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    Stepanik wins district title


    Independence senior Madison Stepanik added another impressive line item to her high school sports resume when she won the shot put at the 2021 Division III District Track Meet at Cuyahoga Heights High School on Wednesday.

    Stepanik, who placed seventh in the shot as a sophomore, won the event with a toss of 35-feet, 11 ¼-inches.

    “It was super exciting, especially to reach my goal,” Stepanik said. “I was very excited to come out on top.”

    While she missed her goal by a couple of inches, Stepanik was pleased to win the event and to move on to next week’s regionals with an opportunity to qualify for the state meet.

    “I wasn’t satisfied with my throw but I was happy that it got me where I needed to be,” she said. “I know I need to put extra work in during practice to get ready for regionals.”

    Several other Independence athletes qualified for the regional meet.

    That group included Lucas Martinez, who cleared 10-feet in the pole vault to finish second overall.

    Both 4×800-meter relay teams advanced by finishing among the top four.

    Seniors Makenna McGhee and Paige Westerburg teamed up with sophomore Gabrielle McGreevy and sophomore Kate Coljohn to finish third in the girls’ race with a time of 11:48.07. Seniors Collin Patton and P.J. Oschmann and sophomores Kyle McGovern and Joe Shumay placed fourth with a time of 9:18.46.

    Independence qualified a host of athletes into Friday’s district finals.

    Skylar Leichliter won her heat in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 17.11 and Emmett Stralka won the 100-meter dash in 11.42.

    The Blue Devils also won several relays.

    Jack Taliaferro, Kyle Zygmunt, Mike Andryszczyk, and Stralka won the 4×200 in 1:32.59 while Josh Belitz, Martinez, Taliaferro, and Stralka won the 4×100 in 45.02.

    Leichliter ran with Alex Adams, Casey Adams, and Ava Moreal to win the 4×100 in 52.08.

    Second-place finishers included Stralka in the 200-meter dash (22.91) and Patton, who finished the 800-meter run in 2:12.16.

    Also qualifying for Friday’s finals were John Eisenmann (4th, 110 hurdles, 18.09; 5th, 300m hurdles, 45.62), Alex Adams (4th, 100m, 13.40), Zygmunt (3rd, 400m, 52.58), and Taliaferro (5th, 200m, 22.66).

    The boys’ 4×400-meter relay team of Taliaferro, Andryszczyk, Patton, and Zygmunt finished third with a time of 3:39.11 and will run on Friday.

    Independence’s boys’ team finished day one in second place with 18 points. The Blue Devils’ girls’ team is in first place with 19 points.

    Stepanik was pleased to do her part in setting the Blue Devils up as a team but she knows it will take each athlete performing at a high level to win the district title.

    “It takes every person in their field event to do their job and score,” she said. “Individually, we go into these meets knowing that we need to do our job to contribute to the team.”


    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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