By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — They may be heading to the Greater Western Ohio Conference soon.
But the Tippecanoe Red Devils want to leave a lasting mark on the Central Buckeye Conference.
The Tippecanoe boys track and field team either returns talent or will be teaching young talent at every position this season, and the Devils believe they can not only win their Kenton Trail Division, but also the CBC as a whole in their final season in the league.
“As a team, we are aiming to win our division of the CBC and place first overall in the CBC,” Tippecanoe coach Bob Crawford said. “This is our final year there before going to the GWOC — and we are striving to go out on top.”
Leading the way will be senior and perennial state qualifier Mitchell Poynter, who placed third in the 1,600 at state last year as a junior and who was the state runner-up during cross country in the fall.
“Mitchell will be leading a very talented group of distance runners,” Crawford said. “As a group they have put in miles over the winter and are ready to apply their efforts to the track.”
In the sprints, Casey Abney and Nathan Hamberg have worked on improving from last season, while Adam Grieshop will also play a key role both as a sprinter and a long jumper. Also looking to score in the field events will be Austin Duling in the pole vault and Matt Garber in the discus.
“We have three individuals that we will be building our sprints around this year in Abney, Hamberg and Grieshop,” Crawford said. “We have many other promising sprinters, and only time will tell how they will factor in. And we have a number of field athletes ready to have a breakthrough season.”
* Miami East
Even though the Vikings graduated a number of quality athletes in the offseason, Miami East coach Steve Karnehm — who is back for his eighth season with the Vikings — knows that his squad still has plenty coming back.
“We have 40 athletes out this season, and though we graduated several talented young men, we should do very well this season,” he said.
Devyn Carson returns in the long jump after winning a Cross County Conference title in the event last year and placing second at the state indoor tournament this past winter, and he will also be a key part of the sprinting corps along with Logan May, Jordan Crawford and Colton Weldy. May is also a high jumper that can clear the 6-foot mark, and Daniel Everett, Jack Runner and Brendan Dalton will look to score in the throws.
Trey Rush will lead a group of pole vaulters that also includes Blaine Brockschmidt, Graham Shore and Colton Kowalak. And in the distance events, freshman Gavin Horn led a solid group of cross country runners in the fall and will be joined by Brice Redick, Luke Mengos, Justin Deweese, Taton Bersch and Hunter Sharp.
And with all the talent across the board, the Vikings are setting their sights on a conference title and beyond.
“We would like to win the CCC and should compete well with Twin Valley South and Covington,” Karnehm said. “Our schedule is competitive, and I have no doubt that at the close of the season, the Vikings will be well represented among the best in our district and regional — with several athletes making a trip to Columbus.”
After a pair of runner-up finishes in a row at the Southwestern Buckeye League meet, the Milton-Union boys are looking to retake the top spot in the Buckeye Division this season.
“We would like to contend for a league title this year,” said Milton-Union coach Michael Meredith, who will enter his 16th year with the team. “We have been runner-up the past two seasons.”
The Bulldogs will be led by a group of distance runners that qualified for state during cross country in the fall. Sophomores Will Brock and Shannon Milnickel and senior River Spicer will anchor that crew, while junior Blake Smith and sophomore Alex Moore will lead the sprinters. And in the field events, junior Chris Minor returns after qualifying for the regional in the discus last year, and Blake Smith will look to score in the long jump.
Kyle Moore returns for his fifth season as coach.
The Buccaneers have a strong group returning, including three members of the 4×100 relay team that finished seventh at state last season in seniors Brandon Magee and Shane Straw and sophomore Ethan Herron.
“All three have already shown a lot of quickness this year and we hope they can have another outstanding season in the sprint relays, as well as the 100 and 200,” Moore said. “We also have some other guys who should be able to step in, guys like Jett Murphy, Jayce Pond and Casey Waag. Zane Barnes will lead our 400 runners after a breakout season last year.”
The Buccs lost two strong distance runners in Alex Schilling and Nate Dunn to graduation.
“They will be really tough to replace,” Moore said. “But the cross country team has provided us with a lot of willing and able guys. Nathan Lyle had an outstanding freshman year in the 400 and 800, so he will lead the distance crew. Dylan Kelly and Mark Barga also got some experience last year and have looked good to start this season.”
