By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — As the Troy boys track and field team enters its 100th season, the Trojans are looking to leave one last mark in their final year as a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference.
And after only dropping the American North Division race by four points to Butler last year, there’s no reason to think the Trojans can’t get there by season’s end.
“The sky’s the limit,” Troy coach Deon Metz said. “This is our last year to be part of the GWOC, and so it’d be really nice to go out as GWOC North champs in the last year. That’s the goal — but we’ve got a long way to get to that point.”
And even though Metz knows how many returners the team has up and down the lineup, he also knows that each new season brings new challenges.
“We’ve got a lot of guys back. We didn’t lose a whole lot off of last year’s team. That said, it’s a different year and a different team,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do before we can expect to have the success we’ve had. And we’ve got some injuries, some lingering things that are a real concern.”
And that starts with senior Jaydon Culp-Bishop, a returning sprinter with the chance to be the team’s leading point-getter this season.
“That’s the key there — he’s been dealing with nagging injuries since his sophomore season,” Metz said. “He had an outstanding football season in the fall despite those injuries, though, so we’re going to work with him and try to get him into shape. That’s a big factor, having Jaydon healthy.”
But Culp-Bishop is far from Troy’s only capable sprinter, as fellow seniors Caillou Monroe and Noah Young also return from last year’s district champion 4×200 relay team, and junior Kevin Walters and senior Blake Burton return to add depth to the lineup.
“We expect a lot out of Caillou, and not just in the sprints,” Metz said. “Noah is back, also, and we expect to come back strong. Kevin has put the work in over the last few years and gotten better. And I was excited to see Blake Burton come back out. He’s going to play football at the next level, so you know he’s staying in shape.”
The Trojans’ hurdlers and high jumpers took a hit in the offseason when Nick Mittelstadt went down with an injury, and his return this season is questionable. But Tucker Raskey was a district finalist in the 300 hurdles and a regional high jumper, and his return will help ensure the Trojans continue to post points in those events.
“Tucker, having him back will be a big help in the hurdles and the high jump,” Metz said. “He was a regional qualifier in the high jump, and he’s gotten better in the hurdles. We could see Caillou doing more of the high jump, as well.
“Nick broke his ankle during wrestling. There’s a guy that qualified for state in the high jump last year, and there’s no doubt that I think he could get there again this year. We’ll have to wait and see how things go for him.”
The Trojans also have a deep group of runners for the middle-distance and distance races.
“Senior Sam Felton, we’re looking for a big year out of him, especially in the middle side of it,” Metz said. “Sophomore Josh Lovitt had a great year in cross country, senior Seth Plantz, senior Keegan Potts, junior Austin Zonner, senior Logan Huth, they’ve all put their time in and gotten better. And you’ve got to talk about Braden Coate after the year he had in cross country, even as a freshman. He’s going to help us score points there.”
The Trojan boys are also strong in the throws, with senior Spencer Klopfenstein — a regional qualifier in both the shot put and discus — and senior Jesse Westmeyer leading the way. Another senior, Garrett Jones, will hope to make an impact there, as well, as competition for spots in the throwing lineup will be fierce thanks to the whopping number of athletes battling for them.
“Having Spencer and Jesse both back is huge,” Metz said. “Jesse qualified for the state indoor meet in the shot. That’ll be a big help, and Garrett, he’s got plans. Those are the three throwers that are proven, and we’ve got 17 throwers. It’s going to be difficult to make sure we get enough meets for all those guys.”
The pole vault and long jump are the only real question marks at this point, but there’s still options there.
“Our pole vaulters are pretty young guys back from last year,” Metz said. “Last year was their first year pole vaulting, and (pole vaulting coach) Herb (Hartman) worked a lot with them last year. We’ve got youth there, though — we’ve been spoiled for so many years having two, three solid pole vaulters at a time.
“The long jump will be the same scenario. We used to have Jaydon long jump, but this year we’ll probably rely on a couple freshmen and a sophomore.”
There’s still a full regular season to work on things and build up to that final GWOC meet, though, and come time, Metz finds it hard to pick out favorites this season in a wide-open field.
“It’s really hard to say,” Metz said. “Butler lost a number of their key athletes, but they always rebuild. Sidney could be back on the map — they’ve got some sprinters and could field a pretty good team. Tipp, their distance runners are solid. Greenville’s pole vaulters and high jumpers and long jumpers are always solid. And gosh, Piqua’s got some young distance runners.
“A lot of the guys that were at the top a year ago are gone. Track is pretty unique, though, in that you could see freshmen contribute, and with move-ins … it’s just tough to say. It’s going to be close, especially since we’re still trying to figure out what our team looks like.”
But Metz knows how to get the team in a good position by season’s end — the Trojans have won five out of the last eight GWOC North titles. So as they celebrate a major program milestone, they’ll try to go out and get one more trophy.
“A lot has to happen for us to get that championship. My key is to find the guys to put in the right spots,” Metz said. “It’s our 100th year for boys track and field here in Troy, so it’d be nice to do something special. Anything can happen, and I’m just excited to get it rolling.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.