By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
DAYTON -- Alex Casi considers herself an emotional athlete.
The East Palestine High junior can barely control herself when she wins and wipes away tears when she loses.
Those emotions were evident Friday in the Division II state track and field meet at Welcome Stadium.
Two years after winning the state title in the long jump as a freshman, Casi returned to the top. Her leap of 18 feet, 4 inches in cool, windy conditions was good enough for her to recapture the title.
"Long jump is strange; it can go either way every year," said Casi, who finished second last year. "It's always been my event. I always look at it as a win."
The highlight: Although Casi won her heats in the 100- and 200-meter races Friday to qualify for today's finals, she considers her long jump crown the highlight of her state trip.
"It's been my event since I was 6 years old," Casi said. "It's a thing between my dad [Stephan] and I. It's been really special, because he was the first one to show me how to do everything.
"I couldn't ask for anything more this year," she said. "This is enough, even if I didn't run the 100 and 200."
Casi won the long jump with a season-best distance, and it came during the first flight of the preliminary round.
She jumped 18-2 twice in the finals but knew she had the title by the time she fouled on her final jump.
"This year she was the hunter instead of the hunted," East Palestine coach John Bistarkey said. "Maybe a lot of people don't know who finished second last year; that took a lot of pressure off Alex. Last year she had so much pressure because she was the defending state champ."
Goal: Now, Casi's goal is to stand on the podium for the first time in three events. She was given that opportunity after winning her heats in the 100 (13.20) and 200 (26.63).
"In the 100, I felt like people tied bricks on my feet," she said of the fierce wind that blew all of Friday. "I couldn't move at all, but everybody had the same disadvantage."
Casi won the sprints out of Lane 8, which usually contains a runner with a slower regional time.
"It's kind of like I was a sleeper," said Casi, who finished eighth in the 200 as a freshman. "No one expects a girl in Lane 8 to win."
Bistarkey pointed to two factors that helped Casi: Unlike regionals, she ran the sprints Friday prior to the long jump. Secondly, Casi pulled out of the 400 in districts, allowing her to focus more on the long jump.
"We'll rest up tonight; she'll go back to her hotel, eat her pasta," Bistarkey said. "I think she'll be ready tomorrow, with a lot of things off her mind."