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TRACK: Valley Boasts Two Winners At Ohio State Meet

St.C’s Robinson, River’s McCullough strike gold

June 3, 2012
By SETH STASKEY , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

COLUMBUS - Alyssa Robinson's story has been well-documented.

After some coaxing and just for fun, the St. Clairsville junior decided to give track and field - and more specifically - the shot put a try last season.

She immediately exploded onto the scene and was the area's premier thrower and eventually finished third in the state.

Article Photos

Cassidy McCullough

"After last year, I wanted (the state championship) so bad," Robinson recalled.

Well, the personable Red Devil hasn't lost since.

Robinson became the first St. Clairsville state champion since 2003 Saturday morning when she won the Division II shot put crown, at the throwing area outside of the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University.

"It feels so good knowing that all my hardwork is paying off," Robinson said. "This is what I've been working for all season to get here and then do my best. Words can't explain how I feel."

Her best Saturday was also the best of her career. She marked the red clay 44-feet and 10 inches from the toe board.

After reaching the finals with a mark of 43-feet, 5 1/4, Robinson found herself sitting in third place, trailing Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's Megan Tomei by more than a foot and Sheridan's Sarah Clow, who she had beaten twice during the season, including last week's regional, by five inches.

"I was really nervous in the beginning and unsure of myself," Robinson said. "After I saw those other two girls let one go, I knew that I had to my best now, focus and let one go."

Robinson obviously listened quite well to her own advice.

On her first throw of the finals, Robinson uncorked one. The official read the tape and yelled, "44-feet, 10 inches," to which Robinson and the St. C. faithful knew had bumped her to the lead.

"I'd been aiming at that kind of distance all season," Robinson said. "I heard that mark and I was ready to throw again immediately."

She then produced marks of 41-ft-5 1/4 and 39-ft-4 1/2 and proceeded to sit patiently - and somewhat nervously - as Tomei and Clow had their final tosses. Both threw better than 44-feet, but not quite as far, giving Robinson her first state title and her second all-Ohio finish.

"It was just a great feeling standing on the top of the podium," Robinson said. "I thought about how I was third last year, which was a great feeling, and then to win this year is just great."

Robinson, who was undefeated this season, knows she's put an even bigger bullseye on her back for next season, but she's planning on working even harder as she prepares for her final campaign.

"There are still things that I could change every day and in every meet," Robinson said. "I always perform well under pressure. I just have to focus, calm down and hopefully I can get here in discus ... if I don't foul all of my throws."

Ironically, the last Ohio Valley athlete to win a shot put title was River's D.J. Duke, who was coached by Tim Frye. Robinson becomes the latest and first state champion for Red Devils coach Ben Frye.

Cassidy McCullough came to the state capital this week knowing that she was the favorite in the 300 meter low hurdles based on regional times.

After Friday's qualifying round, the River junior was still the favorite as she produced the top time of the semifinals with a 45.78.

So rather than sitting around the hotel room stewing, McCullough went to a movie Friday evening with the hopes of keeping her mind clear and nerves calm.

It was a decision that doesn't need any explanation now.

McCullough became the first River girls' track state champion since Jennifer Hyland in 1986 when she pocketed the 300-meter low hurdle title.

"All season long, this is what I've been working toward," McCullough smiled with her gold medal draped around her neck. "I can't even begin to explain what this means."

On top of her state title in the lows, McCullough finished fifth in the 100 meter high hurdles in 15.98. All told, she scored 14 points for the Pilots, pushing them to a ninth-place as a squad.

During the week leading up to the state meet, McCullough heard and read that she was the favorite for the low hurdle title and it started to wear on her.

"I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, what if I don't get first?," McCullough admitted. "I was thinking that if I don't get first, I am going to feel horrible for letting someone beat me in the last race, but I just kept in my mind that I wasn't going to lose."

McCullough got a taste of the awards' podium last season when she finished sixth in the 300 meter low hurdles and went to work in the off-season looking to better her performance.

