By Josh Brown
and Rob Kiser
TROY — Troy boys track and field coach Dean Metz knows what it takes to win division titles.
After all, the Trojans — despite facing adversity through the regular season — returned to the top of the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division last year after a runner-up finish the previous season, giving them four in the last five seasons.
With what Troy has coming back this year, there’s no question that they should compete for another title in the GWOC American North Division — though added competition from the GWOC American South Division could throw new wrinkles into the mix.
“We’ve been really successful the last five years, with four championships and a runner-up finish, winning it again last year. And to do that, you’ve got to be well-rounded,” Metz said. “That’s the key in track. You’ve got to be strong in the distance races, the sprints and the field events. And right now, we’ve still got a lot of questions to be answered, some holes to be filled.”
The field events have been a strong spot for the Trojans during that impressive run, and this year should be no different.
Senior Travis Hall, a regional-qualifying thrower, returns, as do Kameron Block and Keaton Pfeiffer, with Hall strong in the shot and Block and Pfeiffer stronger in the discus. Keenan Kinnel should help in the high jump, too, with Nick Mittelstadt also returning and freshman Tucker Raskay joining the fray. And Hayata Nagata and Hayden Jackson are both back in the long jump, with sophomores Kobe Felter and Jayden Culp-Bishop also adding depth.
“Travis Hall was a regional qualifier last year, and we’re counting on good points out of him in the shot and discus,” Metz said. “Kameron and Keaton both contributed last year, especially in the discus, and we’ve got a lot of young guys out and we’ll see who steps up to fill the other holes. Keenan was with us for two meets last year and was a 5-10 high jumper, and Tucker won state at the junior high level. And between our four long jumpers, we’ll play around and see who can help us most there at the end of the season.”
One question area is the pole vault after the graduation of Joey Dippold.
“Seniors Anish Gollamudi and Zane Small are out and have both improved,” Metz said. “With Joey, we could always count on him to score us points. Both of those guys contributed last year and improved as the year went on, and they’re going to have to improve more.”
Another strong area will be the sprints — especially after Culp-Bishop’s breakthrough freshman year last season, and with the return of senior Josh Browder.
“Jayden won the GWOC in the 200 last year, and we hope to get him up there in the 100, too,” Metz said. “And Browder was the fastest guy on the team before Jayden hit his peak, but was only with us for two meets. Nagata will help us in the mid-sprints and relays, Feltner in the 400 and relays, and Sam Jackson was on the 4×100 team last year, too. And we’ve got a couple of young first-year guys that can add some depth, too.
“Zach Boyer was also a regional finalist in the 110 hurdles last year, and we expect good things from him. Frankie Hoening also contributed last year, and Kinnel was a pretty decent 300 hurdler before we lost him, so we’ll get to really see what he’s able to do.”
One gaping hole the Trojans have to fill, though, is the one left by graduate Stephen Jones in the distance races.
“That’s an area where we have to find out who we have,” Metz said. “Gone are the days of Stephen Jones giving us 20 automatic points by winning the 1,600 and 3,200. We’d even stick him in the 800 and 4×800 to get extra points. He helped make us well-rounded last year, but where are those points going to come from now? We’re not sure. Logan Huth and Seth Plantz are back and contributed, and we expected things from Adam Falknor before injuries slowed him down, so maybe he’s back stronger. And again, we have some young guys who we hope end up helping out.”
Troy begins its season by hosting the Up and Running Invitational Saturday.
TIPP CITY — The Red Devils will make the move to the Greater Western Ohio Conference this season, but a talented group of distance runners should help ease the transition.
Michael Stearns and Keenan Fraylick will lead a group of distance runners that performed well during cross country season in the fall, and Adam Grieshop will make some noise in the long jump. In the sprints and throws, though, Tippecanoe is still looking for the right athletes to step up and take charge.
“Michael and Keenan will lead a talented group. Only unforeseen injuries can take away from them,” Tippecanoe coach Bob Crawford said. “Adam at long jump should be impactful for us all season, but the throws are our wait-and-see events. We have a number of 400 and 800 runners competing for varsity spots, and we’re waiting at this point to see who steps up.
“As incoming members of the North Division of the GWOC, our goal is to finish as high as possible in the division. We run against all of our division teams during the season, and we’ll fine-tune things as the conference meet approaches.”
WEST MILTON — As Michael Meredith enters his 17th year as Milton-Union track and field coach, his Bulldogs look well-rounded and experienced once again and will aim to challenge for a Southwestern Buckeye League championship.
Will Brock and Shannon Milnickel will lead the team in the distance races, while Zac Shields and Robbie Grove and hurdler Alex Moore will lead in the sprints. Sam Motz and Trevor Grile will be the Bulldogs’ primary throwers, and Dalton Hetzler will perform in the long jump.
“Our numbers are back up, and we have a young and talented sprint crew along with a solid distance crew with state cross country experience,” Meredith said. “We hope to win our league and have multiple events represented in a very tough district and regional.”
CASSTOWN — Miami East was on the verge of greatness most of last season, with a series of runner-up finishes — at the Cross County Conference meet and the Covington Invitational — and victories at Arcanum and Graham all leading to a district championship. Now Steve Karnehm, entering his ninth year with the team, expects even more.
The sprinters will include senior Jordan Crawford, juniors Colten Weldy and Dalton Taynor, sophomores Justin Brown and Keagan Carsey and freshman Daniel Baker, while middle distance will include seniors Bryce Redick and Luke Mengos and sophomores Gavin Horne, Greg Austerman and Eric Austerman. The distance runners will be senior Justin DeWeese and freshman Jonah Bruatigan.
