River’s McCullough repeats in D-III 300-meter low hurdles

COLUMBUS – Cassidy McCullough knew what she was up against when she arrived at the Division III State Track and Field Championships.

The River High senior proved once again that state champions don’t go away quietly.

Entering the state meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University, McCullough was seeded second and, after Friday’s qualifying run, she was still second in the 300 meter low hurdles.

All the West Virginia Wesleyan-bound McCullough did was respond in a big way.

Exploding out of the blocks, McCullough seized control of the race early and basically ran away from the other eight competitors en route to repeating as the Division III champion with a 43.27.

“Honestly, I think (the feeling) is even better the second time,” McCullough said beaming with her gold medal around her neck. “I think I worked harder every day in practice because I had the feeling (last year) and I wanted to experience it again.”

McCullough, who was dialed in and focused after placing sixth in the 100 (12.60), ran away from the field and won the race by more than a full second.

So as the finish line approached, what was McCullough thinking?

“Don’t fall,” McCullough admitted. “I was thinking if I fall, I am going to look like a complete idiot. I wanted this really bad.”

On top of winning the gold, McCullough achieved another personal goal on her last try. Her time is a personal best and the first time she dipped under the 44-second barrier.

“I thought if I don’t get this today, I’m never going to have the opportunity again,” McCullough said. “I didn’t know it until they told me (in the tent before awards) my time. I thought, ‘oh wow!’ Maybe if I pushed a little bit harder, I could have gotten into the 42s.”

The gold medal also keeps the Division III 300 low hurdle title in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference for a fourth straight season. Steubenville Central’s Teddi Jo Maslowski won the crown in both 2010 and 2011.

McCullough, like St. Clairsville’s Alyssa Robinson, who also repeated in her event, simply dominated area competition this spring. That included the district and regional meets as well, so when the state lane assignments came out and McCullough saw Covington’s Jackie Siefring was the top seed, it played in the back of her mind.

“I was very nervous,” McCullough admitted. “Actually, it might have been most nervous I’ve been in my four years. It kind of hit me hard that I didn’t have that top seed, so I just knew I’d have to work even harder.”

This marks the second consecutive season that McCullough placed in two events at the state meet. She was a high hurdle placer in 2012.

“I am pretty satisified with my career and proud of what I’ve accomplished,” McCullough said. “I am hopeful I can continue to improve and do well in college.”

McCullough won’t be competing in the Midwest Meet of Champions. She’s headed for the beach.

“I am going to miss my coaches and my close friends, but I think I am ready for the next step and getting to college,” McCullough said.

Staskey can be reacked at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com