By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — As the start of boys high school track and field nears, here are five pressing questions facing Miami County teams and athletes this spring:
1) What will be the premiere race this season?
Last year, Miami County spectators were spoiled thanks to the friendly rivalry between Troy’s Stephen Jones and Tippecanoe’s Mitch Poynter. Every time the two teams competed against each other at a meet, the two state-caliber distance athletes would compete in the 1,600 or 3,200, sometimes even both — and they would put on a show. At last year’s Miami County Championships, Poynter beat Jones by .07 seconds in the 1,600 — a ridiculously small margin, especially for a race of that distance — only to have Jones beat Poynter by .24 seconds in the 3,200 later in the night.
Will anything provide that kind of excitement on a weekly basis this season? What individual rivalries will emerge this year? At this point, it’s hard to say.
2) Who will Troy’s top sprinter be?
Some of the best races may even come in practice, as Troy’s Josh Browder and Jayden Culp-Bishop battle it out in the sprints. Browder looked strong early last season before his year was cut short, and then Culp-Bishop burst onto the scene and took the leadership mantle, even winning a Greater Western Ohio Conference championship in the 200.
At last year’s season-opening Up and Running Invitational, Browder won the 100 and Culp-Bishop was fourth i his first varsity race as a freshman, with .24 seconds separating them. With both being available from the start of the season, with Browder wanting to have a strong senior year and with Culp-Bishop having a full season under his belt now, watching the duo race could be very interesting.
3) How will Tippecanoe fare in the GWOC?
One final time with this question. The Red Devil boys track team graduated some talent in the offseason heading into its first year in the GWOC, but behind its always-strong distance runners, Tippecanoe should find a place in the league. Its sprinters could struggle against the likes of Troy and Trotwood come time for the league meet, and the Devils are still searching for field athletes to take charge, but with the cross country team winning a division title in the fall, the Devils go into spring knowing they can compete.
4) Who will this year’s state surprise be?
Last year, Covington’s Jett Murphy cleared 14-4 at the state meet, breaking the Buccaneers’ school record and placing fourth as a sophomore. Should he repeat that feat this season, it won’t be much of a surprise — but every year, something unexpected happens. Who will be the one to break through? Bethel junior distance runner Korry Hamlin, who had a big cross country season in the fall? Milton-Union’s distance runners? Or someone completely under the radar at this point? We’ll find out all too soon.
5) How will the weather factor into the season?
It’s been a common theme for all of the spring sports. Why would boys track be different?
The forecast for Saturday’s opening meets may have improved slightly since last week — it may be warmer than expected, but rain is still likely — but that doesn’t mean it won’t change again. The potential for meets to be snowed on early in the season is possible, too, and thunderstorms and lightning have postponed high profile meets in the past, including the Miami County meet within the last decade. The possibility of meets being moved or cancelled entirely is a very real one, particularly with how Ohio’s already-unpredictable weather has behaved in the last two years.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.