In the field events, senior Trey Rush, sophomore Blaine Brockschmidt and freshman Kaleb Nickels will pole vault, Brown and freshman Brendan Bertsch will compete in the high jump, with Brown, Taynor and junior Bryce Mills in the long jump. Senior Colton Kowalak, junior Jack Runner and Dalton will compete in the throws.
“I expect another good season out of the great, hard-working young men,” Karnehm said. “We are more experienced and have some reachable goals.”
PLEASANT HILL — Nick Rhoades returns as Newton coach.
The Indians will need to replace state placer Brady McBride (Ohio University).
Sprinter Jack Yoder is back and was a regional placer in the 2oo. He will also compete in the long jump, while distance runner Tristan Benedict was a CCC placer last year.
“The team is mostly made of freshmen and sophomores,” Rhoades said. “We graduated most of our points from our Cross County Conference fourth-place finish and Brady McBride, a state placer in the 3,200. We will probably finish in the lower half of the league because of inexperience.”
BRANDT — Bethel’s boys are thin and young this season, but experienced cross country runner Korry Hamlin will look to follow up a state season in the fall with another strong performance in the spring.
“Korry is the returning conference runner-up in the 1,600 and 3,200, the district champion in both events and a fifth-place finisher in the regional in the 3,200,” Bethel coach Mark Clute said. “Junior Connor Whelan is looking to break into the mix in the 1,600, and I have no real idea who will become our best sprinter. We have a couple freshmen and sophomores that are going to fight for that honor.
“We will be at the bottom of the conference this season, but I’m hoping we improve enough to get more of our athletes to the Cross County Conference finals on Saturday this season.”
COVINGTON — Kyle Moore returns as Covington coach, and his Buccaneers appear to be strong again this spring.
Pole vaulter Jett Murphy will lead a strong group in the field events.
“Jett Murphy is back after placing fourth at state in the pole vault last year, and he’s motivated to go higher,” Moore said. “So is Zach Parrett in the high jump, after he placed at the regional meet last year. We’ve also got a lot of throwers this year – they were really young last year – and they’re still young, but they’ve worked really hard in the football program to keep getting stronger. I’m excited to see what Sam Pritchard, Hunter Alexander, and a host of freshmen can do this year.”
Moore expects big things from his sprinters, who include Ethan Herron, Murphy, Cade Harshbarger and Deron White. The Buccs also have a strong group of middle distance runners in Zane Barnes, Jayce Pond and Nathan Lyle, and Adam Lefeld, Dylan Kelly and Hunter Brumbaugh return in the distance races.
Moore hope to compete for a Cross County Conference and district title.
“We would always like to win the Cross County Conference and the district,” he said. “But it’s never easy with Miami East, Twin Valley South, Arcanum and Newton. But we’ve got a big roster – 35 guys – and we are looking forward to the season.”
TROY — Troy Christian had a solid cross country season in the fall and, led by those young distance runners, the Eagles will look to carry that success on into the spring.
Sophomores Isaac Flora and Nick Pratt will lead in the distance races, while junior Zach Davidson and freshmen Robert Ventura and Adian Tkach will anchor the middle distance races. Junior Trent Bianco will be the lead sprinter, and sophomore Luke Ruffing will lead in the field events.
“Our distance and middle distance guys have been working hard this winter and are ready to start racing,” Troy Christian coach Jeff McDaniel said. “They are looking to get league titles and hoping to get some runners through to state.”
PIQUA — Scott Kaye returns as Piqua boys track and field coach.
The Indians finished fifth in the GWOC North a year ago.
Piqua returns seniors Andy Mayse, who placed in the Division I state 1,600 and was a state qualifier in the 800, along with senior thrower Tristen Cox, who was a regional qualifier last year.
Also returning are senior distance runner Dante Kemp and junior sprinter Jacob Bushnell.
“Looking to keep our team size (40),” Kaye said. “We want to develop new talent to increase our team scores, while pushing our veterans to reach our lofty goals.”
Kaye hopes to finish in top three in GWOC North.
BRADFORD — Third-year Bradford coach Brian Schwieterman hopes to see some school records fall this season, as well as some Railroaders competing at the state meet.
Juniors Kyle Mills, Kurt Hoover and Hayden Dickerson will look to fill the void in the sprints left by graduates Zach Miller and Ryan Turner, with Hoover bridging the gap to the middle distance races and Johnny Fike, Jackson Moore and Jay Roberts leading the distance runners. And in the field events, Hoover and Dickerson will compete in the long jump and Mills in the high jump, with Jacob McQuinn competing in the throws.
“We’re always trying to improve every meet and set high personal goals,” Schwieterman said. “Hopefully we set some school records, and we’ll try to advance some individuals to finish their season in Columbus.”
SIDNEY — Dwane Rowley returns for his eighth season as Lehman coach.
The Cavaliers finished third in the Northwest Central Conference a year ago.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Wyatt Long, Joe Schemmel, Isaiah Winhoven and John Henry Frantz; and junior Alvaro Barrera.
“We are fairly young and not much meet experience, but we look to be competitive in all meets and events,” Rowley said. “We are looking to finish as top three in the conference and compete for individual spots in the state tournament.”
Rowley expects to at least match last year’s finish in the NWCC.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.