"I was really happy to have placed last year, but I knew I could have done better," McCullough admitted. "Every time I had a chance, I was either running, lifting or working on getting better."

McCullough - who finished the season unblemished in the lows - had spent the last two seasons chasing Steubenville Central and now Duke University thinclad Teddi Jo Maslowski and while she might not have beat her, it was making McCullough better.

"When Teddi (graduated), I never looked at as if she left," McCullough admitted. "I still have the image of her being in front of me and running after her. That's what I chase every meet, every time. I was so used to that, that I just kept it going this year."

McCullough won't begin to rest on her accomplishments.

"I am just going to work to stay up there (at the top), and, hopefully, get up there in the other events I run," McCullough said. "Hopefully, I can run better times and keep improving."

It was a good day for first-ever appearances and accomplishments at the final day of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Track and Field Championship.

Whether it was athletes making their first trip or an athlete chasing a medal for four years to finally get his spot on the podium during his final prep race, it happened under ideal conditions Saturday afternoon.

What started out as a large collection of Ohio Valley athletes taking part was trimmed to 12 all-Ohio individuals and one relay squad after two rugged days of competition in the state capital.

Along with the two state champions, 10 others got their first taste of the podium.

Buckeye Local senior Jordan Piergallini continued his fairy tale campaign with a pair of medals.

Piergallini, who was the OVAC, district and regional sprint champion, finished as state runnerup in the Division II 100 meter dash in a time of 11.02.

About 90 minutes later, he returned to the track and posted a fifth place finish, which saw four places decided by just thousandths of a second. Piergallini posted a 22.13.

Shadyside's Tara Tollett found herself with a decision to be made Saturday morning when she woke up.

Run a double of 1,600 and 3,200 or focus on trying to win the longer race?

"If you look at my times, throughout the season, from when I ran both (races), my 3200 was always a lot slower," Tollett said. "I just thought I had a better chance of placing in the 3,200, so we decided to run it fresh."

She opted for the latter and it was a decision that paid dividends. She was in contention all morning in the eight-lap race, but eventually a late surge by Gates Mills Hawken's Alexandra Markovich earned her the title. However, Tollett surged in her own right and finished as the state runnerup in her first trip to the state meet.

Martins Ferry's Richie Padyjasek - another first-time state qualifier - put the finishing touches on a brilliant senior season with a cherished fourth-place finish in the 110M high hurdles.

Padyjasek - the Seton Hill University signee - skimmed 10 timbers in a solid 14.76 to earn his medal.

Bridgeport's Cody Frey had been chasing the state meet for four years and wasn't about to relax after making it.

The Bulldogs' senior, who is heading for Notre Dame College in Cleveland next season, finished his prep career with a fifth-place finish and a time of 40.10 in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles.

St. John Central frosh Fallon Doyle competes in two sports for the Lady Irish. She earned all-Ohio in both of them after placing fifth in the Division III 1600 meter run.

Doyle, who was third in the state CC meet, posted a time of 5:07.97 and raced past several runners with her usual 200 meter kick to earn her place.

Shadyside's Jake Dull, another first-timer at the state meet, posted a solid seventh-place finish in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles.

Dull posted a 40.35 in the finals to earn his spot on the podium.

St. Clairsville's Andy Thornburg put the finishing touches on a brilliant prep career by placing eighth in the 1,600 meter run.

Thornburg, who is heading to UNC Asheville in the fall, circled the oval four times in 4:30.49.

Steubenville Central produced a trio of state placers with - go figure - a Maslowski leading the way.

After watching his older sister Teddi Jo compete and shine in the state meet, Doug cast his own shadow when he finished as Division III state runnerup in the 110M high hurdles in a time of 14.85.

Sophomore Monica Rigaud was fourth in the high hurdles, posting a 15.85.

Steubenville's girls' 4x100 team of Jasmine Ware, Shilynn Crawford, Cierra Macon and Toshchel Demus posted a 50.37 to finish seventh in Division II.

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