By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The girls track and field preview for the Rootstown Rovers’ 2023 season:
Head Coach: Kyle Rodstrom, 16th year, 76-38-1 career dual-meet record.
Coaching Staff: Joe Mackle, Denny Pickens.
2022 Record: 10-0 overall, 5-0 Portage Trail Conference; 1st at districts; 4th at regionals.
History: League champions in 2016, 2019, 2021, 2022; District champions in 2021, 2022.
State Qualifiers: Marinna Atanmo (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles); 4×200 relay (Melanie Plecko, Sasha Nichols, Jenna Kurtz, Marinna Atanmo).
Returning Letterwinners (25): Carlee Clifford, sr.; Rylee Durbak, sr.; Jordan Ely, sr.; Kelsie Hamrick, sr.; Aubrey Kline, sr.; Lauren Krieger, sr.; Sydney Munger, sr.; Courtney Taylor, sr.; Grace Welch, sr.; Mallory Butcher, jr.; Allison Fisher, jr.; Brooklynn McIntyre, jr.; Melanie Plecko, jr.; Porter Smith, jr.; Brooke Dixon, soph.; Addy Germann, soph.; Allison Krieger, soph.; Kayla Nicholas, soph.; Sasha Nichols, soph.; Cami Rhodes, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (10): Kadance Pownall, Autumn Stefancik, Kylie McColloch, Kylie Kaut, Marina Nichols, Marinna Atanmo, Jenna Kurtz, Katie Plecko, Cameon Kuharich, Taylor Coates.
Team Captains: Sydney Munger, Carlee Clifford, Lauren Krieger, Brooklynn McIntyre, Melanie Plecko.
Underclassmen to Watch: Addie Biggin, fresh.; Colbie Curall, fresh.; Alex Biggin, fresh.; Hannah Crandell, fresh.
The Rovers did not lose a dual meet last year, going a perfect 10-0 overall and all five of their league matchups — and the team welcomes back 25 letterwinners.
“After graduating eight seniors, we look to replace them with a lot of up-and-coming talent,” head coach Kyle Rodstrom said. “Mogadore is the team to beat. They have an outstanding distance crew that can not only carry them in big meets, but are very versatile and can be moved around to many different events. Southeast is much improved, especially in the distance events. Lake Center Christian, Warren JFK and St. Thomas Aquinas all have quality athletes as well.”
Junior Melanie Plecko is a two-time state qualifiers as part of the 4×200 relay team.
“She is extremely explosive and powerful, and she has a tremendous work ethic,” Rodstrom said.
Plecko will anchor the sprint units and will be “someone we rely on throughout the season,” Rodstrom said.
Sasha Nichols was also part of the state-qualifying 4×2 group as a freshman and returns for her sophomore season.
“She is a very smooth runner, who is also very exploring with a great work ethic,” Rodstrom said. “She will be a vital part of our successful sprint program.”
Senior Carlee Clifford is another standout performer. She qualified for the state championships in 2021 in the 100-meter hurdles.
“She has the potential to achieve (a trip to Columbus) again,” Rodstrom said. “She will help anchor and mentor a young group of talented underclassmen hurdlers.”
Junior Porter Smith emerged last season and ran her best race of the year at the district event to qualify for regionals. Her versatility will allow Rodstrom to place her in many different races and she will perform well in all of them.
Senior Lauren Krieger has “good speed, as well as a solid endurance base from running cross country in the fall,” according to Rodstrom.
“Lauren has been doing very well in the mid-distance races at practice and is looking forward to running the 400 and 800 races this season,” Rodstrom said.
Rodstrom describes Kayla Nicholas, a sophomore, as an “extremely versatile athlete who can do just about anything she is put in.”
Nicholas will likely help the Rovers in the open 100 and 400, as well as the 100 and 300 hurdles, and also the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays.
Senior Sydney Munger, junior Mallory Butcher and sophomore Allison Krieger are the leaders of the distance events.
Meanwhile, freshman Hannah Crandell will be added into the mix.
Junior Brooklynn McIntyre spotlights the group. She finished sixth at regionals last spring in the discus after winning the district and league championships in the event.
McIntyre was also runner-up in the shot put in the PTC.
“She is sound technically, with attention to details and drills. We are looking forward to her junior year withmroe experience and reps,” Rodstrom said.
Sophomore Lilly Boland and junior Alaina Huebner are returners — and both look to build upon last year’s growth.
“Both are very coachable,” Rodstrom said.
Senior Aubrey Kline, as well as Nicholas, are promising newcomers.
In the high jump, there is plenty of depth for the Rovers highlighted by reigning league champion Aubrey Kline, who cleared 4-foot-11 as her personal best last year and was a regional qualifier in 2021.
“She is our most experienced athlete and has taken a leadership role with the young kids,” Rodstrom said. “She has also elevated her already dogged determination to maximize her ability.”
Senior Kelsie Hamrick was the league runner-up last year to Kline. Hamrick’s personal best came at last year’s Wildcat Invitational with a leap of 5-foot, despite having limited experience in the event prior to last spring.
“Kelsie is a dynamic jumper and is driven to be great,” Rodstrom said.
In the long jump, senior Rylee Durbak is poised to replace graduated standouts Jenna Kurtz and Cameron Kuharich.
Durbak was the league runner-up last year and placed seventh overall at district.
“Our strength this season is going to be in the sprints, hurdles and jumps,” Rodstrom said. “Within those sprints, we can put together very strong relays that can be some of the conference’s best units. We have good numbers as a team, with the second-largest team in school history. Additionally, we have a very strong and deep group of underclassmen that can contribute now and lead us into the future.”
“One concern is our lack of depth in the throws,” Rodstrom said. “While we have Brooklynn, who is one of the league’s and district’s best, we are still in search of a couple of others to help create strength in that position. The other area of concern is trying to figure out how to matchup with Mogadore and its distance crew.”
Freshman Addie Biggin joins the team as the middle school champion in the high jump, clearing 4-foot-9.
“She has a lot of esperience, having the opportunity to learn at a young age from retired Kent State track coach Bill Lawson,” Rodstrom said. “She is a very dynamic athlete, with big-meet fearlessness.”
Freshman Colbie Curall was the high-jump runner-up last year at the middle-school level. She was the middle-school champion in the 200 hurdles.
Freshman Alex Biggin won the middle-school championship last year in the 100 hurdles.
Freshman Hannah Crandell is coming off a strong cross-country season.
March 28: vs. Ravenna and Streetsboro
April 1: at Cardinal Invitational
April 4: at Crestwood
April 8: at East Canton Invitational
April 18: at Lake Center Christian
April 25: vs. Southeast
May 2: vs. Mogadore
May 6: at East Canton
May 10: PTC Championships at Mogadore
May 12: PTC Championships at Mogadore
Leave a Comment