Moore also feels good about the field events.
“Zach Parrett is committed to being a great high jumper and after a freshman season where he cleared 5-10, we are confident he can go higher this year — as can Zane Barnes. Jett Murphy is back to pole vault this year and he has been working hard on his technique. His speed is back after a knee injury last year, so we are hoping for big things. Our throwers will be comprised entirely of freshmen, but they have great attitudes to start the year and I’m excited for them.”
Moore has hopes for the team this spring.
“We are pretty young this year, but we also have a good group of seniors,” he said. “And we have the biggest team we have had since I have been here, with almost 35 guys. So the goals are the same — to win the Covington Invitational and the Cross Country Conference meet — where we were second last year.
“We lost a lot of points in Ben Miller, (Alex) Schilling and (Nate) Dunn, so we will have to do it a different way. While I know Twin Valley South and Miami East will be there, I think we can do very well.”
Nick Rhoades returns for his eighth season as coach.
The Indians will be led by distance runner Brady McBride, a two-time state qualifier in cross country.
“He has high expectations of getting to Columbus (state),” Rhoades said.
Sprinters and middle distance runners include Jack Yoder, Moustafa Simpson, Nick Hoover and Treyton Lavy, while Yoder will also compete in the long jump.
“Boys numbers are down, but quality is in a good place,” Rhoades said. “With this number of boys, if we can place in the top half of the league (CCC), it will be a good year.”
* Troy Christian
Youth is the name of the game at Troy Christian this season, with the boys team comprised mostly of freshmen.
“The boys team is mostly freshmen and will gaining much experience this season,” Troy Christian boys coach Jeff McDaniel said. “I expect we will be setting many personal goals through the season, and these guys will be working to take some of the top places in events once the conference meet arrives.”
Among the freshmen making names for themselves this season will be sprinters Trent Bianco, Luke Ruffing and Holden Rich and distance runners Isaak Flora and Nick Pratt, with Ruffing and Rich also lending their talents in the field events.
Scott Kaye returns for his seventh season as Piqua boys coach.
Graduating off last year’s team were Trent Yeomans, Tate Honeycutt, Jalen Hudgins and Brendan Fries.
Top returners include junior Andy Mayse (regional qualifier), distance; senior Isaiah Garber, middle distance; junior Tristen Cox, shot put/discus; and sophomore Jacob Bushnell, sprints.
“We have some experienced scorers returning and a large number of motivated underclassmen who have been working hard to get ready for our first event,” Kaye said. “We’re looking to be prepared and hungry for competition at our first meet and will work towards building strength and experience in order to be our best in May.”
The Bradford Railroaders may be young, but their numbers are growing — and they’re looking to make a name for themselves.
“We look for our young talent to make strides this year,” Bradford coach Brian Schwieterman said. “We have set some pretty lofty goals for some young individuals this year in the hopes that in three years they will be known names in the area.”
That begins in the distance events, where Johnny Fike, Kurt Hoover and Shane Bryan, and also in the sprints with a group of young runners led by senior Zach Miller and Rhyan Turner, as well as underclassmen Kyle Mills and Hunter Penkal. And Mills will also look to make noise in the field events in the high jump.
“Our team goals include continuing to build our numbers and have every athlete improve their personal bests at every meet,” Schwieterman said. “Overall, it would be nice to see several Bradford athletes competing at the regional meet this year and possibly beyond.”
Dwane Rowley returns for his seventh season as coach after the Cavaliers finished third in the NWCC last year.
Graduating off that team were state qualifiers Ben Montgomery and Teddy Jackson, along with Mitch Slater and Erik Jackson.
Returning letterwinners include juniors Wyatt Long, Isaiah Winhoven and Jacob Schmiesing and sophomores Kameron Lee, Joe Schimmel, Alvarro Barrera and Aldo Barrera.
“We have a young, inexperienced team that will be tested early and often,” Rowley said. “I look for them to be competitive and get better each week.”
Rowley hopes to be in the top four in the conference.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.