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    Independence sweeps Metro Division team titles


    Independence recorded a clean sweep of the boys’ and girls’ team titles at the 2021 Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division track and field championships at Cuyahoga Heights on Tuesday and Thursday.

    The girls’ team finished with 155 ½ points to win its first title since 2014 and the boys closed out the meet with 135 points to claim its first conference championship since 2016.

    “It was very exciting,” said Independence coach Jess Crooks. “Words can’t even describe what I’m feeling and the emotions I have right now. Our student-athletes came to race today. It was amazing to see.”

    Independence claimed 11 individual event championships on the way to winning the team titles.

    Casey Adams led the girls’ team with a win in the long jump, a second-place finish in the 200-meter dash, and she also finished fourth in the high jump.

    “It was so exciting to win the CVC title in long jump because I had worked so hard all year with my coach,” Adams said. “I was very nervous before my 200 because I was the only freshman in the race and to place second just gave me so much relief. It was also very exciting to know that my points went towards helping the team win.”

    Adams cleared 15-feet, 9 ½-inches to win the long jump and ran a time of 28.18 seconds in the 200.

    “My best event today was my 200,” she said. “Although I did not win that event, I got a new (personal record) and knocked .3 seconds off of my old PR.”

    A strong performance in her postseason opener has Adams excited for the upcoming district meet.

    “Going into districts with the CVC title really does boost my confidence and it boosted the team’s morale,” she said. “Seeing how excited everyone was when they announced our teams’ names really made all the hard work we had put in worth it. I hope we can carry this energy into districts.”

    Jessica Harb edged teammate Madison Stepanik for the CVC title in the discus. Harb threw the disc 109-feet, 10-inches while Stepanik came in at 104-4.

    Stepanik bounced back with a win in the shot put with a toss of 35-10. Stepanik also finished seventh in the high jump on her way to being named the field events MVP.

    Alex Adams won the 100-meter dash in 13.35 and the Independence 4×800-meter relay also won first place.

    Makenna McGhee, Gabrielle McGreevy, Kate Coljohn, and Paige Westerburg teamed up to win that race in 11:25.59.

    Other Blue Devils to finish among the top three included Kaitlyn Grill (3rd shot, 28-7), Skylar Leichliter (2nd pole vault, 8-0; 2nd 100m hurdles, 17.79; 3rd long jump, 15-5; 3rd 300m hurdles, 52.31), McGhee (3rd 800, 2:49.50), and Alana Nowak (3rd, 3200m, 13:46.63).

    “On the girls’ side, having those field events helps us so much,” Crooks said.

    Winning CVC titles for the boys were Kyle Zygmunt, John Eisenmann, Emmett Stralka, and Collin Patton.

    Zygmunt won the high jump (5-6) and the 400-meter dash (51.39). Stralka claimed a title in the 100-meter dash (11.36) and Patton won the 800 (2:07.81).

    Eisenmann took the top spot in the 110-meter hurdles (17.88) and finished second in the 300 hurdles (45.44).

    “It was really exciting for me because I was able to pick up some of the points my team needed,” Eisenmann said. “It made me happy that I was able to contribute to the team win. The key, for me, was to stick to what I knew and incorporate what my coaches taught me. It gave me a much-needed confidence boost.”

    Independence’s 4×400 relay team also won the CVC title with a time of 3:35.95.

    Stralka and Zygmunt teamed up with Jack Taliaferro and Mike Andryszczyk to win that event.

    Other Blue Devils in the top three were P.J. Oschmann (2nd 3200, 10:23.68; 3rd 1600, 4:48.78), Stralka (2nd 200m, 22.89), and Zygmunt (3rd 200m, 23.90).

    The Blue Devils also placed two relay teams in the top three.

    Taliaferro, Josh Belitz, Andryszczyk, and Stralka teamed up to finish second in the 4×200 with a time of 1:32.93 and Patton, Kyle McGovern, Joe Shumay, and Oschmann placed third in the 4×800 (9:19.33).

    “Our theme before this competition these two days was a teammate may fall, but we have to pick them up,” Crooks said. “That’s exactly what both sides did today. If somebody didn’t have their best day, someone else helped them out. They passed the baton, basically.”

    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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