While her school records are in the low hurdles, Cassilyn Pellizzer obviously had no trouble with the high hurdles during last week’s indoor meet in Woodruff, Wis.
IRON RIVER—The West Iron County girls track program has experienced a resurgence in recent years. The Wykons have won five straight regional titles, finished Division 2 runners-up in 2010 and 2011 at the U.P. Finals and captured the West Pac Conference championship last season.
The culmination of this climb to the top came on the first day of June last spring when West Iron brought home its first U.P. girls track championship trophy.
In the midst of all this success stand seniors Megan Miatech and Cassilyn Pellizzer. The two Wykon standouts have gone from contributors to stars over the past four years and are once again poised to lead their squad this spring as West Iron hopes to continue its recent string of success.
“When I first started as coach, we had only one girl make it to the U.P.s--that was it,” Wykon coach Kristi Berutti said. “It’s changed a lot since and Megan and Cassie have helped extend (the success).”
Helped and then some. Miatech is nearly a sure thing to win the shot put every time she shows up, having gone undefeated from her sophomore year until finishing fourth at the T-Bird Relays on April 22 at Lakeland (Wis.) High School.
She’s also regularly in the battle for top spot in the discus competitions.
Pellizzer is the school’s record holder in both the 200-meter (the indoor distance) and 300-meter low hurdles (the outdoor distance). The team depends heavily on her to ring up points in every meet, as she also competes in the high hurdles, the high jump and anchors the 1,600 relay.
The two are WIC’s two senior captains and are mentors to the latest round of up-and-comers as they pay it forward after being guided through the early years of their careers.
“When I was a freshman, we had two seniors on the team--Hannah Holma and Desiree Rasmussen --that helped me a lot,” said Miatech, who won shot put at the U.P. Finals last season and holds the Badger Invitational (Niagara) record with her personal best throw of 36-4.
Miatech also credits Berutti’s husband, Mike, West Iron’s football coach and a former thrower himself, for helping her increase her distance from 28 feet to 36 feet “on good days.”
Kristi Berutti said Miatech’s example is pervasive throughout her team.
“Outstanding kid. Everything she does, she gives 100 percent. Everybody on the team looks up to her.”
Miatech has her sights set on the school mark, which is held by Holma, who tossed the shot 37-6 in 2010.
Berutti thinks Miatech will set the new standard sometime this season.
“She’s oh-so close. In practice, she’s actually done it. I think once we get outside, I think she’s going to break it.”
Pellizzer has already done it. She first bested her cousin Joanna Pellizzer’s 2009 mark of 34.49 in the 200 hurdles by running a 32.84 at this season’s first meet at Northland Pines.
That standard didn’t last long. Pellizzer rewrote the mark about two weeks later when she posted a 32.18.
Her top 300 hurdles time of 48.70, run at the U.P. Finals last spring, is the school benchmark.
Cassilyn said her cousin’s performance set the stage for her accomplishments.
“She was a hurdler and she had the 200 record, and so my coaches said, ‘You’d probably be good, you’ve got some lengthy legs.’”
Setting an example for Cassilyn was one thing. Seeing her protégé break her record is another for the elder Pellizzer, Cassilyn said.
“It was good,” she said, smiling. “I mean, she was happy for me. She probably wanted to keep it, though.”
Both Cassilyn and Berutti credit former Wykon standout hurdler Doug Tomasoski, who still holds the boys 300 low-hurdles record (40.8 set in 1981) and who assists with WIC hurdlers.
Berutti said Pellizzer has all the skills needed to be an accomplished hurdler.
“She’s fast, really fast, and she’s very strong. She’s also a great 400 runner. She anchors our 400 relay, and no matter where the team is at, she pretty much pulls through in the end.”
All that effort and accomplishment led to Pellizzer’s selection as team MVP last year and has her on Northern Michigan University’s watch list for a potential spot on its squad next year.
Not that it’s been a waltz for either Miatech or Pellizzer along the way. While both displayed strong potential during their middle-school years, each specializes in a technical event that requires persistent practice and strong attention to detail.
For Miatech, her challenge is to overcome her tendency to dwell on setting the new school record.
“I focus on it too much,” she admitted. “That’s all I can think about when I’m at meets is beating the record. I definitely need to just relax because I do get tight.”
On the other hand, Pellizzer has overcome the common fear of tripping over the hurdles early in her career but now is focused on consistently three-stepping between hurdles and on overcoming a certain physical limitation.
“The most important thing to me is just to stretch, even when I’m done with practice and at home on weekends,” Pellizzer said. “I’m not flexible at all, and it’s tough on my hamstrings.”
As their prep careers edge toward the finish line, both Wykon athletes have long since left their marks on West Iron’s girls track rebirth.
“They both are outstanding,” Berutti said. “They’re going to be a huge loss.”