By David Fong
TROY — Imagine a football team going to the Super Bowl by only playing its linebackers and running backs.
Or a baseball team posting a winning record without playing anyone in the outfield.
Picture a basketball team beating teams while only putting three players on the court at a time.
That is essentially how good the Troy girls track team has been in the field events this season. Those field events — shot put, discus, pole vault, long jump and high jump — will be front and center later this week as the Trojans prepare to defend their Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title for the eighth year in a row.
“We scored 75 points at the Northmont Invitational in just the field events,” Troy girls coach Kurt Snyder said. “And that’s only five events (out of 17) — we averaged 15 points per field event.”
As good as Troy is from top to bottom — a balanced roster in distance, sprints, hurdles and field events has been the key to Troy’s unprecedented run of seven GWOC North titles in a row — it is the field events that have been racking up the most points per event for the Trojans this season.
At the Jack Lintz Northmont Invitational Snyder referenced, the Trojans did rack up 75 points in the field events alone — which would have been good enough to put the Trojans in fourth place — ahead of 12 other schools — in the team standings. Troy won both first and second places in the shot put, discus and pole vault, then placed second and fifth in the long jump and fourth and seventh in the high jump.
That was just one meet. All season long, the Trojans have been racking up points in field events by the bushel.
The Trojans aren’t just impressive at local meets, either. Troy currently has some of the top field event competitors in the state on its roster. Sophomore Lenea Browder is ranked first in the state in both the shot put (48-6.5) and discus (156-3). Senior pole vaulter Christine Moser has the ninth-best Division I vault (11-8) in Ohio this season. Senior long jumper Camryn Moeller is ranked 14th in the state in the long jump (17-3.5). Senior shot putter Alaura Holycross has the 14th best throw (39-1) in the state.
Browder, Moser and Holycross all were state qualifiers last season. Moeller and senior discus thrower Kylee Brooks both were regional qualifiers. Junior Lilli Cusick regularly places in the pole vault, as does junior Annah Stanley in the long jump. Junior Jessica Goodwin and freshman Hallie Westmeyer have been scoring points all season in the high jump.
So why, exactly, are the Trojans so good in the field events? Having top-tier athletes is a good start, Snyder said, but tells only part of the story. He gives much of the credit to his assistant coaches.
“With the coaches we have in the field events, I don’t know who can match us,” Snyder said. “We’ve got a former head coach working with our high jumpers and long jumpers. We’ve got a legend working with our pole vaulters. And we’ve got one of the best young coaches in the state working with our throwers.”
The Troy coaching staff really is like an all-star line-up. Herb Hartman has been coaching track and field at Troy for 51 years. The former boys and girls coach currently works with Troy’s pole vaulters. Brad Clendening, who works with Troy’s long jumpers and high jumpers, was the head boys coach at Bethel High School for the better part of two decades. Throwing coach Aaron Gibbons already has coached two state placers and five state qualifiers since arriving at Troy six years ago.
“A lot of it is coaching,” Moser said. “How else are you ever going to learn to do something like pole vaulting if nobody told you how? Troy has one of the best coaches in the state. Where else are you going to find someone with as much experience as Coach Hartman? He helps me stay focused and always has positive vibes. He’s been a huge part of my career.”
For Moeller, the coaching she has received has been particularly crucial. Moeller — who will play volleyball at Ohio State in the fall — played softball her first two years of high school before coming out for the track team for the first time last spring. She didn’t start long jumping until midway through her junior year.
“(Clendening) basically had to teach me how to long jump from scratch,” she said. “I had never done anything like this before. He had to teach me how to long jump. He’s taught me everything I know. I didn’t even know what the rules were. He’s a great coach.”
Browder gives Gibbons much of the credit for her incredible success rate this season.
“Coach ‘Gibbs’ helps me out a lot with everything I’m doing right now,” said Browder, who has finished second just once this season in the shot put and discus. He’s always taking video and pointing out things I need to work on. He’s very helpful, not just as a coach, but also because he’s so encouraging.”
Gibbons is so good, Holycross said, that other teams and throwers are jealous of the program the Trojans have built.
“He’s a great coach,” she said. “You’ll see throwers at other schools that have a lot of potential, but they don’t have as good a coach as we do. He’s always putting in the extra time to help out.”
That includes the time Gibbons gives in the weightroom, too. In addition to being Troy’s throwing coach, he’s also the head strength and conditioning coach at Troy. While talent and coaching have made the Trojans great, all of the field event athletes say it’s hard work that has helped them take things to the next level.
“The majority of us in the field events are in there lifting before school,” Moser said. “We are there at 5:45 a.m. with Mr. Gibbons. We are all in there lifting all through the summer and winter. It’s definitely helped bring us closer together.”
Which is perfect, considering those competing in the field events often lead a solitary life at meets. There are no relay events for the field athletes. While runners gather the crowd’s attention on the track — where it’s easy to discern who finishes first, second and third — field athletes often compete in out-of-the-way locations and it’s not always easy to tell who is winning and losing with the naked eye.
Throwers often will compete outside the confines of the stadium entirely. Browder has broken her own school records in the shot and discus a half-dozen times this season, usually with only her family, friends and fellow competitors watching her.
“It’s definitely different than competing in a running event,” Snyder said.”You only have one person going at a time, so you don’t have someone right next to you pushing you like you do on the track. You also don’t have the crowd watching and pushing you. When you don’t have someone else to push you, you’ve got to be able to push yourself.
“Those are the kinds of kids we’ve got in our field events right now. We’ve got kids who are always in the weightroom pushing themselves. We’ve got kids in practice who are always pushing themselves and working on their craft. We’ve got indoor facilities that allow our kids to work all winter. We have given our kids the opportunities, and they have taken advantage of them.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong