It looks like there will be a number of highly competitive teams in Tri-Eastern Conference boys track and field.
Centerville, Lincoln and Hagerstown all look primed to retain their top three positions in the placing at the conference meet, while Northeastern, Union County and Winchester all bring strong performers to TEC competition.
Seton Catholic and Randolph Southern will bring strong individual performers to area meets, and into sectional competition in late May.
For the Bulldogs, it is a returning head coach in place to try and lead Centerville to the top of the conference team standings — again. Tom Dunham returns to lead Bulldog boys track as the head coach, a position he previously held from 1993 to 1998.
Dunham is filling the spot held most recently by Matt Osborne, who helped continue the consistent success of Bulldog boys track enjoyed by Dunham years ago, and other coaches throughout the school’s long run in the conference.
Two of the Bulldog senior track athletes are Jacob Haist and Trent Gentry, with Haist expected to be strongest in the discus, Gentry in the shot put.
“We have some strong competitors, but we are thin in some event areas, so we could have issues in depth,” Dunham said.
Some other Bulldogs expected to lead in track events include junior Brandon Dillman, who is projected to compete in the unusual combination of the 110 hurdles and distance races.
Then there are juniors Mitch Burelison, Austin Cole and Austin Mavity, a move-in finishing his first full school year at Centerville. Dunham expects Burelison to run in the 100 meters, Cole in the 200 and 400, and Mavity in the 200, 400 and maybe middle distance races. Sophomore David Burke could also be a strong contender in the 200, according to Dunham.
“We have some other young kids who could develop well, along with guys like Evan Liggett and Nick Maurer who could be factors as well,” Dunham said.
Lincoln head coach Tom Locke is back with a smaller squad of 16 athletes that will seek that elusive TEC title.
The Golden Eagles defeated Centerville in a dual meet last spring, then edged them in the Tiger Booster Invitational in early May, breaking streaks of Bulldog dominance in both of those annual competitions.
But the next week, Centerville returned the favor at the TEC meet, extending its streak of conference team triumphs at the yearly event.
“We want to win the TEC. It’s the biggest goal for us (the Lincoln team),” Locke said. “We’ve got good quality in the guys we have.”
Pacing the Lincoln effort this spring is senior Evan Underwood in the high jump, long jump and hurdles, and junior Trevor Gabbard in middle distance races.
There is also junior Ben Singer in the sprints and long jump, senior Dalton Atkinson in the hurdles, and seniors Austin Shank and Kyle Parrett in the throwing events.
It is an experienced Lincoln team, with 12 of 16 athletes either juniors or seniors.
Longtime boys track coach Kent Gray returns with a large team of 40 members, 27 of which are sophomores or freshmen.
“Our numbers are good, but more than half of our team members are either freshmen or new to track, so we are young and inexperienced,” Gray said.
The coach said that a few key returnees are senior Austin Durham, plus juniors Martin Block and Lucas Artman in sprints and jumps.
In addition, there is Durham, Dakota Roach, Noah Clark, Cody McMillan and Joseph Limburg in throws, and Matthias Ritter, Craig Oakes and Peter Hellwarth in middle distance races.
Key newcomers for Tiger boys track this year are Tyler Ottinger in throws, Zach Davis in jumps, and several freshmen, including Keeton Adams, throws, Jared Weesner, hurdles and jumps, Drake Gunder, sprints and hurdles, and Alec Hicks, Mason Bledsoe and Jevon Osborne, distance.
“Our work ethic and attitudes have been excellent, and we are making good progress, despite the late spring,” Gray said.
Mark Kerkhoff is in charge of both the boys and girls high school track teams at Northeastern this spring, and is aided by assistants Megan Moreland and Dick Warvel, the former head coach of Knights track and cross country.
The spring sports season finishes a historic school year of success for Northeastern boys sports teams, and Kerkhoff hopes track and field can contribute to a potential all-sports boys trophy in the TEC.
“We have a lot of good returning athletes, and I like the way our kids are working,” Kerkhoff said.
For the Knight boys, from the football team, are senior J. J. Fleming and Brennan Parker.
In middle distance and sprint races, there are Jack Austerman and Tyler Sandlin, and Elijah Wagers in the 110 and 300 hurdles.
Sophomore Keith Rose paces the distance corp.
Newcomers to the boys track team are junior Quest Schwab (100, 200, 400 relay), freshman Garrett Anderson (hurdles) and senior Shane Stiner.
Joe Davidson is joined by Rich Padgett this spring in leading Union County high school track, with Davidson moving into a co-coaching role with Padgett.
Davidson reports that 24 boys are preparing for the season, with senior Mitch Snyder among the key returnees.
Snyder was a regional qualifier last spring and returns in the hurdle races, while Cody Seals will again be in the long jump.
New for the Patriots is senior Matt Carman in the high jump and long jump.
On the track, there is Evan Felton in the 800 meters, and freshman Dylan Poe in the 3200, according to Davidson.
“I think we really can compete in the TEC,” Davidson said. “We have better depth, and even needed to order more uniforms because of the turnout.”
Joining Poe as a likely impact freshman is Isaac Bentley in the 100, 200 and long jump, plus Clark Minges in both the discus and shot put.
Scott Hargrave is again the head coach of the Golden Falcon boys squad.
“Our numbers are up a few from last year, and we have a good group of hard-working seniors,” Hargrave said.
Key returnees are Alex Myers, a regional qualifier in the high jump last year, and Alan Brutchen in sprints.
Also, Jacob Sofronco and Logan Williams in the discus and shot put, with Alex Green and Randy Beer in distance races.
Brandy Wells returns for a fourth season of leading Seton Catholic’s track teams.
“I’m always looking for PRs (personal records) and making school history, setting and breaking school records and the like,” Wells said of goals for her emerging Cardinal program.
Around 20 combined boys and girls athletes will compete this spring for Seton, and Todd Barker, cross country coach at Seton, will help Wells with the high school distance runners, as well as running the junior high track program.
For the Cardinal boys, there are sophomore distance standouts Jacob Stamm (3200) and Jack Brenneke (800, 1600).
Other Seton track athletes of note, according to Wells, are junior Daniel Rheinhardt (300 hurdles, 1600 relay), freshman Jacob Berger (400) and senior Nolan Hannah (100, 200).
Sean Kennedy will coach the Randolph Southern boys track team for the third straight spring, and has added the girls team duties as well.
There are only six Rebel boys competing in track this season, and the returning leader is senior throwing standout Nate McKinney in both the discus and shot put.
Classmates Seth Mitchem and Chris Dailey are new to throwing events.
The other three RS competitors will be freshmen Rhett Jack, David Fisher and Dustin Landers in track races.
“We’ll just have to see how they (the freshmen) run, our strategy will be to maximize each kid’s abilities for their best individual events, to find out what each can do best, since we have such a small team in numbers,” Kennedy said.