By David Fong
TROY — According to legend, it was shortly after Alexander the Great, ruler of Macedon, had conquered Egypt and East Asia, that “he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”
While the veracity of that tale — often incorrectly attributed to the philosopher Plutarch — has been roundly questioned by historians, the message remains the same. When there are no more worlds to conquer, no more mountains to climb and no more track meets to win — what is left but to weep?
Well, don’t hand Kurt Snyder a handkerchief just yet.
While the Troy girls track and field team has captured six division titles and two district titles in a row, Snyder — the team’s coach — knows there’s one carrot in particular left out there dangling on the end of a string for his team to chase.
“There’s not many years you can say you have a chance to win an overall GWOC (Greater Western Ohio Conference) title,” Snyder said. “That’s something we haven’t been able to do. We tried to do it four years ago and couldn’t do it. We finished second last year. We feel like we have a realistic chance of winning it this year.”
For the past six years, Troy has dominated the GWOC North Division, capturing division titles every year. One thing the Trojans have not been able to do, however, is break through and win the overall GWOC title, which means beating out every team in all four of the GWOC’s divisions. Since 2007 — the first year the conference began crowning an overall champion — no school from the North has ever won a GWOC title.
The overall GWOC championship trophy has been dominated by two of the biggest schools in the conference, Centerville and Wayne. Since 2007, Wayne has won six overall titles, Centerville has won the last three titles and Lebanon has won one title.
Snyder feels his team has the talent and depth to make a run at the GWOC crown this season.
“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a challenge just to make the varsity team at Troy this year,” Snyder said. “We’ve got 85 girls competing for about 40 spots — and we’ll have some girls doubling up in some events. We’ve got kids going out and competing every day. It makes it challenging. It’s rewarding for the kids — if you can say you’ve made varsity at Troy, that’s saying something.”
The Trojans are deep at every discipline this season — sprints, distance, throws, jumps, pole vault and hurdles. If they can stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe they can’t repeat as North Division and district champions, while at the same time challenging for the overall GWOC title and, possibly, a top-two finish at regionals.
In the distance events, the Trojans return every runner who helped lead the Trojans to a second-place finish at the state cross country meet. Leading the way is junior Morgan Gigandet, who is a two-time state placer in the 3,200 and a two-time state placer at the state cross country met. She also is the school record-holder in all three distance races.
Gigandet will be joined in the distance events by junior Emma Shigley — a returning state qualifier — sophomore Olivia Tyre, junior Megan Myers, sophomore Kate Pence and seniors Megan Studebaker, Jenna Zimmerman and Emma Bryant.
“We’ve got everyone back in the distance events,” Snyder said. “We didn’t really lose anyone.”
In the sprints, the Trojans will be led by seniors Ashley Barr and Celina Courts, both of whom have been state qualifiers in their careers at Troy. They’ll be joined by versatile senior Kayla Hemm, sophomores Kiyha Adkins, Lily Clouser, Emilie Farrier, Annah Stanley, Alekhya Gollamudi and Evelyn Plunkett.
“We’ve got two kids back, Barr and Courts, who broke 13 seconds (in the 100) last year,” Snyder said. “And we’ve got a slew of other kids who ran in the low 13s. Our 4×100 relay team made the regional finals last year.”
In the hurdles, the Trojans return senior Caitlyn Cusick, a regional qualifier last year. She’ll be joined by seniors Haylee Wright, Majo Poggi and sophomore Jessica Goodwin.
“After Cusick, the hurdles spots are pretty wide open,” Snyder said. “That’s probably one of the most open spots on the team. There will be some kids battling for varsity time in the hurdles.”
The Trojans do lose Kelsey Walters — who a state placer and school-record holder in the shot put — to graduation. Walters, who is now throwing at Ball State, also was one of the team’s top sprinters last season. Even with Walters gone, however, the Trojans may be even deeper in the throws this year.
Returning in the shot put is junior Alaura Holycross, who has the second-longest throw in school history behind Walters. Also back is junior Kylee Brooks, who could throw both the shot and discus for the Trojans, but was injured most of last season. New to the team is freshman Lenea Browder, who had the furthest shot put throw of any freshman in the nation during indoor track and field season. She’ll throw both the shot put and discus for the Trojans.
Also throwing for the Trojans will be senior Amanda Setser (discus), senior Haley Gray (discus) and junior Hannah Simister (shot put).
“Coach (Aaron) Gibbons has really built that program up,” Snyder said of his throwers. “We have four girls who could throw over 30 feet in the shot put — I don’t think that’s ever happened since I’ve been here.”
In the high jump, the Trojans return senior Dasia Cole, who placed eighth at the state indoor meet this winter and currently has the second-highest jump in school history. Also participating in the high jump for Troy will be sophomore Abby Otten. In the long jump, the Trojans return both Hemm and sophomore Annah Stanley, the team’s top two long jumpers last season. Cusick also could see time in the long jump. Troy also should get a boost in the jumps and sprints from junior volleyball standout Camryn Moeller, who is out for the track and field team for the first time in her high school career.
“Cole looked really good in the offseason,” Snyder said. “Hemm has been a contributor for us since her sophomore year and Stanley was one of our leaders last year.”
In the pole vault, both junior Christine Moser and sophomore Lilli Cusick return. Moser missed qualifying for state by one place last season.
“They’ve both been working hard in the weightroom and on the their conditioning in the offseason,” Snyder said. “They are in great shape.”
TIPP CITY — The Red Devils will follow suit with the other teams at Tippecanoe as they make the huge leap from the Central Buckeye Conference to the Greater Western Ohio Conference.
