By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
and Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
TROY — Dinah Gigandet is ready to step out of her sister’s shadow.
The junior — and two-time state qualifier — is ready to lead the Troy girls cross country team this year as it shoots for a 12th consecutive division title in a new league, two years removed from older sister Morgan Gigandet’s individual Division I state championship.
“Dinah is poised to have a breakout year,” Troy girls cross country coach Kevin Alexander said. “Now, that’s already hard to say about someone that’s qualified for state in both of her seasons. But she is really, really ready to make a name for herself this year. She’s running at a completely different level right now.
“She’s not going to just be Morgan’s sister after this season.”
Troy will be incredibly young this season on varsity after graduating both of last year’s seniors Olivia Tyre and Katie Castaneda. Aside from that, most of last year’s varsity experience came from freshmen and sophomores.
“How do you replace an Olivia Tyre, a four-time state qualifier and two-time All-Ohio runner?” Alexander said. “Or Katie Castaneda, who basically helped clinch the GWOC (Greater Western Ohio Conference) American North title for us last year? A lot of our kids are really young this year. It’s definitely a youth movement for us.”
Also returning is sophomore Emma Kennett, who won multiple races as a freshman last year — including an individual GWOC American North title. She’ll be slowed down at the beginning of the year by an offseason injury, though.
“Emma right now will take a few weeks after a non-running-related injury,” Alexander said. “She’s out until probably midseason, but by the end of the season she will be right there. She has state experience, and even though she can’t run right now, she’s doing what she can until she’s back, but she’ll be ready by the end of the year.”
Also returning from last year’s varsity team are junior Hannah Markeson and sophomores Renee Kovacs and Ella Kirkpatrick.
“We expect a big jump from those sophomores. They have to jump up after their freshman year,” Alexander said. “When it’s your first year, you’re kind of a deer in the headlights, and everything is so new. It’s a huge jump from junior high to being a high school freshman. As sophomores, we expect them to take that knowledge and put it to use. Now we’re expecting things from you.”
And Alexander expects to go through something similar this year with a large and talented freshman class.
“We’re going to have a big sort-out where we figure out who fits where, who’s learning what and who feels good which week,” he said. “We could see some big jumps until we get our spots one through seven set. We have a lot to learn, though. We’ll probably take our lumps early, but hopefully we’ll get it by districts.”
Troy also has a group of seven seniors out of its 36-runner roster: Alayna Jones, Sarah Kraynek, Katie Lord, Angelica Manzano, Samantha Mascarella, Lydia Ryan and Julia Williams.
Last year, Troy won its 11th straight division title — but by a narrow margin, only defeating Tippecanoe by five points in the final GWOC American North race. And even though the Trojans enter a new league, the Miami Valley League, the competition will remain the same.
“The new league doesn’t change anything for us,” Alexander said. “Tipp has a solid program, they’re well coached and they have plenty of athleticism. Right there’s the top of the totem pole right now. And there’s other teams in the league that are young and willing to compete, too. We’re going to take this new league, get some good competition and adjust as necessary.
“Our goals are still the same. The girls have had a nice run of success, and they want to make sure it continues.”
PIQUA — Ryan King returns as the coach.
The Indians’ senior group includes two of the top runners from a year ago in Ana Adams and Maeve Vulcan and Cassie Schrubb leads a strong group of sophomores after qualifying for regionals a year ago.
Other seniors include Danielle Detter and Alivia Knorr-Sullivan.
Other sophomores include Alyssa Arthur, Gabby Cromes, Briana Landers and Karolina Polakowski.
The freshman include Laurynn Barr, Lienne Casey, Mackenzie Fast, Reagan Howard, Osabella Murray and Jana Wagner.
“There seniors are excited to make their final run,” King said. “We expect big things from Cassie (Schrubb), but we have a strong group behind here. Our 3-4-5 runners are going to be really solid and that is going to help us with our team score (at big meets). There are definitely some high expectations.”
Piqua will compete in the MVL for the first time.
“I expect us to be very competitive in the meet,” King said.
TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe’s girls have qualified for the state meet as a team six years in a row, with five top-five finishes during that time. But the Red Devils graduated five seniors off of last year’s fourth-place team, and they’ll be looking to develop a new, young crew this season.
Junior Mackenzie Dix and senior Tori Prenger are the team’s top two returning runners, with both finishing in the top 11 in last year’s Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division meet — in which the team took second by five points to Troy.
“Mackenzie and Tori are our top two returning runners. However, we have four very good freshmen coming in, and sophomore Annie Sinning really improved during the spring track season,” said 11th-year Tippecanoe coach Byron Kimmel. “The team should be in the mix for a seventh consecutive trip to the state meet.”
