By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Miami East had the top boys track and field in Miami County last year.
Literally, as the Vikings scored a Miami County Championships team title.
And with more than a dozen returners from that team, the Vikings will not only be looking to repeat as County champions but also take the next step in their conference and district meets,
“We have 15-plus returning lettermen, and other than a few injuries and other issues, we have most of our scorers back from the team that won the County championship and were district and conference runners-up,” Miami East coach Steve Karnehm said.
The task of winning the district title got a little more difficult this season, though.
“We are now a Division II program, so though we will still face the same teams during the season, we will compete up a division when it comes to district, regional and state,” Karnehm said. “But we welcome that challenge.”
Junior pole vaulter Blaine Brokschmidt finished fourth at the state indoor meet in the winter, and he will be joined by sophomore Kaleb Nickels, who cleared 12-6 as a freshman. Senior Jack Runner and juniors Ryan Teale and Brennan Dalton all return in the throws, with Justin Brown and Brendan Bertsch competing in the high and long jumps.
Regional qualifiers Jonah Brautigam, Greg Austerman, Gavin Horne and Keagan Carsey all return in the distance races, with Taton Bertsch bridging the gap from middle distance to long sprints as well as running the hurdles. Sophomore Aaron Lawrence was also a regional qualifier last season and runs both hurdles, with seniors Dalton Taynor and Colton Weldy, junior Brown, sophomore Daniel Baker and a host of others figuring into the sprints.
The only question Tippecanoe coach Bob Crawford has for his team as he enters his 28th season is, who is hungriest? And the potential main course this year is a shot at the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title, maybe with a side of a district title.
“Our team goal is to win the GWOC North and, since we are Division II, to also be on top of our district,” Crawford said.
Senior Matt Garber is back and healthy, looking to end his career with a solid season in the discus. And Bryce Conley will lead a strong group of middle- and long-distance runners, with Crawford saying “we have a bevy of strong runners, so we’ll see who is hungry. The hungriest will establish themselves on the track.” And Bryce McCullough will lead the sprinters from in the 200 and 400, with the 400 being his specialty, with Colton Tandy looking to make a name for himself in the 110 hurdles.
Milton-Union’s goal is an easy one this season. After winning the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship last year, the Bulldogs are setting their sights on a repeat.
“We’re the defending SWBL champs, and we should have a well-rounded team that defends that title,” said Milton-Union coach Michael Meredith as he enters his 18th season with the team.
Leading the way will be state indoor qualifier Shannon Milnickel, who should be a state contender in the mile and 800. Senior Zac Shields and junior Robbie Grove will head up the sprints, while Sam Motz and Alex Moore will run the hurdles. Motz will also compete in the throws with Trevor Grile, with juniors Devon Guzman in the high jump and Dalton Hetzler in the long jump.
Korry Hamlin returns for his senior season to lead the Bees from the distance races.
“Korry is back as the defending Cross County Conference champion in the 1,600 and 3,200, and the two-time district champion and state qualifier in the 3,200,” third-year Bethel coach Mark Clute said.
Wyatt Leet also returns after showing promise in the 400 last season, and Connor Whelan returns and is looking to make progress in the hurdles.
“Hopefully we can finish in the top half of the CCC this season and get more athletes to the regional meet this year,” Clute said. “Our numbers are up for this season, but we are young and inexperienced.”
* Troy Christian
The Troy Christian boys team has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, and fifth-year coach Jeff McDaniel is hoping the team can compete for a Metro Buckeye Conference championship this season.
“The men’s team has grown from past teams, and we are looking to get league titles and hoping to get some runners through to state,” he said.
Leading the way will be the Eagles’ middle- and long-distance runners. Juniors Isaac Flora and Nick Pratt will lead the way in the 1,600 and 3,200, with sophomores Aiden Tkach and Robert Ventura running the 400 and 800. Lucas Ruffing and Michael Whidden return in the throws and will be joined by Grant Doucette, and junior Harrison Hartman will be out for his first year of track in the sprints.
The Buccaneers took third place at last year’s Cross County Conference and regional meets, but with six returning state qualifiers Covington is hoping to move up in those meets and send more athletes to the biggest stage.
“After a bunch of big third-place finishes last year, we are trying to move into the top two in the big meets at the end of the year,” seventh-year Covington coach Kyle Moore said. “We want to perform well in the league and district meets and send enough athletes back to the state meet that we place highly at the regional meet again. Then we would like to put as many athletes on the podium at the state meet as possible — and since six of our returners have been there before, they know what it’s like, and I know they want to make it back.”
Jett Murphy, a two-time state placer in the pole vault, returns, as does Zach Parrett, who placed at state in the high jump. Senior hurdler Cade Harshbarger also placed at state in the 110 hurdles and qualified in both, and senior Nathan Lyle and junior Gray Harshbarger were both on the 4×400 relay team that placed at state. Also returning for the Buccaneers are Ethan Herron and Alex Shaffer in the sprints, Andrew Cates in middle distance, Dylan Kelly and Bennett Wellborn in distance and Sam Pritchard and Hunter and Nate Alexander in the throws.
“We will have enough competition even just in the CCC — we were third at league and third at regionals behind Twin Valley South — that our guys will be pushed hard and should hopefully get to the end of the season in great shape for a postseason run,” Moore said.
The Indians’ numbers may be down, and the team may be young, but Newton returns a lot of postseason experience from last season — and even the youngest and newest members of the team are no stranger to the big stage.
Sophomore Cameron Stine placed in four different events — the high jump, both hurdles and a relay — at last year’s district meet, and sophomore sprinter Ethan Cook was Tristen Benedict will add experience to the team in the distance races, while freshman Dawson Hildebrand was the junior high state champion in the shot put.
“It appears the boys’ numbers will be down from previous years, but an increase in quality,” 10th-year Newton coach nick Rhoads said. “With only one senior and one junior, it makes us very young but with potential. Several of the younger athletes have had success already in the tournament or have the ability to do great things this year, including Dawson Hildebrand, who was the junior high state champion in the shot put last year.
“Dawson, along with several other freshmen, did some great things in junior high but will have to prove themselves again in high school. Our goal is always to finish in the top half of the league. With being so young, we will just put in the work, trust the process and know it will pay off in the end.”
Scott Kaye returns as Piqua boys track and field coach.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Jacob Bushnell (sprints, middle distance); and Coeby Patton (hurdles, sprints); juniors Jackson Huelskamp (pole vault); and Preston Schaeffer (distance); and sophomores Mitch Fletcher (distance) and Owen Curtis (high jumps, sprints).
“We are looking for veterans to lead the underclassmen in the right direction and establish consistent scoring from this young team,” Kaye said. “With the graduation of big point earners in Mayse and Cox, we are in need of veterans to step up and bring in team scoring opportunities.”
Lehman, which finished third in the Shelby County Athletic League last season, is hoping to once again crack the top three this year.
Brendon O’Leary, Drew Ivey and Scott Petersen will be leaned on in the sprints this year, with Matt McDonald winning the middle distance and Chris Goettemoeller the long distance races.
“We have low numbers and are young, but we look for upperclassmen for leadership and to be competitive in all meets and events,” ninth-year Lehman coach Dwane Rowley said. “We are looking to finish in the top three in the conference and have individuals compete for spots in the state tournament.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.