By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
TROY — It’s a loss that still gnaws at Kurt Snyder nearly a decade later.
“To be honest, it still bothers me that nine years ago we lost the (Greater Western Ohio Conference) North Division title by three points,” the Troy girls track and field coach said. “That was a tough loss for the kids. But I think in the long run it made us better.”
That’s how high the expecations been set and how much the Trojans have been become accustomed to winning.
Since then, the Troy girls track team has not lost a GWOC North title, winning eight in a row. In that time, the Trojans also have won the last four district titles and one overall GWOC championship. In the final year competing in the GWOC before moving to the Miami Valley League next season, the Trojans will be heavily favored to win a ninth North title and could also contend for the overall title.
It’s been an incredible run of success for the Trojans.
“The hardest part was getting it started,” Snyder said of his program’s near-decade of dominance. “Now everyone knows what to do from year to year and what the expectations are. We have had great senior leadership over the years. The younger kids we have learn from the seniors and know what the expectations are. They know how to prepare. Then, when they get the opportunity as seniors, they pass it down to the next generation.”
With leadership in place and talent up and down the roster, it’s hard to believe the Trojans aren’t primed and ready to bring home more trophies again this season.
Leading the way for Troy is junior thrower Lenea Browder. The future Ohio State thrower won a state title in the discus and was the state runner-up in the shot put last year. She also won a state indoor title in the shot put over the winter. She’ll be joined in the throwing rings by senior Hailee Gaines, sophomore Kathryn Cade and freshman Madison Harkins.
“Lenea scored 18 points at the state meet last year — what more can you say about her?” Snyder said. “She’s hoping for 20 points this year and is capable of doing it. We’ve got a lot of other talented throwers, too. Hailee Gaines would have been varsity on pretty much any other team the last three years, but has waited her turn and been working really hard.”
The Trojans have both depth and versatility in the sprints. Senior Annah Stanley was part of a state-qualifying relay team as a sophomore and has been one of the Trojans’ top sprinters for years. She’ll be joined by senior Evelyn Plunkett, juniors Katie Lord and Laura Borchers and sophomore Brennah Hutchinson, all of whom were regional qualifiers in the spring relays last season. Rounding out the varsity sprint crew will be senior Gabbi Johnson and freshmen Kiersten Franklin and Hannah Falknor, a two-time junior high state placer.
“The nice thing about our sprint crew is that we don’t have to have anyone running in four events and can save our legs throughout the season,” Snyder said. “We can really mix and match our sprint relays. We also have a lot of versatility with some of our sprinters. We’ve got some girls who can run anything from the 200 to the 800.”
In the distance runs, the Trojans will be led by a trio of state cross country qualifiers in senior Olivia Tyre, sophomore Dinah Gigandet and freshman Emma Kennett. Tyre and Gigandet both were regional qualifiers in track last year, while Kennett placed at the state junior high meet. They’ll be joined by senior Katie Castaneda and sophomore Hannah Markeson.
“Our distance runners all look strong; they spent a lot of time preparing in the winter,” Snyder said. “They put in a lot of miles over the winter. They’ll look to continue the success they had during the cross country season.”
In the 100 hurdles, senior Jessica Goodwin was a regional qualifier last year, despite not being completely healthy. She’ll be joined by senior Miranda Houshel and juniors Breann Stith and Makayla Kindell. In the 300 hurdles will be senior Alekhya Gollamudi, junior La’Zaya Barger and Stith.
“We’ve got most of our hurdlers back, and they are hungry,” Snyder said. “Goodwin was able to separate herself a little bit last year, but I think it’s going to be a dogfight for that second spot.”
In the high jump, sophomores Hallie Westmeyer and Bailey Brogan both were regional qualifiers last year. Goodwin also jumped last season until injuries forced her to focus on the hurdles.
“We’ve got three kids who could have been regional qualifiers last year,” Snyder said. “That’s a pretty good problem to have.”
Stanley — a two-time state indoor qualifier — will lead the Trojan long jumpers. The battle for the second spot is up for grabs among juniors Maggie Welker and Stith, along with senior Kayleigh Hill and possibly even Goodwin.
“Stanley will be our No. 1 jumper, but the No. 2 spot is pretty up in the air right now,” Snyder said. “Welker has been working hard and Stith is healthier than she was last year. It’s going to be a good fight.”
In the pole vault, four-year varsity letterwinner Lilli Cusick — a regional qualifier last year — returns. She’ll be joined by freshmen Sophie Fong, a state junior high placer last year and a state indoor qualifier over the winter, and Maddy Dixon.
“Lilli has done a great job for us the past four years,” Snyder said. “We’ve also got some good young vaulters coming up.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong