When a track coach asks his or her runners to slow down in their individual events to make sure they save some spare gas for the four-by-400 relay, it’s going to be a close finish.
Entering the final running event of the Chagrin Valley Conference championships last Thursday, Kenston head coach Jeanette DiBernardo gave her Lady Bombers – Kendall Althans, Kristi Kazimir, Emma Dicker and Morgan Segro – the ultimatum.
Kenston held just a two-point advantage over Aurora and a three-point advantage over Orange in the team standings, despite the Lady Bombers not winning a single event in the meet.
“We knew we were going to have to run the best race we’ve ever run,” DiBernardo said. “So I told the girls when they were warming up, I said, ‘OK, this is it. We have to beat Aurora.’ It truly was the most exciting race. We had a lot of alum there, and every girl on the team knew what we needed to do. We were just lining around the track.”
In the final exchange, Segro took the baton in third place, behind Chagrin and Orange, with Aurora trailing close behind in fourth.
At the 200 mark, Segro was still sitting tight in third but was poised to pass.
“It was that last 200 she poured it on. She took that Orange girl, and, by the last 100, you could tell she wanted the Chagrin girl, who was about 10 meters ahead,” DiBernardo said. “That was the most exciting 100 meters. I watched her run that girl down and run away with it. That was just so exciting. Every girl was just surrounding her at the finish. Everybody knew what that meant.”
The Lady Bombers finished in 4:13.79 for their sole triumphant performance of the day, propelling them to a second consecutive CVC title – and second conference title of any kind in school history – with 112 points, besting runner-up Aurora, 105 points, and third-place Orange, 102 points. Chagrin Falls was sixth with 78 points, and West Geauga finished seventh with 60 points.
With Kazimir and Dicker playing such a vital role on that final relay, as well as on Kenston’s third-place four-by-800 relay and two individual distance events apiece, DiBernardo said she told them to pace themselves along the way.
“Our goal was, we had to score in as many events as we could,” she said. “So we really had to strategize how we were going to do it, making sure that some of the girls running four events maybe sacrificed a good time in one event to make sure they had something left in the tank.”
Kazimir, however, was still able to go a personal best time of 5:25.60 in the 1,600 run, as she was bested only by Orange junior Clare Ubersax, 5:19.10, for the Lady Bombers’ sole runner-up finish of the meet.
A multitude of third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes provided Kenston with the team title, DiBernardo said.
Aside from the triumphant four-by-400, the Lady Bombers finished third in all three of the other relays.
Individually, Kenston junior Hailey LaFrance was third in the 100 dash in 13.49 seconds, while West Geauga sophomore Brittni Mason won that race in 13.09 seconds.
The only other individual third-place winner from Kenston was freshman Paige Palmer, who smashed her person best mark with a 2:28.95 time in the 800 run.
“I’m down cheering by the 100 mark, and CVC meets happen so fast that I didn’t see her time until long after her race was over,” DiBernardo said. “And I’m just like, ‘Holy, cow! A 2:28? Where’s that been?’ Prior to that, she had done a 2:36 on a relay. So she just looked confident, and now I’ve got to rearrange who’s doing what in our district.”
After graduating so many point scorers from last year’s historic conference championship team, including Alexis Taylor and Allison Porter, who finished one-two in both the 800 and 1,600 runs, DiBernardo said she didn’t know how her team would do this season.
“There’s so many reasons for them to be proud of themselves,” she said. “And we have a really strong, strong underclassmen group that we’re going to be able to build something strong again for a number of years.”
Following are top-three finishers from Kenston, Orange, Chagrin Falls and West Geauga:
100 dash: 1. Brittni Mason, West G, sophomore, 13.09; 3. Hailey LaFrance, Kenston, junior, 13.49.
200 dash: 2. Brittni Mason, West G, sophomore, 27.23; 3. Julia Bartell, Chagrin, junior, 27.84.
800 run: 3. Paige Palmer, Kenston, freshman, 2:28.95.
1,600 run: 1. Clare Ubersax, Orange, junior, 5:19.10; 2. Kristi Kazimir, Kenston, senior, 5:25.60.
3,200 run: 1. Natane Deruytter, Chagrin, sophomore, 11:38.04; 2. Clare Ubersax, Orange, junior, 11:40.68.
100 hurdles: 1. Alexa Williams, Orange, junior, 15.40; 2. Jasmine Harris, Orange, sophomore, 15.69; 3. Kasey Lustig, Chagrin, senior, 16.26.
300 hurdles: 1. Jasmine Harris, Orange, sophomore, 47.45; 2. Kasey Lustig, Chagrin, senior, 48.87; 3. Hollis Roush, Chagrin, sophomore, 49.42.
4×100 relay: 1. Orange (Diamond Daniel, Mariah Baez, Shelby Willis, Jasmine Harris) 51.24; 3. Kenston (Lexi Neal, Krissie Kobzowicz, Aaliyah Morgan, Hailey LaFrance) 53.01.
4×200 relay: 1. Orange (Alexa Williams, Mariah Baez, Diamond Daniel, Shelby Willis) 1:48.23; 2. Chagrin (Emily Mason, Julia Bartell, Hollis Roush, Kasey Lustig) 1:49.31; 3. Kenston (Hailey LaFrance, Lexi Neal, Kendall Althans, Morgan Segro) 1:50.32.
4×400 relay: 1. Kenston (Kendall Althans, Kristi Kazimir, Emma Dicker, Morgan Segro) 4:13.79; 2. Chagrin (Kasey Lustig, Emily Mason, Allie Dustin, Hollis Roush) 4:14.66.
4×800 relay: 2. Chagrin (Anne Moyse, Natane Deruytter, Ellie Szymkowicz, Allie Dustin) 9:59.10; 3. Kenston (Kristi Kazimir, Emily McDonough, Katie Grendell, Emma Dicker) 10:06.20.
Pole vault: 1. Audrey Rabe, West G, senior, 12-00.
Discus throw: 2. Rhianna Guarnera, West G, senior, 107-07.
High jump: 1. Shelby Willis, Orange, senior, 5-0.