By Josh Brown
TROY — The Troy boys track and field team has sent many athletes on to college in the past few years.
Coach Deon Metz wants to keep that success going.
“I’ve been trying to keep data on where our athletes are now, the recent successes the team has had,” he said. “I gave out handouts at the beginning of the season and showed our upcoming kids the success that we’ve had, hoping to continue to get kids excited and supporting the program.”
This season, the Trojans will be led by senior Stephen Jones, who has already committed to run in college at Mississippi State — alongside former teammate and Trojan Branden Nosker, who graduated two years ago. Jones has competed at the state meet in the 3,200 the past two seasons and has ran at state cross country the past three seasons, placing ninth there in the fall.
“Stephen is going to be the key athlete for the team this season,” Metz said. “He was our leading point scorer as a junior last year, he’s already committed to run track at Mississippi State — which is pretty cool, because he’ll get to run with Branden again. Everything we do this year has got to start with Stephen.”
For Jones, it will mean transitioning into the leadership role.
“He’ll be in a different setting than he’s used to,” Metz said. “In his previous three years, we’ve had a consistent 4×800 relay team around him with lots of veterans on it. But we’re going to have lots of youth with him this year, and he’ll be the veteran. After losing Troy Schultz — who’s running at Findlay now — and Alek Prus and Jon Osman, and Branden two years ago … that’s a lot of talented, talented distance runners to say goodbye to. Stephen’s got to be (the leader). We hope the younger guys are looking at him, watching how he works.”
Sophomore hurdler Zach Boyer will also look to continue his own success after a strong freshman season.
“Zach was a regional qualifier in the 110 hurdles last year,” Metz said. “He was also able to score in both the 110s and 300 hurdles at the league meet — even if the 300 isn’t really his favorite event. I look for more big things out of him this year.”
And senior Joey Dippold will anchor the field events from the pole vault position.
“Joey scored at the league meet last year in a very competitive field,” Metz said. “Greenville itself had three good young vaulters. Hopefully Joey can come back and get a little revenge this season. And beyond that, we have a lot of young guys there that’ll have to take over next year.”
In the long jump, a pair of juniors return in Hayata Nagata and Hayden Jackson, and Chris Linville (shot put) and Kameron Block (discus) will look to carry on the recent tradition of strong throwers.
“Both of our junior long jumpers were close to 19-0 at the end of their sophomore seasons,” Metz said. “If they can start off close to that this season … we’re hoping they can pick up where they left off. We’ve got some new guys out this year, too, and we expect good things out of the throws. Some names that people don’t know yet or haven’t heard in the past, there’s some potential there.
“We really struggled in the field events at the league meet last year, and that’s been a strength for us in the past. Last year was tough, and it’s definitely going to be a focus for us this year.”
The sprints is another area where the Trojans have less experience than they’re used to.
“We’ve always had that one sprinter back from the year before to lead the way. For a while, it was Miles Hibbler. Then Nick James,” Metz said. “We lost guys like Alex Rizkallah, T.J. Michael, Brandon Lee. This year, without that leader or group of leaders, it’s going to be interesting to see who steps up.
“We’ve got some juniors and seniors that have waited their turn — they’ve had the talent, but there’s just been someone ahead of them. Guys that have waited around patiently, like Austin Jacobs or DeMarcus Moody or Tim Ferrier, and we’ve also got a nice group of freshmen that will help out in the future.”
All of that leads to an uncertain look ahead at the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division competition.
“This year, the league will be … curious,” Metz said. “We’ve known we would be solid the last four or five years, and we knew who would compete with us. This year, Trotwood has to be the favorite. They were young last year, and we came up six points short of them, with them winning the division — and they’re going to have everyone back. Greenville also had some youth last year and is really skilled in the field events. And Sidney, it depends on who comes out. They’ve had a lot of success in the fall and winter seasons, and we expect those athletes to come out in the spring, too.
“It will be interesting to see how we evolve as the year goes on. I still don’t really know what we have yet due to what we’ve lost over the last few years. This is why I love how our Up and Running meet is set up on Saturday — it’s only open events. We’ll get to establish who our fastest guys are after that and see who our relay teams will be after that.”
Troy opens the season Saturday, hosting the Up and Running Invitational.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.