Saturday, February 24

    Independence goes back-to-back at District meet

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    CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS—Independence’s boys’ and girls’ track teams on Friday won district titles for the second straight season.

    The Blue Devils scored 105 ½ points to win the girls’ competition at the Division III Cuyahoga Heights district and they scored 104 to win the boys’ competition.

    “I’m amazed but not surprised by their ability to compete,” said Independence coach Jess Crooks. “These guys are competitors I the finest sense.”

    After winning district titles last spring, the Blue Devils knew they had the ability to defend their titles but even their coach was a bit surprised by their dominant performance.

    Independence’s girls’ team outscored second-place Cardinal by 29 ½ points and the boys’ team beat second-place Cuyahoga Heights by 28.

    “Last year, we had some people that didn’t do as well as they hoped,” Crooks said. “This group came back and rallied and lifted each other up.”

    The Blue Devils won six individual district titles.

    Senior Emmett Stralka had a hand in winning three events.

    He won the 100-meter dash in 10.85 seconds, a state Top 50 performance and new school record, and he led the 4×100 and 4×200-meter relay teams to wins.

    Stralka teamed up with Lucas Martinez, Jack Taliaferro, and Deston Boscarelli to win the 4×100 in 44.10 seconds, and he ran with Taliaferro, Kyle Zygmunt, and Martinez to win the 4×200 in 1:30.51, a new meet record.

    Stralka also advanced to next week’s regional meet in the 200-meter dash. He finished second to defending state champion Amere Talley of Lutheran East, who ran a time of 22.15, a state Top 50 performance. Stralka finished with a new PR of 22.28 seconds.

    Casey Adams won two district titles.

    She won the long jump with a best leap of 16-feet, 4 ½-inches and she teamed up with Alex Adams, Skylar Leichliter, and Grace Taliaferro to win the 4×100 in 51.65.

    Adams also advanced to the regional meet in the 200-meter dash and high jump.

    She finished third in the 200 with a time of 27.04, a new PR, and second in the high jump by clearing 5-feet, another PR.

    Leichliter also claimed a district title as she won the 100-meter hurdles in 16.04 seconds, a new personal record. She also advanced to the regional meet in the 300-meter hurdles and pole vault. She placed fourth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 50.54 seconds and second in the pole vault with a top height of 7-feet, 6-inches.

    Independence’s other regional qualifiers included Alex Adams, Kaitlyn Grill, Jack Korinek, Martinez, Alana Nowak, and Zygmunt.

    Adams placed second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.56, a new PR. Grill placed fourth in the shot put with a best toss of 31-feet, 10-inches. Korinek earned a fourth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 17.51 and he placed fourth in the 300 hurdles in 43.42, a new PR. Martinez placed fourth in the pole vault with a top height of 10-feet, 6-inches. Nowak was second in the 1600 with a time of 5:44.02 and also was the runner-up in the 3200 with a time of 12:46.62. Zygmunt placed second in the 100-meter dash with a new PR of 11.09 seconds, and second in the 400 with a time of 50.30.

    The Blue Devils also advanced two other relays.

    Nowak, Kate Coljohn, Madelyn Flynn, and Gabby McGreevy placed third in the 4×800 with a time of 11:06.15, and Taliaferro, Martinez, Matt Wisniewski, and Zygmunt finished second in the 4×400 with a time of 3:31.05.

    Independence couldn’t have swept the district titles without the depth of its squad.

    While only the top four in each event advanced to the regional meet, the top eight place-winners earned points for the team.

    Independence’s other scorers included Michael Andryszczyk (6th, 400, 53.59), Boscarelli (5th, long jump, 19-6 ¾), Coljohn (8th, 800, 2:47.87), Sam Eisenmann (6th, 110 hurdles, 18.79; 6th, 300 hurdles, 44.40), Grill (6th, discus, 91-7), James Kitagawa (8th, 3200, 11:50.38), Kyle McGovern (7th, 1600, 5:02.08), McGreevy (5th, 1600, 5:51.11), Alberta Moreal (8th, 300 hurdles, 54.07), Maggie Panichi (7th, pole vault, 6-0), Sam Pascarella (6th, pole vault, 9-6), Jack Taliaferro (5th, 200, 23.44), and Grace Taliaferro (6th, 400, 1:07.50).

    McGovern, Braeden Lisowski, Kitagawa, and Charlie Meyer teamed up to place fifth in the 4×800 with a time of 9:34.71.



    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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