In her 13th season as Smiths Station head track coach, Cassidy Stecenko once again saw her athletes stand out at state.
With nine girls competing at the AHSAA Class 7A championship meet, Stecenko saw Smiths Station capture two individual state titles and finish in sixth place. The team’s placement was the highest among all the local girls teams and was just one of the reasons Stecenko was named All-Bi-City Coach of the Year.
While Stecenko was thrilled with her athletes’ performances, she admitted a different year with the same efforts may have drawn an even better slot in the standings.
“We got points everywhere that we could,” Stecenko said. “If we would have gotten the same amount of points last year, we would have probably been in third place. We placed and came home with some state champions, which I was proud of.”
Smiths Station’s state titles came via Alonie Sutton, who finished first in the long jump and the triple jump. Sutton’s not only won the triple jump, but she set a new state record in the process. Sutton, who is no stranger to championships, was selected as the All-Bi-City Girls Track Athlete of the Year.
Stecenko said her team isn’t the biggest, but those who are a part of it work relentlessly to get better. It showed at the state meet in Gulf Shores, with strong performances from the likes of Sutton and Kennedy Brown, who finished runner-up to Sutton in her two events.
Stecenko applauded her team, which she said was comprised of mostly juniors in 2017. She said that though there are some days where the grind is particularly hard on her athletes, they gut it out in an effort to make the payoff at the end of the year worthwhile.
“We had a great season,” Stecenko said. “There’s not a whole lot of them, but the ones we have get points in every event they do. I have a lot of girls who work hard.”
Stecenko claims Coach of the Year honors for the second straight year. She said she’s lot count of the number of times she’s been selected, which speaks to the consistency she’s had at the helm of the Lady Panthers.
Stecenko instead focused on her athletes, giving them the praise for what they were able to accomplish in the outdoor season.
“I can’t put it into words how proud I am of them,” Stecenko said. When we get to a meet, they compete. I don’t think that’s something you can teach an athlete. They either have it or they don’t.
“This group of girls, they have it.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports