By David Fong
TROY — On one side of the ledger, 2015 was a year of incredible change for the Troy High School athletic program.
On the other side, the past 365 days were all about maintaining the same standard of excellence.
The past calendar year provided no shortage of stories within the Troy athletic program — both highs and lows — but two certainly stood out amongst the rest: the changing of the guard in two of the most-visible boys programs and the continued domination of the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division by the Troy girls programs.
There were outstanding individual and team performances across the board for Troy’s programs, along with the challenges all programs face.
Here’s a look at the top 10 Trojan athletics stories from 2015, listed here in no particular order:
1) Troy hires Burgbacher: In March, Troy announced the hiring of Tippecanoe High School graduate Matt Burgbacher to take over its storied football program. Burgbacher left Fort Loramie to take over as head coach of the Trojans. While Burgbacher was at Fort Loramie, the Redskins would make the playoffs all six of his years as head coach as he amassed a combined record of 51-18.
During his head coaching career, Burgbacher was the 2009 Division Co-Coach of the Year, the 2010 and 2011 Metro Buckeye Conference Coach of the Year, the 2011 Division VI Ohio Co-Coach of the Year, the 2011 Southwest District Division VI Co-Coach of the Year and the 2012 Northwest Central Conference Coach of the Year.
Burgbacher led the Trojans to a 2-8 record in his first season as coach, although there was one incredible highlight — but we’ll get to that.
2) Zelnick Dynasty Ends: When Michelle Zelnick graduated from Troy last spring, it brought an end not only to her star-studded career, but closed the book on the Zelnick swimming legacy at Troy.
The youngest of three Zelnick sisters won two more medals at the Division I state meet in 2015, making her a state-placer for the fourth year in a row. She also was named the GWOC North Division Swimmer of the Year for the fourth year in a row. Older sister Allison won the same award three times, while Pam Zelnick — the eldest of the three sisters — would have been a lock to win the award multiple times had it been officially handed out prior to 2007.
Michelle Zelnick currently is in his freshman year swimming at Tulane, where she already is breaking school records.
3) Troy hires Bremigan: Several months after hiring Burgbacher away from Fort Loramie, Troy again dipped into the Shelby County coaching ranks, this time bringing in former Russia coach Paul Bremigan to take over the boys basketball program.
In his 31 years as the varsity basketball coach at Russia, Bremigan went 437-274. Under Bremigan, the Raiders won eight Shelby County League titles, 11 sectional titles, five district titles and one regional title. The Raiders were a Division IV state runner-up in 2002 and regional runner-up in 1995. He had five seasons in which the Raiders won 20 games and won 55 tournament games.
The Trojans are 2-6 under Bremigan so far this season.
4) Goodbye, Gracie: Troy track and field coach Kurt Snyder firmly believes Gracie Huffman is the greatest female track and field athlete in Troy history.
The numbers would seem to support him.
This past spring, Huffman finished off her stellar career with a medal and a school record at the state track and field meet. For her career, Huffman set five school records, won five state medals, made four state appearances and won three GWOC North Division Track and Field Athlete of the Year awards.
Huffman currently is competing for the Ohio University track and field team.
5) On the Right Track: As good as Huffman was during her career at Troy, it was a team effort. In the spring, the Trojans captured their fifth GWOC North title in the row, scoring major points in the sprints, middle distance, distance and field events.
The Trojans then went on to capture a Division I district team title and qualify for state in four events. Huffman placed in the 400, while Morgan Gigandet — then a freshman — placed in the 3,200. Troy also sent a 4×100 relay team to state, while Kelsey Walters competed in the shot put.
6) Going the Distance: The momentum the Troy girls track team started in the spring carried right on through to the fall, when the Troy girls cross country team captured its eighth division title in a row.
Not only did the Trojans continue their dominance within their division, however, but the team also qualified for the Division I state meet for the first time in school history.
Gigandet placed fourth at state as an individual, while the team of Gigandet, Megan Myers, Emma Shigley, Kate Pence, Rachel Davidson, Olivia Tyre and Megan Studebaker placed fifth overall.
With all but Davidson set to return next fall, the Troy cross country team is a front-runner (pun intended) to be one of the top stories of 2016, as well.
7) Troy Stuns the State: At 2,911 days — nearly eight years — it was one of the most impressive streaks in Ohio high school football.
That’s how long Trotwood-Madison went without losing a GWOC North Division contest. That run — which dated back to Oct. 19, 2007 — came to an end in 2015 as the Troy football team, which was just 1-5 coming into the game, stunned Trotwood by knocking off the state-ranked Rams, 21-20.
For the sake of perspective, the win came just two years removed from Trotwood’s 72-6 victory over the Trojans.
Troy jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead, then led 21-6 early in the fourth quarter. Trotwood would score a pair of late touchdowns, however, cutting Troy’s lead to 21-20 with less than a minute to play in the game. Trotwood would attempt the two-point conversion for the win, but Bailey Williams and Frankie Quintero stopped Trotwood running back Rodric Brogan short, securing the victory.
“There are going to be a lot of people opening the newspaper tomorrow and wanting to know who beat Trotwood,” Burgbacher said after the game. “That answer is four letters: T-R-O-Y. I’m so proud of these kids. What an effort by our kids.”
8) Spiking the Opposition: It was, quite simply, the most dominant volleyball season in school history.
All the Trojans did in 2015 was go 22-0 during the regular season — the first undefeated regular season ever by a GWOC team — capture a regular season GWOC North title and then cruise to a GWOC Postseason Tournament title. Led by senior Lauren Freed — a three-time GWOC North Player of the Year — the Trojans would finish the year 24-1 and the Division I district runner-up.
The GWOC North title was Troy’s fourth in a row and its fifth in the past six years.
9) Take Five: Some of the credit for Troy’s unprecedented fifth GWOC North Division All-Sports title goes to the 2014 fall sports teams, but ultimately, the Trojans clinched the trophy in the spring, specifically during the GWOC track and field meet at Troy Memorial Stadium.
Troy took a 50-46 lead over Butler in the fall of 2014 in the overall points standings, but Butler chipped away at it in the winter, outscoring Troy 37.5 to 36.5. In the spring, however, Troy brought home its fifth title in a row by outscoring Butler 27-26, giving the Trojans an ultimate 113.5 to 109.5 edge over the Aviators.
Sidney finished third in the standings (78 points), Greenville was fourth (68.5), Piqua was fifth (63) and Trotwood-Madison was sixth (45.5).
10) Girl Power: If you’ve paid attention to this list, you’ve probably noticed a running theme — most of the top sports stories at Troy High School in 2015 involved girls sports.
The past few years have proven to be a golden era for girls sports at Troy, and 2015 was no exception. Individually, Zelnick, Huffman, Freed, Gigandet, bowler Jenna Stone, golfer LeeAnn Black and tennis player Hannah Essick all earned GWOC North Division Athlete of the Year honors in their respective sports during 2015.
Meanwhile, Troy girls captured North Division titles in bowling, track and field, cross country, golf, tennis, volleyball and cheerleading during the 2015 calendar year. The Troy girls also posted runner-up North finishes in swimming, softball and soccer during 2015.
Not that the Troy boys programs were without highlights in 2015 — but it was definitely a year for female empowerment in Troy.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong