For Cincinnati-area high school track and field teams, the path to Columbus begins with the annual Coaches Classic.
The first big meet of the season gives athletes and coaches a glimpse of how far they’ve come since the 2014 season ended and how much work they still have to put in if they want to end their season on a podium in Jesse Owens Stadium in early June.
The Division I meet will take place on April 8 and April 10 at Winton Woods, but Division II and III teams competed at McNicholas on March 31 and April 1. The Roger Bacon boys and North College Hill girls put the rest of the city on notice with their convincing victories.
“This was a great confidence boost for these young men,” said Spartans coach Mike Braun. “These guys have showed great work ethic and a positive attitude every day in practice.”
With a smaller roster this season after graduating 11 seniors, the Spartans showed that what they lack in depth, they can make up for in versatility. Most of Roger Bacon’s athletes compete in more than three events. Jordan Williams, Drew Stark, Sam Johnstone, Nick Shooner, Amir Metts, and Slaton Brummett led the Spartans to a comfortable victory over second-place Taylor by posting high scores in field events, relays, distance, hurdles and sprints.
“They are a rare bunch that take on whatever event I give them, and even when they don’t believe in practice that they are very good at it, in competition, what I see in them comes out and they show everyone,” said Braun. “It’s a great advantage to have so much heart in a small group of guys.”
Similar to Roger Bacon’s boys, the North College Hill girls rose up the leaderboard in a variety of events. What sets them apart is their dominance in their specialty event: sprint relays. The Trojans won the 4×400 and 4×200 relays and finished second behind Shroder Paideia in the 4×100. Aniya Jones swept the 400 and 800 meter runs, while defending state champion Jazmin Smith breezed past the competition in the 200 meter dash and 100 meter hurdles. Purcell Marian’s Kansas Greenwell, who recently committed to run collegiately at Morehead State, comfortably won the 1600 and 3200.
The Trojans, who held off host McNick by seven points, are led by their close-knit seniors who have been training together for six years. They know that they have the potential to bring home a team state title if they put in the work.
“We have a seasoned team. The girls have set their expectations high to make it back to Columbus to compete for a state title,” said NCH coach Nathaniel Jones. “I have a great group of senior girls who are trying to leave their mark here at North College Hill.”
The Division I schools are ready for their turn to compete in the area’s premier early season event. For programs like Mason, which has won ten of the past 14 regional titles in girls track and field, the Coaches Classic is a benchmark to set the tone for the rest of the season.
“The Coaches Classic is a great meet, a real highlight for the city of Cincinnati and its surrounding suburbs,” said Mason girls coach Tony Affatato. “This meet really shows the talent level of many different kids and how rich the city is in the running community. It’s been a privilege for our team and school to participate in the meet since it began 17 years ago.”
The Comets placed seventh in the state last year and are anchored this season by state meet veterans Delaney McDowell, BriAuna Keys, Emily Calvani, Erin Brush, and Cassidy Peebles.
This year’s team has a balance of experience, mostly in the distance events, and youth in the sprinting group. The newcomers are eager to continue on the road to success –14 straight conference and district titles – paved by their predecessors.
“I think the girls understand the expectations of competing and working hard. We’re blessed because we have a lot of returners who are juniors and seniors and have been to the state championships the last two or three years,” said Affatato. “This is a new team, a new year, and we have a lot of new faces. They want to be successful because the people before them were successful. Tradition takes over.”
The tradition for Cincinnati’s high school track and field community continues at the 17th annual Coaches Classic this week.