July 25, 2016

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Athlete of the Year: Peyton Booth enjoyed unparalleled success

Wadsworth’s Peyton Booth is the 2014 Gazette Senior Female Athlete of the Year. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)

Wadsworth’s Peyton Booth is the 2014 Gazette Senior Female Athlete of the Year. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)

Peyton Booth’s illustrious and well-chronicled athletic career at Wadsworth High can be summed up in two words: She won.

Actually, to do justice to the 2014 Gazette Senior Female Athletic of the Year, four words should probably be used: She won a lot.

The 5-foot-10, 140-pound Booth didn’t lose a Suburban League basketball game in four years with the Grizzlies and also went undefeated in the SL with the volleyball team, though she didn’t appear in every match as a freshman.

For those keeping score at home, that’s 56-0 in hoops and something close to that on the volleyball court.

“I want to win in everything I do, whatever it is,” said Booth, who was Gazette MVP in both sports as a senior. “That was the most important thing, to just keep winning in all the sports I did.

“I can remember when we lost to (two-time defending Division I state basketball champion) Twinsburg my junior year. I’ve never been so mad. I was crying. I don’t like losing and I don’t handle it well.”

Fortunately for Booth, who will continue her basketball career at D-I New Hampshire, she didn’t have to deal with a loss very often.

The Wadsworth basketball team posted season records of 20-5, 22-4, 25-3 and 26-2 in her four years on the varsity, for a combined mark of 93-14 and a winning percentage of .869.

Needless to say, the Grizzlies won four SL championships. They also won four D-I district titles and reached the regional championship in Booth’s final three seasons, losing to Toledo Notre Dame Academy each time.

“She doesn’t like losing at all, at anything, I can tell you that,” said Wadsworth basketball coach Andrew Booth, Peyton’s father. “I don’t want to say she’s a poor loser, but when it’s still undecided, there’s not many competitors we’ve had, while that battle is going on, that want to win any more than she does. Whether it’s practice or a drill or individual shooting or a game, she brings that to the table.”

On the volleyball court, the Grizzlies posted season records of 21-3, 19-4, 23-3 and 22-4 in Peyton Booth’s four years, for a combined mark of 85-14 and a winning percentage of .859. In addition to four SL titles, they won district crowns in her junior and senior years.

Add the two sports and Wadsworth’s basketball and volleyball programs posted a combined record of 178-28 in her four seasons, a winning percentage of .864.

“That’s what made her so special, her competitive edge,” Grizzlies volleyball coach Jill Klingbeil said. “When the game was on the line, she was the one we looked to. She wanted it. She wasn’t afraid to make a mistake. She has that confidence and she wanted the ball.

“I don’t know if that’s developed or if that’s just Peyton Booth.”

Secondary sport

Peyton Booth loves volleyball and played at the Junior Olympic level her first two years of high school. She just loves basketball more.

Klingbeil completely understood that, but she pushed Booth like she had D-I college volleyball potential. There were two reasons: The hard-working Booth wouldn’t have had it any other way, and Klingbeil is convinced her star player could have played at that level.

“She’s going to play NCAA Division I college basketball, but she would have had a great run as a college volleyball player,” Klingbeil said. “I can’t say enough good things about her.”

As a freshman, Booth was a middle hitter who saw part-time action with the varsity, especially in the second half of the season.

As a sophomore, she moved to the outside and found a permanent home, though she remained a player who could help the Grizzlies in every aspect of the game.

“I was lucky to have Coach Klingbeil come in my freshman year,” Booth said. “She made a big impact on my volleyball career. She really worked with me.”

As a senior, Booth led Medina County with 277 kills and a 3.46 average per game. She also became the first player in county history to amass 277 kills, 271 digs and 299 service attempts in a season and was a third-team All-Ohio selection by the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association.

For good measure, Booth posted 16 double-digit kill performances in 26 matches as the Grizzlies became just the second county squad to win back-to-back district titles.

“Peyton is a natural,” Klingbeil said. “Everything just kind of comes to her. She works very hard, but as soon as I would teach her something, she would pick it up. Not only would she pick it up, she would teach it to her teammates.”

More than anything, perhaps, Booth taught her teammates how to win.

“I remember a match where we could have lost our undefeated SL record, at Revere,” Klingbeil said. “I just remember her coming over to the sideline. I said, ‘Peyton, what do you want?’ She said, ‘I want the ball right now.’ I looked at the setter and said, ‘Let’s go to Peyton,’ and she got the job done.”

True love

Basketball has been Peyton Booth’s favorite sport since her dad got the varsity job at Mansfield Madison when she was 2. By the age of 5, she was on the bench shouting instructions to his players and suggesting strategic changes.

When Andrew Booth took the Wadsworth job in 2005, his little assistant came with him. Five years later, Peyton Booth was playing on the varsity as a freshman, largely because she loved defense and understood all the nuances of the sport.

“The thing that got her on the court first was her knowledge of the game,” Andrew Booth said. “Funny thing is, when I was in high school (at Lucas), all I cared about was scoring. I didn’t care about defense.

“In college (at Malone), I learned that. When I became a coach, it became the most important thing. That’s all she heard growing up. That’s what got her on the court.”

Peyton Booth didn’t post eye-popping statistics as a senior — 8.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 51 percent shooting from the field — but she did anything and everything it took to win.

That included guarding everyone from shooting guards to centers.

“It’s my 16th year as a coach, and I haven’t had too many kids who wanted that challenge,” Andrew Booth said. “She wasn’t a prolific scorer, but her best skill was her defensive ability. She’d rather get other people going offensively. She’s never been a kid who needed to score.”

Led by Peyton Booth, the Grizzlies set a county record in 2013-14 by allowing just 31.3 points per game. With two more games in the regular season, they also tied Wadsworth’s 1997 state championship team with 26 victories.

“Defense is always first,” Peyton Booth said. “I would play defense all day over offense. Who cares to score? I would rather have five steals, four blocks and 15 rebounds than score 15 points any day. I just love defense. Defense is what wins games.”

Peyton Booth, of course, won a lot — in volleyball and basketball — at Wadsworth.

“Peyton is the most competitive player I’ve ever met,” said basketball teammate and close friend Hannah Centea. “She always wants to win. She hates to lose. She won’t stop until she gets it right.

“She’s the one who got our team going. When we were down and didn’t believe in ourselves, she’s the one who got us believing.”

Peyton Booth will now take her outgoing, fun-loving personality, 3.5 grade-point average and 28 ACT score to New Hampshire, which she chose over Canisius, Albany and Robert Morris to further her education and continue her basketball career.

The 18-year-old is undecided on a major, but hopes to one day become a college basketball coach. The ultimate goal is to give her future players the same kind of experiences she enjoyed at Wadsworth, with the understanding that winning makes those experiences even more memorable.

“Playing with the teammates I’ve had these last four years has been so much fun,” Peyton Booth said. “They’ve all been such great girls. We’ve never had anyone who is selfish or wants all the attention. That’s what made us so successful.

“It’s been the best four years of my life so far. It’s because of my sports teams and the friends I’ve made and the coaches. It’s just been so much fun. I wouldn’t take back a second of it.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.