Well 2017 is the year for records to fall for the St. Paul Flyers’ girls’ track team. With just 15 members, it has been able to knock out two records this season, both coming during the Division III district meet in Bucyrus last week.
The 2017 Firelands Conference champions, the Lady Flyers saw the 4x800-meter relay record fall as well as the 800-meter run record destroyed. Senior Kaeleigh Stang, junior Meghan Hedrick, freshman Holly Powers and freshman Lily Dowdell teamed up to break a 22-year old 4x800 record with a time of 10:08.29 besting the old record of 10:10.10 set way back in 1995.
“We have been going after that record single the beginning of the season,” Hedrick said. “It was amazing to finally put it all together mixed with the pressure of the district meet and the hard work we have put in all season. It all came together at the right time.”
St. Paul coach John Rossman saw an incoming group of girls and a record book that was waiting to be rewritten. With only one member of the relay team having any 4x800 experience, Stang, it was a high risk with an even higher reward.
“Last year, we were one girl shy of having a great 4x800 team,” Rossman said. “I knew coming into this year, just looking at the records, that with Lily and Holly coming up and if we pulled Meghan out of an event, that we had a great shot at breaking that record. That day (Thursday) was a horrible day for running and they were able to do it.”
Playing with gamesmanship and trying to figure out the best way to score as many points as possible, Rossman hadn’t seen his record-breaking relay team run together single April 22 at the Columbian Invite. On Thursday, he put together the lineup for the first time and the move paid off. The record fell and the Lady Flyers took second in the race to punch their ticket to the Lancaster Regional this week. The team went almost a month without running a race together making the record-breaking performance that much more impressive.
Hedrick made more history at the district meet breaking the 800-meter run record with a time of 2:19.24 to win the district title and set a record that could last as long as the 4x800, if she doesn’t break it herself.
“I talked to (New London) coach (Keith) Landis who I look up to and speak with very frequently throughout the year, we feel we are so lucky to have a Morgan Luedy and a Mehgan Hedrick to coach,” Rossman said. “It comes to a point where I just sit back and watch Meghan and enjoy the show. There isn’t much she cannot do on a track. She puts her mind to something and she will be the best at it, just like Luedy. It would be very difficult to find a girl who will go to regionals and run the 4x100 and 4x800. If you want someone at anchor, it is Meghan Hedrick.”
Hedrick has even impressed her veteran teammate.
“Meghan has been a huge motivation with pulling in her crazy times,” Stang said. “She is the backbone for our team and the one runner we can always count on to get us back in a race whenever we need her to.”
Stang rolls in with a year of state meet experience after advancing in the 4x400 last year and has taken over as the team leader. Rossman saw an opportunity for even more success for Stang, but it would come in form of a change. She would have to accept a move from the 4x400 to the 4x800. having an incoming senior and asking them to switch events could go one of two ways. Fortunately for the St. Paul Flyers, she welcomed the change with open arms.
“We preach character when things are difficult,” Rossman said. “Pulling a senior out of an event they just went to state for it is usually a big problem. You could have everything from a poor attitude to parent phone calls. It is a difficult situation. She has come in and remained positive and really became a leader for this team. The week before conference, things really started to come together. If Kaeleigh doesn’t accept that change like she did, this doesn’t happen. She isn’t in a position to return to state.
“Of all of my kids, Kaeleigh has been here since my first day. I have a special place in my heart for Kaeleigh for what she had done and what she has been through. I would love nothing more for her to end her season in Columbus.”
Stang as adopted the nickname of, “Mom” given to her by her younger teammates. She brings everything from tissues to spikes and spike wrenches. But most of all, her leadership has allowed the team to excel.
“Kaeleigh has been an awesome leader,” Hedrick said. “I haven’t been running the 800 very long and she has helped me so much. It is all still new to me and Kaeleigh has been awesome with keeping us going and motivating us all year long.”
“I don’t think we would be able to compete without Kaeleigh,” Dowdell said.
Powers comes in as a bit of a surprise, even more to herself. In junior high, she never ran an event as long as the 800.
“I was excited to try it out,” Powers said. “These girls helped so much and I was thrilled to see improvement every time I ran.”
Holly’s sister, Olivia, is a standout sprinter for the Lady Flyers and is also a regional qualifier in the 100-meter dash and as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team.
“Early on, Holly came in having her older sister, Olivia, who is just a phenomenal sprinter, came in a bit skeptical of herself,” Rossman said. “We had a meeting very early on and I told her I didn’t want her to be Olivia, I wanted her to be Holly. I wanted to take pressure off of her and find her a spot and the first couple of practices I told her she was going to be an 800 runner. I don’t think she expected that to come up. She had never run that far in a single event before. She came in with the attitude of doing whatever the team needs her to do because she is just that good of a kid.”
“I will never forget when we went to Shelby early in the season, she broke into the 2:30’s and ran somewhere around a 2:36 and just crushed her PR. When she hit that, she placed at that invite and I wish I could have took a picture of her face when I first told her she was an 800 runner and then have her do that. I think she believes me now. That was the hook that got her excited. She has worked very hard to be that fourth girl for us.”
Dowdell came in with high expectations even as a freshman. After claiming a conference title in cross country, she has exceeded any expectation set with an MVP honor at the Firelands Conference meet just a couple of weeks ago.
“It was great to be able to have all of that support from everyone,” Dowdell said. “People congratulated me on earning the MVP, but it took a total team effort for me to even be considered. I wouldn’t have been there without all of them. I was just so thrilled our team pulled it off. It was great to see everyone perform at their best and it has really carried over.”
Stang admits it is the two youngsters who have really stepped up and produced for the Flyers in order to have such a successful season.
“We have two awesome freshmen,” Stang said. “Lily is a great distance runner and Holly has come in after never running an 800-meter event and has done an amazing job. It has been a learning experience this year because it was the first time we have run as a 4x800 team and the first time any of us has been a part of a 4x800 team. We saw that Lily was great at it, I gave it a shot and Meghan has been killing it with breaking the open 800 record. Holly is a great athlete and we just saw that this could really work.”
Hedrick will have a busy day at the Lancaster Regional meet on Wednesday as she will be a 4-event participant in the 4x400, 4x100, 4x800 and the 800-meter run. Dowdell is a 3-event regional qualifier in the 4x400, 4x800 and the 1,600-meter run. Stang and Powers will be in the 4x800-relay while serving as alternates for the 4x400 team. The Lady Flyers have the No. 1 seed in the 4x100 and the No. 4 seed in the 4x800.
The Lady Flyers will be in action on Wednesday in Lancaster.