WEST MILTON — Long-time Covington and Russia coach Doug Foster takes over the Milton-Union girls team this season — a team that came up two points short of a Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division title last year.
And with four top-10 finishers from that SWBL Buckeye meet last year, the Bulldogs are looking to win that title and then some.
Seniors Rachel Thompson and Ally Lyons, junior Micah Tracey and sophomores Sophie Meredith and Maddie Stasiak return to lead the way this year. Thompson was the individual runner-up in the division last season.
“The girls missed winning the SWBL by two points last year,” said Foster, who coached 30-plus years at Covington and Russia. “We’re hoping to capture the league title and get to the regional this year.”
Rob Grillot returns as coach after a historic season in which Bradford qualified for the state meet for the first time.
Returning runners include Mercedes Smith, Skipp Miller, Livy Daugherty, Jenna Shellabarger and Alexis Barhorst; while the new runners include Molly Clark, Cheyenne Buchanan and Courtney Riffle.
“As returning league champions our plan is to defend our title,” Grillot said. “However, we did lose some key runners so our younger runners will have some holes to fill. We have great upperclassmen leadership, and our runners are a group of hard workers, who want to carry the momentum from last year and continue building our program to make our community proud.”
COVINGTON — Josh Long returns as coach.
Returning runners include Allie Garman, Alexis Meyer, Emily Schafer and Yelena Weaver.
Key new runners include Summer Anderson, Haley Hargrave, Madison Supinger, Maci White and Kailey Young.
“The league race will be competitive again this year,” Long said. “We hope to be running our best at that point in the season.”
PLEASANT HILL — Audrey Hughes returns as coach.
Seniors Baily and Kara Chaney and sophomore Kendra Kern will lead the Lady Indians.
“We have six runners,” Hughes said. “Of the six, five have two or less years of experience in cross country. We are looking forward to seeing their improvement from last year to this year just based on having one year of experience under their belts.
“As a team, they would like to see each other work together to improve team time gap, runners 1-5, at each race with hopes of improving team score/place.”
Newton is hoping for a top seven finish in the CCC.
• Miami East
CASSTOWN — Miami East freshman Kylie Davie just missed out on a trip to the state meet last year, and between her and a new incoming group of freshmen, the Vikings are hoping to make some noise in the Cross County Conference this year.
Davie is back for her sophomore season, with Kinley Lavender and Kendal Staley leading the freshman class.
“Last year, we did now have enough runners to qualify as a team for the CCC meet,” said 11th-year Miami East coach Alan Russell. This year, if we are able to stay healthy, we should be able to participate as a team. The way the girls have been running, I think we can perform very well in the league race.
“Kiley, a freshman last season, narrowly missed a trip to the state meet last year. We hope she is able to earn that honor this season, and I think the team will be able to perform well at several of our big races and into the postseason.”
• Lehman Catholic
SIDNEY — Kyle Hermiller returns as coach.
Senior Sophia Flood and sophomore Maggie Bezy are the returning full-time runners, while sophomores Agnes Schmiesing and Colleen O’Leary will split time between cross country and soccer.
A new runner is senior Kaylyn Armstrong.
“Sophie Flood is coming into the season in very good shape after a strong finish to the track season,” Hermiller said. “This will be her her first full season in cross country, after joining us part way through last fall’s season. I expect her to be an excellent role model for the other girls.
“Agnes Schmiesing and Colleen O’Leary were on our regional qualifying 3,200 relay team in track with Sophia. They are still young runners, but I look forward to seeing them get back with our team and continually learn how to race effectively.
“Maggie Bezy enjoys the endurance aspect of cross country and I expect she will learn to push herself more this fall than the past few years. She will be a good person for our incoming senior Kaylyn Armstrong to chase at our meets.”
Hermiller hopes to be competitive in the Northwest Central Conference.
“We look to be competitive with the reason addition of Elgin in the NWCC,” he said. “In a small league such as ours, every spot will count. Last year was a close race and our girls hope to come out on top in the conference meet in October.”
• Troy Christian
TROY — With five runners on Troy Christian’s girls roster this year — including the return of one that has been missing the past two years — the Eagles are hoping to make improvements as a program this year.
Senior Gracie Glaser returns after running in her freshman season.
“Gracie is both a key returning runner and a new runner to watch,” said Troy Christian coach Jeff McDaniel, back for his 18th year with the team. “After running a 21:05 as a freshman, she took the next two years off and is back this year. With her summer training, she will be a girl to watch.
“We have five girls on the team this year, so our first goal is to keep them healthy so we can score as a team as much as possible. We have a wide range of abilities, and the girls will be working to continually improve on times and learn how running is key to a healthy lifestyle that can take them through the years to come.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter. Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at email@example.com.
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