By David Willis
Cassie Kobelski knows her father’s allegiance ultimately lies with her.
But that doesn’t mean the Andover High star doesn’t hear some teasing when she takes on archrival Central Catholic.
“Whenever we go against Central, my dad jokes that he is rooting for them,” Cassie said with a laugh. “But I know he always has my back.”
He was a proud father yesterday as Cassie won the shot put and Andover rolled past Central, 56-30.
The Kobelski name has long been synonymous with football at Central Catholic, where Cassie’s father Greg and his three brothers all starred before moving on to careers in college.
But Cassie Kobelski is now establishing her own legacy at a new school, as a star thrower for the Golden Warriors. The 2012 Eagle-Tribune spring All-Star, who has already thrown 38-10 this season, now has set the lofty goal of breaking Andover’s 27-year-old school record in the shot put.
“Only a couple girls a year in Massachusetts that have the chance to throw 40 feet,” said Golden Warrior throwing coach Art McDermott. “But Cassie can certainly do that. And her ultimate goal is to break the school record (43-0 3/4), and I think she has a legitimate shot at it.”
The Kobelskis are, literally, a marriage of the Merrimack Valley Conference’s fiercest rivals.
Cassie’s father Greg was an Eagle-Tribune All-Star receiver for Central Catholic (in 1984) and his brothers Todd, Brian and Matt also starred for the Raiders.
“Football was always a huge part of our family,” said Cassie, whose brother, Greg Jr., was a junior starting fullback on the St. John’s Prep squad that beat Andover in the EMass. football playoffs this fall. “Every year on Easter we would play football and I would play quarterback. I did cheerleading for the (Andover Junior Football League).”
Despite the pull of Central, Cassie’s loyalty always fell with the Golden Warriors — the school where her mother Lorri (Cocchiaro, class of 1985) was a volleyball captain.
“I always wanted to go to Andover High,” she said. “When I was little we would go to games and my brother would wear my dad’s Central Catholic jacket and I would wear my mother’s Andover jacket. On Thanksgiving my dad would joke with me if Central won.”
Cassie played multiple sports growing up, but it was in middle school that she discovered track. Her original event, however, was not throwing.
“I would go to Hooptown with (current Andover track star) Courtney (Comeau) during the summer, then go over her house and run hurdles,” said Kobelski, whose uncle is married to the sister of Courtney’s father, Golden Warrior track coach Peter Comeau. “So hurdles were my first event.”
As a freshman, however, Kobelski accidentally found a new love.
“I worked really hard on the hurdles and ended up getting shin splints,” she said. “But I just thought my legs just hurt, so I pushed myself too hard and ended up getting hurt and couldn’t compete.
“While I was injured I started hanging out with my friends, who happened to be the throwers. Then Coach McDermott suggested I try out the shot put. So I really found it be accident.”
After spending much of her sophomore year learning to throw, Kobelski delivered a breakout season last spring. She became the first Andover thrower to place at All-States since Felicia Thompson in 2004, taking eighth in the shot put with a 36-4. She was also fifth at EMass. Division 1 (35-11), second at MVC Meet (36-5) and third at Andover Boosters (season-best 36-7).
“She really stepped up and took it to another level at the end of last season,” said McDermott. “And the best part is she has picked up right where she left off last year. She has opened as far as she was throwing last year, which is very difficult. She has been working for four years and it has now finally fallen into place.”
So far this winter, she has repeatedly broken her personal best, currently standing at 38-10 hit two weeks ago against Haverhill.
“I feel like I am better prepared than ever before,” said Kobelski, who has already been accepted to Holy Cross, where she was recruited to throw. “I have worked hard and lifted more. I did Bay State Games this summer. I would love to go all the way to Nationals. That would be great. I am slowly improving my personal best.”
But her ultimate goal is the school record of 43-3/4 set by the great Karen Hodgkinson, a future two-time Big East champion at Syracuse. It is a goal that she is reminded of every day by the school’s all-time track leader board, which sits on the wall near the school’s main exit.
“I see that every time I walk in or leave the building,” she said. “It reminds me I have to keep working hard and setting my goals high. That was be amazing.”