For the last month, Lake High School juniors Alexandria Gower and Taylor Andreff have been chasing school records
Anyone who has attended a Lake track and field meet at Blue Streak stadium in the past three years and sat in the stands has witnessed great efforts by some outstanding athletes.
But anyone who hasn't ventured out of their seat, walked outside the stadium and looked past the track has missed watching two of the best throwing athletes in the history of Lake track and field. That's where juniors Alexandria Gower and Taylor Andreff have been chasing Lake records in the shot put and discus.
Gower has been throwing the discus and shot put since the seventh grade. She used a disappointing finish in last year’s district meet, where she threw below her usual standards and missed out on the finals, as motivation to push her in the weight room in the off-season. This motivation has propelled her to the top of Lake’s discus record book, where she has surpassed the 116-8 mark posted in 2007 by Spencer Coppenger.
Gower now owns the top two throws in Lake’s history, setting the record at the Bill Barry Invitational in April (118-11) and surpassing her own record with a throw of 121-5 1/2 heave against GlenOak on May 7.
Gower credits the Lake coaches with the improvement from her 111-5 best from last year.
“The coaches have pushed me to get better on the track and in the weight room,” Gower said. “They are the reason I have become a more consistent thrower. Now, instead of having one good throw a meet, I usually have three or four.”
Gower thinks she could improve on her record with the right conditions.
“I have hit the 125-foot mark in practice, so I think 130 is not out of the question under tournament conditions.”
Andreff started in the throwing events in the eighth grade and enjoys throwing the discus, but realized her passion was the shot put. This passion has pushed her to being one of the top throwers in Stark County this year.
Her 36-9 3/4 throw against GlenOak last week moved her to second all-time in the record book, just short of the 36-11 mark also set by Coppenger in 2007.
Andreff has improved on her 2012 best of 35-6 by switching from the “crawl” to the “shuffle” technique to set up her release. Also, warming up with the 10-pound shot before competitions seems have helped with her first throw at meets, when she is typically her best.
“I was more dedicated to lifting in the offseason than in the past, and the results are starting to show,” Andreff said, adding that she is aiming for the 40-foot mark in the coming weeks.
Andreff and Gower have enjoyed competing with each other over the years and give one another partial credit for their own success. Andreff is complimentary of the relationship and cites the constructive criticism she and Gower give each other as a key benefit of their bond.
Page 2 of 2 - “We help each other get better in our specialties. We critique each other in a positive sense,” Andreff said, “and push one another to achieve greater distances.”
“We always help each other and are receptive to each other’s comments,” Gower said. “We always look out for each other.”
Head coach Matt Pinion has watched Gower and Andreff excel and is not the least bit surprised at their success.
“It has been my pleasure to coach these athletes. Their attitude is exceptional,” Pinion said. “They knew they were going to be close to the records this year, and worked extremely hard in the off-season. Being juniors, they seem to enjoy pushing each other to get better.”
Having an athlete like Gower on the team has also made Pinion’s coaching job easier.
“She is our hardest-working athlete in the weight room,” Pinion said. “Her teammates seem to feed off her enthusiasm.”
Andreff and Gower's dedication to their craft has set them apart from their competition and set both up for future success.
“These two have a great chance to advance out of the regionals and make it to the state meet in June,” Pinion added. “They are peaking at the right time, and aren’t taking anything for granted.”
Gower knows that there is still great things to come for the duo.
“Anything can happen if you work hard enough,” Gower said. “I love the atmosphere of watching people push themselves to see what they are capable of. It makes me work that much harder.”
Andreff, though satisfied with the success she and her friend have seen this year, remains focused on maintaining that success.
“I would like to see us finish strong,” Andreff said, “and then see how much we can improve before next year.”