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Multiple regional qualifiers boost district-champ WL-Salem girls

Then a seventh grader, Lydia Moell couldn’t have picked a better day for her first pole vault lesson three years ago. Well, except for that winter blast Lydia and her father drove through to get to Columbus.

“I remember because it was on Valentine’s Day and my husband drove her over in a snowstorm,” said Becky Moell, Lydia’s mother and West Liberty-Salem’s pole vault coach.

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Moell, now a Tigers’ sophomore, has been devoted to the sport ever since. On Saturday, Moell cleared a personal-best 10 feet, 9-inches to win the Division III district championship at Piqua High School. She enters the D-III regional championships at Troy on Wednesday with the third-best vault out of 16 competitors, with the top four qualifying for the state championships.

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“I’d seen people do it before and I thought it looked really fun,” Moell said of what drew her to the sport.

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And after that first lesson?

“I was obsessed with it,” she said.

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Moell highlights a strong contingent of Tigers heading into the regional as 10 different West Liberty-Salem girls athletes qualified in 11 different events. The girls program record is 12 in 2013.

Moell advanced in four events (800 relay, 300 hurdles, long jump and pole vault), along with senior Taylor Lauck (400 relay, 800 relay, 1,60 relay and 400 run) and freshman Katelyn Stapleton (800, 1,600, 1,600 relay and 3,200 relay).

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West Liberty-Salem used that surge to win the girls district championship with 114 points, a four-point victory over Covington.

The Tigers won district championships with senior Reghan Bieleski in the 3,200-meter run, Stapleton in the 800 and 1,600 runs, Moell in the pole vault and in the 400 relay with freshman Kaylee LeVan, Lauck, senior Janie Kopus and sophomore Alex Burton.

“We’re super excited we got all four relays out,” Moell said. “I’m excited and I’m ready to go.”

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Moell’s best event to qualify for state is the pole vault. She’s considering dropping the long jump competition to keep her legs fresher for that and the hurdles since both the pole vault and long jump competitions are at the same time. Becky Moell said he calculated on Saturday Lydia performed 12 pole vault attempts and six long jump attempts in addition to her relay race and the hurdles.

“It can be kind of hard to focus,” Lydia said of going from event to event. “You just have to relax and try to think about what you’re doing in the moment. Just go with the flow.”

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Her goal for the pole vault is to clear 11-0. She cleared 10-0 at regional last year to finish seventh.

In addition to those drives to the Buckeye Pole Vault Academy in Columbus for lessons, Moell has had other family assistance in the sport. Moell’s grandmother ran a gymnastics school in West Liberty.

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“It’s helped me so much with my body awareness and just knowing what’s going to work and what’s not,” Moell said. “It’s having more control when I’m doing it and what it should feel like.”

Her mom, Becky, qualified for state all four years in relays and middle distance at West Liberty-Salem and ran with current head coach Ann Vogel.

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“She was a track star so I’m trying to be as good as her, maybe better,” Moell said of her mother, whose best finish at state was third in the 3,200 relay. “I feel like I have a better chance (to qualify this season). If I do my best I’ll definitely be where I want to be.”

If all goes well, that means heading toward Columbus. And this time with better weather.

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