Girard has different kind of leaders

GIRARD – In high school sports, becoming captain usually goes hand-in-hand with seniority, or, to shorten the word, seniors. The Girard girls track team doesn’t follow that norm.

Indians coach John Spano named four juniors – Justine Palmer, Justine Kagy, Destiny Hall and Taylor Harshbarger – as captains because of a lack of seniors competing for a team with high aspirations of making it to Columbus come June.

“They bring motivation, they bring a hard-work ethic and they bring a desire to excel,” Spano said. “I could say that about each other of those girls. Each one of them comes from the same mold.”

It’s not like the four athletes need Spano to call on them to be leaders, however.

Kagy said that from the moment they joined high school, the junior class showed its leadership qualities, but now the captain distinction makes it more important to show those qualities at all times.

“As freshmen, we always took the lead,” Kagy said. “We’re all so close together, and we help everyone out. We all push each other and work together to be leaders.”

Three of these juniors, Harshbarger, Kagy and Hall, highlight two of the best events for the Indians – the 4×200 and 4×400 relay teams.

Both teams already made some noise in the indoor season, with the 4×400 relay team winning the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches’ indoor state meet in Divisions II-III with a time of 4:07.89. Joining the three runners on the team that race was fellow junior Tina Boyles.

The 4×200 team isn’t too shabby, as Harshbarger, sophomore Caitlyn Trebella, Kagy and junior Alexis Cloud finished second in their Divisions II-III race at Stile Field House on the University of Akron campus with a time of 1:47.11. This same team beat that time at Tuesday in a home meet by posting a 1:46.6.

“We get really pumped,” Kagy said. “We love to experience running against (tough competition). We always push ourselves to do the best that we can because we want to win, we want to be on top of the podium and we want to represent Girard. We have to do the best that we can.”

Because of the youth, Girard fell a little short of expectations last season, according to Spano. The Indians failed to qualify the individual participants they had expected.

Harshbarger doesn’t see the overall team’s youth as an issue. Instead, she sees last year’s experience as opportunity to strengthen Girard for a deep tournament run.

“There are not many people who like running in the upperclasses,” Harshbarger said. “Usually, when the underclassmen are more into it, that means that later on, they are going to have a better team that could make it to state all together. So, this year, we plan on making it to state all together as a team.”

The Indians don’t lack faith in themselves to make to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on June 7. Palmer, a hurdler who also ran well at the state indoor state meet with an eighth place finish in the 60-meter hurdles, said she likes her team’s chances.

“I feel like our shot (to get to state is) very good,” Palmer said. “We’re working hard, and we seem to be doing good so far in the season. So, I feel we could really go far.”

Hall agreed with her teammate and did not hesitate about her belief in her teammates.

“I think our chances (of going to state) are big,” Hall said. “We have big goals this year, so we’ll make it. I have faith in my team.”