating forces last year was then-senior Paige Kassab, who collected four medals, including gold in the triple jump, to pace Meadville to a runner-up finish behind Grove City.
Although the Bulldogs don’t possess the star power that Kassab provided last year, Roznowski believes this year’s squad has a chance to make some noise with a more balanced attack.
“We are more well-rounded,” Roznowski said. “We have Kendell (Dickson) and Kellie (Vincent) as our jumpers. Jordan (Lynn) with the hurdles. We are spreading the points out this year. If someone goes down, it is not going to be a big thing.”
At the beginning of the season, Roznowski said it would take a collective effort to fill Kassab’s shoes. That’s exactly what he received. Dickson, a junior, has made herself a fixture in the top three in the high, long and triple jumps all season. Dickson is heading into today’s meet with a lot of confidence after recording her personal-best long jump of 15 feet, 11 inches during last Thursday’s meet against Central Tech.
“Kendell has come alive,” Roznowski said. “That was very important for her to get her best before districts. She is jumping well. She is on the upswing.”
Dickson is seeded fourth in the long jump. Warren’s Brooke Armanini is the No. 1 seed with a mark of 17-1.
Besides competing in three jumping events, Dickson will also be a part of the 400x100-meter relay team. Vincent, meanwhile, is the No. 13 seed in the long jump.
As for the hurdles, Lynn, a sophomore, has taken that responsibility and ran with it. Lynn, who is the top seed with a time of 16.11 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, looks to better her eighth-place finish in last year’s championships.
“Her form is better,” Roznowski said about Lynn’s improvement from last year. “She is picking up her speed. She is definitely in the top eight. I think she is going to be pushing the other girls. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.”
Lynn’s competition will include second-seeded Sa-brina Anderson from Warren, whose qualifying time of 16.17 is a fraction behind Lynn. Rounding out the top-three seeds is Hickory’s Madi Bell (16.60).
Lynn is also competing in the 300-meter hurdles, where she is seeded sixth, the triple jump and 1,600-meter relay.
Junior Heather Sternby is back to defend her 200-meter dash title, where she is seeded ninth, but she trails top-seed Lauren Decker of Grove City by only 0.75 seconds.
Sternby will also be back in the 100-meter dash, a race she lost at the very end last year to Grove City’s Courtney Corbin by 0.09 seconds.
“She wants that one bad,” Roznowski said. “That’s where she overstrided in the end. I think she is ready to make a good mark (today).”
One of the pleasant surprises for the Lady Bulldogs this season was the performance of Kaitlyn Newman in the javelin. In her first full season in the event, the sophomore is seeded sixth with a throw of 109-5.
“I am really hoping that she gets into the teens,” Roznowski said. “She is going to be pushing the other girls. She was a softball player before this year. We thought she would be a good possibility. When she came out and picked it up, we thought there was great potential. Now, it is starting to come out.”
Another surprise is freshman Fiona Mosley, who qualified for the discus earlier in the season. Then, in her last meet of the year, she broke the qualifying mark to get into the field for shot put.
“She will have big-time jitters,” Roznowski said. “I think in time she is going to be one of our better athletes.”
Mosley, seeded 11th, isn’t the only Bulldog in the discus field. Emily Allen has a chance to place, as she starts as the eighth seed. Brittany Wygant is also seeded 13th in the event.
Meadville’s Abby Wea-graff qualified in the pole vault with a height of 7-6. Natalie Paoletta from Hickory is the top seed with a mark of 10-0.
The Bulldogs’ Samantha Whitney and Abby Peters will each compete in the 1,600-meter race.
Wickham leads boys
Despite only one win in dual meets this season, the Meadville boys track and field team has a few competitors who can make some noise in their individual events. One in particular is senior Tyler Wickham.
“I would expect him to medal,” Roznowski said. “If there is nobody from the south, it is between him and Josh Daniels from Corry in the discus.”
Wickham is seeded second behind Daniels in the discus with a mark of 144-2. Daniels’ mark is 147-3.
In his last meet before districts, Wickham took first place in the discus with a throw of 132-6. He also took second in the shot put (39-4) and third in the javelin (81-10).
Wickham placed eighth in last year’s D-10 meet in the shot put with a throw of 40-3.
The Bulldogs will also look to better their seventh-place finish in last year’s 3,200-meter relay. Louis McUmber, Matt Svetz, Matt Pendolino and Nathan Lindeman are seeded eighth in this year’s event.
Svetz will also compete in the 3,200-meter race, while Lindeman will try to place in the 800-meter dash.
Dan Gawne and Aarick Myers will both make a run in the pole vault. They are seeded seventh and ninth, respectively.
“They are both at 11 feet,” Roznowski said. “This is the first time that I can remember having two boys in the same event. It feels pretty nice.”
Rounding out the Bulldogs’ competitors will be the 400x100-meter relay team. Ke’lletti Arnold, Vince Paczkoskie and Alex Parker are a lock for three of the spots.
Roznowski is still deciding whether Matt Neubert, John O’Laughlin or Brandon Grove would solidify the final spot.