“As incoming members of the North Division of the GWOC, our goal is to finish as high as possible in the division,” Tippecanoe coach Bob Crawford said. “We run against all our division teams during the season and we’ll fine tune things as the conference meet approaches.”
Tippecanoe — which finished third at the Division II state cross country meet last fall — should be strong in the distance events this spring. The Red Devils also return their state qualifying 4×800 relay team of MaKenzie Dietz, Jillian Brown, Katie Taylor and Kaili Titley all return.
“These leaders, plus others, are ready to be impact runners in the area,” Crawford said.
In the field events, Carissa Ferrell will lead the Red Devils in the throws, while Jackie Bashore will compete in the pole vault.
“Carissa Ferrell is looking to have a breakout year,” Crawford said. “Jackie Bashore has worked hard in the offseason and is also looking to break out.”
The sprints will be something of a question mark for Tippecanoe heading into the season.
“We have a young group in these events and we’ll just have to see,” Crawford said.
TROY — Troy Christian will feature a number of talented individuals this spring.
“With our young team and limited numbers, the girls will be competing for individual league titles,” Troy Christian coach Jeff McDaniel said.
In the sprints, the Eagles will be led by sophomores Kenley Blake, Lora Current, Brooke Denlinger and Lizzy Deal. Gracie Glaser and Anna Hivner will be competing in both the middle distance and distance events.
Senior Emily Slone will be back for her fourth year on varsity in the throws. Sophie Pitsenbarger returns in the high jump. Blake and Denlinger will both be in the long jump, while Current and Deal will be pole vaulting for the Eagles.
COVINGTON — The Buccaneers lost a number of key performers to graduation, but still return the bulk of a team that captured Cross County Conference and Division III district championships last year.
“Our goal is to be competitive at every meet and finish well at our invitational,” Tobias said. “We will also want to defend our CCC championship and district titles again this year. As always, we will work to produce some district and regional event champions and qualify girls to the state meet again this year.”
In the springs, the Buccaneers return Breanna Kimmel, Rayna Horner, Victoria Lyle, Kailyn Pond, Morgan Lowe and hurdlers Natalie Snyder, Danielle Rose, Maci White and Morgan Kimmel.
Running the middle distances for Covington will be Lyle, Kelsey Dysinger, Ashley Plessinger and Paige Boehringer. The distance runners for the Buccs will be Anna Dunn, Danielle Alexander and Boehringer.
In the field events for Covington will be Lillian Hamilton (high jump), Lauren Christian (throws), Kelsey McReynolds (throws), Leah Poling (high jump), Morgan Lowe (high jump, long jump), Dysinger (pole vault), Kimmel (long jump) and White (long jump).
CASSTOWN — Preston Elifritz returns for his second season as the girls track and field coach at Miami East with an eye toward improving on last season.
“We finished third in the Cross County Conference and districts last year and would like to work toward improving on those results this year,” Elifritz said. “Twin Valley South and Covington are predicted to finish above us in the league.”
The Vikings will be paced by middle-distance runner senior Marie Ewing, who placed at state in the 800 last season. Joining her as middle distance runners will be junior Kaitlyn Mack and sophomore Ashlyn Monnin. East’s sprinters this season will be senior Jillian Wesco and sophomores Dalaney Bourelle, Bailey Miller and Maria Staton.
The Vikings’ top-two distrance runners are senior Lorenza Savini and junior Lindsey Yingst.
In the field events, Miami East will feature Mack in the long jump, sophomore Liza Bair and senior Macy Fellers in the high jump, senior Emma Linn and sophomore Amber Kinnison in the throws and senior Morgan Rose and Mady Osbourne in the pole vault.
WEST MILTON — The Bulldogs should be particularly strong in the distance and field events this spring.
“Our girls field team could have four possible state qualifiers, along with a regional cross country team and a young group of sprinters coming in,” Milton coach Mike Meredith said. “We hope to vie for a league title and get a busload of girls to the regional meet.”
Leading the way in the field events is thrower Beyonce Bobbitt, a two-time state qualifier. Freshman pole vaulter Emily Hornberger qualified for the state indoor meet over the winter.
In the distance events, Milton returns juniors Kylie Jacobe, Brianna Persinger and Megan Trittschuch. Milton’s middle-distance runners will be Kyli Parsons and Brianna Collins, while senior Kira Rohr returns in the sprints.
PLEASANT HILL — The Indians will be short on numbers, but not individual talent this season.
“Low numbers have crippled any chances of a team championship,” Newton coach Nick Rhoades said. “We hve a chance of some individuals that can score in many meets.”
Newton’s top sprinter will be Alyia Stine, a multi-time placer at league and district meets. Treanna Lavy will run middle distance, while Macy Flanary, a regional qualifier in cross country, will be a distance runner. The Indians also return Alicia Dunning in the high jump.
BRANDT — Bethel coach Mark Clute knows how tough the Cross County Conference is this season. But the Bees also have enough young talent that they’re hoping to develop for the future, too.
Bethel still has some veterans, though, as seniors Brooklyn Smith and Kayla Grable will lead the sprints and middle distance crews, respectively, with Grable also being a contender in the long jump. Sophomores Sophia Yarwick and Makenzie Hoeferlin will add depth to the sprints, sophomores Rachel Sebastian and Kaitlyn Balkcom will compete in the distance races amd freshman Brielle Gatrell will compete in the high jump.
“We will be at the bottom of the conference this season, but I’m hoping we improve enough to get more of our athletes to the CCC finals on Saturday this season,” Clute said.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong