The local prep track and field season has kicked off in earnest around the county, with many teams competing in their first meets this week.
At Urbana, the Hillclimbers will take to the surface with a small squad of returners that was devastated by graduation.
Nick Johnson, Alec Freeman, Mitch Moyer, Jacob Quesinberry and Devin Trent have some experience for the boys, while Madisyn Horn, Marissa Horn, Taje Mack, Desi Johnson and Katie Asper will lead the girls.
“We are looking to improve from last year … basically just work hard and improve our personal bests with each athlete,” girls Coach Megan Michael said. “As far as placing in CBC and district, the goal is always to go as far as you can.”
There’s going to be a lot of new blood pumping its way around the track, so the ‘Climbers aren’t expecting a ton of postseason advancement or anything like that.
“We’re still a pretty young team right now. The goal is to improve each practice and just mix in some of the new athletes,” Michael said. “We’ll just go out and have fun with it and see where we go.”
At Graham, Megan Kelly and John Tullis will coach the Falcons – a team that has a handful of high-quality returners.
George Bugg, Austin Brayton, Tyler Callicoat, Nevin Hurst, Zach Caudill, Carter Callison and Curtis Noble each had some success for the boys last season, while Carly Carafa, Rachel Kaiser, Kayla Tullis, Molly Hamilton, Ashton Arnett, Aubrey Gale, Roxie Conn, Taylor White, Payton Drewry and Tori Crabtree each lettered for Tullis’ girls.
“We have a lot of new faces who are anxious to get into competition. It is nice to see multi-sport athletes trying out track for the first time,” Tullis said. “Our goal this year is to compete for a Mad River Conference championship. We have emphasized that this sport can be a ‘life-long’ endeavor and can help athletes in other sports. It’s a win-win.”
Kaitlyn Trace, Nadia Ritter, Hailley Kendall, Brooke Ohnmeiss and Holly Kamper will compete for the first time for the Falcons.
West Liberty-Salem has had as much success as any program in the area, and that competitive spirit lives on in this year’s rendition of the Tigers.
The boys are led by seniors Brandon Wolfe, Sam Strickland, Mike Conley and Christian Parker, along with juniors Isaac Smith, Nick Williams and Logan Cole, who will provide leadership and inspiration. Raiph LeVan is also out for his first season.
Wolfe has been a three-time regional qualifier and should be among one of the best in both the long jump and sprints again this season.
“I expect our team score to reflect a pretty good balance from our field events, distance events and sprint events. I don’t think we will dominate any one area but I think we have a team that is going to score in more events across the board than we have in the past,” Coach Joe Taylor said. “It’s our goal to win the OHC meet and I think that is an attainable goal. I think if our guys stay healthy and keep working hard we can be right there at the top in the end.”
The girls will rely on depth and talent, with Reghan Bieleski, Katie Hartsel, Taylor Henault, Janie Kopus, Taylor Lauck, Jenna Magnuson and Mikalia McIntosh leading the way as upperclassmen.
Mix in freshmen Grace Adams, Alex Burton, Rylie Brown, Megan Dillon, Lydia Moell, Peyton Orahood, Payton Umphries, Savannah Weaver, Bianca Reames and Tory Pawelko off an 8th grade squad that was dominant last season, and the Tigers are poised to be very, very good.
“Of course, every year we want to continue our program’s tradition of winning the conference title and being competitive in the postseason, including qualifying as many athletes and relays as possible to the regional and state meets. With that being said, this year we’re focusing on improving with each meet and developing our mental toughness,” Coach Ann Vogel said.
With the addition of the youth, Vogel expects her squad to take a step forward.
“I think we will be stronger in the field events this year, and should be competitive in the 400 through 3,200,” Vogel said. “Freshman Alex Burton, who set our middle school records in the 100 and 200, is coming off ACL surgery she had in November and we’re hoping to have her back full strength by the postseason. Her return will also give us some more depth in the sprint relays.”
At Triad, Martha Lehman takes over as the coach with Cameron Boes, Eli Carson, Kaiden Seifert, Harley Huffman, Jackson Lightle, Chris Roy, Ashley Cave, Holly Cole and Danica Seifert returning from letter-winning seasons.
It’s not a large group of experienced athletes, but the Cardinals will be adding Eli O’Brien, Dominick McFarland, Ian Crabtree, Daniel Brennan, Jacob Partlow, Josiah Leasure, Daniel Lake, Easton Huffman, Lydiah Wenger, Sierra Chesley and Bailey Stachiw to the mix as newcomers.
“We have many new track athletes this year and a large number of underclassmen. Our goals are to build up a strong team of athletes who are prepared to continue improving over the next couple of years and to see team members support each other as they continue to work together reaching individual and team goals,” Lehman said.
At Mechanicsburg, the Indians have expanded the coaching staff with the goal of giving more individual attention to athletes.
“This is a dream coaching staff for me and I am excited to see many improvements in our athletes with these additions,” Coach Jennifer Dietrich said.
Bryce Waring, Emily Wilson, Shannon Barch, Jason Surmaceviz, Peyton O’Laughlin and Gavin Erwin will lead the squad as four-year participants. Waring is coming off an ACL injury after competing at the state meet in both the 200 and 4×200 races.
“We hope he is 100 percent by mid-April and can repeat his performances from last year,” Dietrich said.
Josh Kaster will return to the team after not competing last season, and the Indians will return every single sophomore and junior who was on the team last season.
“My goal for this track program is always to grow each year with more athletes participating and grow as coaches. We have successfully added strength to our program for two years as well as organized event-specific daily training,” Dietrich said. “At the same time, we have instilled integrity and high expectations into our athletes’ mindsets. We are a family united to do our best individually in order to bring success to the team.”
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.