By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy boys track and field coach Deon Metz knows the situation his Trojans are in heading into this season.
He just doesn’t necessarily like to put it into words.
“This is definitely going to be, well, you hate to say a rebuilding year, but we’re not the big schools that just constantly reload,” Metz said. “I really need to piece some things together. I get that question every year — how’s the team looking? — and I really don’t know.”
Still, the Trojans enter the season as two-time defending division champions, and the team is hoping to put everything together by the end of the season and contend for another Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title.
Troy will be without both of its state qualifiers from last season, one of whom graduated in thrower Travis Hall, as well as a host of other talent.
“We lost a lot, and for several different reasons,” Metz said. “I’ve got guys that decided not to run this year that were key contributors last year. I’m losing guys that were part of the state meet last year, and then just losing guys to graduation that contributed for several years. I have a lot of new faces on the team, a lot of young kids, but there a lot of holes.”
The Trojans do have returners to lean on, though, beginning with junior Jaydon Culp-Bishop. Despite the fact that Troy lost a lot of talent in the sprints, Culp-Bishop leads the way.
“We lost a lot in the sprints. We had a state qualifier in the 110 hurdles that isn’t competing with the team. That’s 10 automatic points every meet, so that’s a big hit,” Metz said. “We’ve lost him, but Jaydon Culp-Bishop was our leading scorer last year in total points, so that helps a lot having him back.
“Kobe Feltner was injured for a large part of the year last year but got healthy at the end. I really need him to have a solid season and fill in a lot of these spots. Kevin Walters, we’ll see what he can do this year. He’s a young guy that’s working hard in practice. And Tucker Racksay was a high jumper last year that was learning the hurdles — he’ll continue to high jump, and we need him to step up in the hurdles. Nick Mittelstadt is another good high jumper for us last year and occasionally contributed in some relays, and sophomore Ollie Crawford was more of a reserve guy last year, so we’ll see if he can contribute somewhere.”
The shot put and discus has been one of Troy’s key strengths for a long time, as well.
“We lost a state qualifier in the shot, and that’s never easy to replace,” Metz said. “We’ve taken several guys to state in either the shot or discus in the past few years, and we’ve been very competitive there. I know coach (Aaron) Gibbons has a young crew with a lot of talent, and he’s going to work as hard as he can to get them as competitive as we can be by the time the end of the season rolls around.
“Kameron Block is a senior that’s been with us several years, and he’s been very competitive for us in the discus. We’ll be depending on guys like Garrett Jones that have been around for a while. It’s his junior year, and we’ll see what he can contribute. And Spencer Klopfenstein came on at the end of the year in both throws last year, so we’ll see what production we can get out of him in his junior year. And Jesse Westmeyer, he’s a big kid, so it’ll be a chance for him to seize a starting spot.”
Troy’s distance runners also have some experience coming back, led by senior Andy Smith.
“We have a core group of runners that had a pretty good cross country season, had a pretty good track season last year, and they’re back and continuing to get better,” Metz said. “It starts with Andy Smith, who had a really good season in the 3,200, especially late last season. Austin Zonner, Keegan Potts, Seth Plantz, Logan Huth and Sam Felton are all back again, too.”
The pole vault and long jump are both holes that the Trojans will have to look closely at.
“I have no idea who is going to pole vault,” Metz said. “Last year, we had some guys in the pole vault that had been with us for a while, No. 3 or 4 type guys, and last year as seniors they were finally No. 1 and 2. Well, they’re gone, and I have two freshmen trying to get some practice in right now, so at this point it is open competition. That’s a big weakness for us, as we’ve always had guys scoring in the pole vault for us.
“Long jump is going to be trial by error. We’ve got guys I know can jump like Kobe or Jaydon. What it’s going to come down to is what makes sense where to use guys, as we don’t have the depth we had. We may have to rely on those guys more in the running events, so I’m going to need to find long jumpers.”
Through it all, the Trojans will be hoping to fill most of those holes by later in the season — particularly the Greater Western Ohio Conference meet.
“We like to be competitive at the Herb Hartman, but that’s during our spring break and I don’t know that we’ll have all the holes filled by then,” Metz said. “We’d like to win that meet, but I don’t know if we’ll be there yet. I definitely want to be in a position to win the Miami County meet this season. We take a lot of pride in that, it’s a competitive county every year and if you can win it, you’ve accomplished something. And even though it doesn’t look good on paper at this point in the season, I’d like to win the division. There isn’t a year that we don’t try to win the division. Even if it doesn’t look that good in the beginning, you don’t give up. You work hard all year long, try to put guys in the right places to succeed and hope for the best.
“There are some guys that can step up and fill some of these holes. I just need to give them the opportunity to do so.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.