Getting her kicks: Marino focused on football, not firsts

Polk County Middle School's Ava Marino attempts an extra point against Apple Valley.

Ava Marino had a much different view of her first successful field goal than nearly everyone else at Polk County Middle School.

She didn’t see it at all.

“I was so focused on the ball, that’s all I saw,” Marino said. “Then everyone started yelling and patting me on the helmet, so I knew I made it.”

It isn’t every day that a middle school kicker hits a 24-yard field goal – former Polk Middle coach Billy Alm said he couldn’t remember a Wolverine making one – let alone a female kicker. But now in her second season as Polk County’s placekicker, Marino isn’t worried about making history or breaking new ground. She’s just focused on each kick, each day, just as she was for that successful effort in the 15-9 loss to Apple Valley.

“It has gone pretty well,” Marino said. “It keeps me active.

“Every practice I work on (extra points) and field goals. The day before (the Apple Valley game), Coach Ruth (Polk County Middle teacher and athletic responder John Ruth) was helping me with a 35-yard field goal. He taught me a technique and said I just had to imagine the ball going through. When I kicked that field goal, I had to imagine it going through so that I wouldn’t be so nervous.”

A basketball and soccer standout, Marino only started kicking a football because her older brother, Anthony, did so for Polk County High’s varsity.

“My brother did it, and I thought it was pretty cool,” Marino said. “I can kick pretty hard, so he took me down to Harmon Field to give it a shot and see if I was any good at it.

“We were joking around and said what if I were the kicker for the football team. So I went out for it and I got it.”

Marino has the backing of her parents, John and Michelle – “They’re OK with me kicking, but no hitting” – but isn’t certain she wants her career to last past this season.

“I’m not sure,” the Polk eighth grader said. “I might try to play next year. I’m undecided.”

Which might be the only thing on which Marino isn’t focused.