Carroll looks to carry GCL momentum into district meet

Carroll High School senior Aaron Cooper owns the Patriots high jump record of 6-6. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

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Carroll High School senior Aaron Cooper owns the Patriots high jump record of 6-6. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

The message to the Carroll Patriots boys track and field team prior to the Greater Catholic League championships was the same as last season. And the season before that. Coach Mike Triola’s message hasn’t changed since 2009.

“Every year coach tells us we have to forget about what we did the year before,” said senior high jump and sprint standout Aaron Cooper.

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The Patriots’ boys will get the same message next season, too. Carroll captured its 11th straight GCL championship. The Patriots look to carry that momentum into the Division I district championship Wednesday and Friday at Bellbrook High School.

“We lost some seniors from last year that were very good,” Cooper said. “It was kind of easy to just lean on them so we had to have some guys step up and lead in a way that wasn’t necessary last year. It was like a grudge thing. Do we really want this as bad as coach does?”

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Carroll won with 175 points to runner-up Chaminade Julienne’s 79. Carroll’s girls also won the GCL, their third title in four seasons, 127-124 over second-place CJ.

The Patriots girls trailed by two points entering the 1,600-meter relay, the final event. Carroll’s team of Ava Lickliter, Alaina Casey, Meghan Schrand and Taylor Smith won, and CJ finished fourth for the winning margin.

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“We put a lot of emphasis on coming together as a team to try and win the league championships,” Triola said. “We tell the athletes every single person is needed for our team to be successful, whether they are in four events, one event or even an alternate for a relay. We have been fortunate that they embrace that motto.”

The girls were led by junior Julia Keller, who was named GCL field athlete of the year for the second straight season. Keller won the discus and finished second in the shot.

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“Julia has an incredible attitude and work ethic, and is very coachable,” Triola said. “Our two throws coaches, Howard Titus and Jenni Rossi, have done an outstanding job working with Julia and getting her to peak at the right time. Julia is a competitor and team player.”

Breana Devillier also won the girls pole vault for Carroll.

On the boys side, Grant Arnold (1,600), Kevin Agnew (3,200), Donovan LaJeunesse (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), David Litteral (discus), Brady O’Bleness (pole vault) and the 3,200 relay of Arnold, Agnew, Ben Kilfoyle and Michael Osgood also won.

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As for Cooper, he won the 400 and finished third in the high jump. He’s looking to rebound in the high jump after setting the school record at 6-6 this season. He also established a new indoor school record, going 6-4 to finish eighth at state.

Cooper nearly gave up the event soon after he started jumping as a sophomore. He failed to clear the starting height of 5-0 in five indoor meets that season. Jumps coach Jeff Ross encouraged Cooper to stick with it.

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“I told him no, let’s keep working at it. He did,” Ross said. “Here he is now a senior and he jumped 6-6 the first three meets of the year.”

“Breaking the school record is something I never thought I’d be able to do,” Cooper said. “Competing on such a high level is crazy to me. It’s something I’m thankful to be able to do.

“I think I was happier when I finally cleared 5-0 than when I cleared 6-6. … It was one of those things I knew I could do it, but I didn’t understand why it was so easy for me to do it at practice and not a meet. When I finally got it, it was more of a relief.”

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Cooper, who stands 6-4, isn’t as focused on a certain height as he is simply qualifying for the regional and state meets. The top four competitors at the district qualify to regional, where the same process plays out to qualify for state.

Ross thinks Cooper can be a 7-foot jumper if he decides to compete in college. Ross knows something about that. His career best was 7-2.25 at Miami University – he cleared 7-0 in high school at Lakota – and came 0.25 inches from qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Now in his 10th season, Ross has helped six Carroll high jumpers qualify for the outdoor state meet and 11 qualify for the indoor state meet.

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“The kids always make me look good,” Ross said. “They’re just good kids all the way around. They work hard. It’s a pleasure for me to work with them and teach them what I know. They’re very good at taking instruction and they’re very coachable. You can see the results.”

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