Weather makes it tough for athletes to 'Cope' with

East Palestine senior Alex Casi won an individual title in the long jump.
SALEM -- Alex Casi hopped, then jogged, then shook, then shivered.
The East Palestine senior was bundled up in warmups, a fleece and a hooded sweatshirt, doing anything to stay warm while waiting for her turn in the long jump competition at Friday's F.E. Cope Invitational, the first major girls track meet of the season.
Many of the long jump competitors were bundled in blankets while they waited in bitter cold -- including one with a "New Kids on the Block" sleeping bag.
"I just kept trying to jog around," Casi, the two-time Division II state champion in the long jump, said. "I tried anything to stay warm."
The bad news was she had to wear a thin shirt and shorts when she was jumping.
The good news was she won anyway.
"I'm not 100 percent," Casi, who will play golf at Maryland this fall, said. "But I guess that's pretty good for not having my speed back."
Casi was diagnosed with a thyroid problem this winter which messes with her metabolism and makes her easily tired. She takes medication -- the condition is treatable -- but hasn't been at full strength.
"I'm not a quitter," said Casi, last spring's Vindicator girls track athlete of the year. "I'm going to keep running. I really love to run and I love to compete.
"I'm not going to worry about not being 100 percent. All that matters is the end of the season at the state meet."
Casi has trained all winter -- doing cross training, running and gymnastics.
She even trains in the snow.
"Actually, I like it when the snow is deep," Casi said. "I run across our football field and I have to pick up my legs a little more.
"Just don't tell our athletic director that I do that."
Team results: Cleveland Heights repeated as Cope champions, beating out Canton GlenOak and Cleveland James F. Rhodes in Division I. Boardman finished sixth and Canfield seventh. West Branch took second in Div. II and Maplewood and Warren JFK were 1-2 in Div. III.
The athletes had to contend with sub-freezing temperatures, a temperamental wind and a sun that appeared for mere seconds before ducking back behind the clouds.
West Branch junior Lisa Davies won the individual title in the 3,200 meters and Boardman sophomore Brittany Durkin won the 1,600 meter title to claim the only other individual titles for area athletes.
Davies, last fall's Vindicator girls cross country runner of the year, ran a time of 11:47.1 to easily outdistance Cleveland Heights' Delia Springstubb (11:53.7).
"I'm cold. Really cold," Davies said. "I try not to think about it, but it's hard for anyone to run in this weather."
Thanks to milder than normal temperatures this winter, Davies was able to train more outdoors. She ran on a treadmill when the snow was bad.
Davies is one of the smallest runners in the field, which causes some people to underestimate her.
"People tell me, 'You're so small,' " she said. "But size doesn't matter."
Spartan wins mile: Durkin, who went to state in track last spring and cross country last fall, cruised to the individual title in the mile with a time of 5:32.7. GlenOak's Ashley Gibbs was second with 5:36.2
Durkin had to wait four hours to race -- it was her first event -- but managed to stay loose.
"I warmed up with our 4x800 relay team and I was just in the bullpen trying to keep warm," Durkin, who took fourth in the 800, said. "I felt really loose.
"But right now, my hands are freezing."
Durkin doesn't like to wear gloves, and according to track regulations, if you start a race wearing gloves, you have to finish it wearing gloves.
"I never ran with gloves on," she said. "I don't think I'd like it."
After letting Springstubb stake an early advantage, Durkin made her move at the 800 mark of the mile to take the lead. She led by 20 feet for the final lap, but didn't realize it.
"I kept looking over my shoulder and I thought I saw something," Durkin said with a smile. "I guess it was my shadow."
Durkin was the starting point guard on Boardman's basketball team this winter, which cut down on her training time for track.
"Running is more helpful for basketball than basketball is for running," she said. "I was surprised to do this well."
Beaver Local sophomore Paula Ferry took third in the 100-meter high hurdles. Canfield junior Mara Boak was second in the 800. Cardinal Mooney's 4x800 relay took third and Poland senior Maria Mancino was third in the high jump.

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