Northwest enters the season with the goal of keeping a four-year streak alive. During that time, the Knights have sent at least one athlete to the state meet.
Fifth-year head coach Lori Spence has plenty to work with on this year’s team and wants to keep that streak going.
“We have a lot of experience on the team this season both boys and girls,” Spence said. “We have meet champions, league champions, district champions, regionals champions, state qualifiers and a state champion on our team.”
The Knights return seniors DeVohn Jackson, Myles Pringle, Justin Bergquist and Deion Goins and junior Malik Beverly.
Jackson is a three-time state qualifier and was part of the 2013 state champion 4×100 meter relay team. Spence said Pringle can run any event from the 200 to the 1600 and be successful.
Pringle could break the 400-meter dash record this season that’s currently held by Miles Baldwin.
Beverly has been a state qualifier in the long jump, the 4×200 relay and has just missed qualifying in hurdles events.
Bergquist was the Southwest Ohio Conference champion in discus last year and Spence said he will lead the team in throws this season.
Goins, a jumper, was also part of the 4×200 relay team that qualified for state. He was the runner-up in the SWOC conference meet in high jump last year.
It appears that La Salle won’t miss a beat again this track season. The Lancers are an annual powerhouse led by coach Frank Russo, who’s entering his 32nd season at the helm.
La Salle was a district runner-up and Greater Catholic League South runner-up last season.
Back this year is senior Tyler Harmon, the GCL South Co-Athlete of the Year last season, who Russo described as very versatile. “(Tyler) has great range in terms of what he can run, his speed and athleticism allows us to be able to move him in a lot of different directions,” said Russo. Harmon a two-time regional qualifier missed state last year due to an illness, so he’s got his sights set on Columbus in a couple months.
Senior Darius Heis returns as a 110 hurdles regional finalist. Senior Adam Franklin’s another regional finalist knocking on the door to state. Senior Jordan Thompson, a Northwestern football signee, is a new addition in shot put and discus. He’s joined in throwing by Luke Doerger, who Russo said has gotten bigger, stronger and faster. The distance crew is another talented, experienced group for the Lancers in senior Michael Campbell, juniors Brad Anneken, Frank Pierce, Nick Wuestefeld and sophomore Jaylen Hasen.
Senior Danny Bellman and junior J.P. Wang return as pole vaulters. Avery Larkin and Nick Jones are both experienced long jumpers and Pierre Hunter and Christian Turner were both members of relays that reached the regional.
“We’re a well-balanced team that should be able to score in every event,” Russo said. “We have high expectations – win the GCL, win the district, be a contender in the regional and advance as many as we can to state.”
Although its team is a little smaller, in terms of numbers, and fairly young, Colerain will still be a dangerous team this year that can score points.
A group of between five and 10 athletes return with experience for the Cardinals, according to first-year coach Sarah Chisom, who previously coached Colerain’s middle school teams.
Chisom said Colerain will have many younger kids on the varsity team this year, but they still boast a nice group of proven, competitive upperclassmen.
Seniors Rodney Allen and Jordan Asberry will lead the running charge. Allen was a regional qualifier last season in 800 meters who’s looking to repeat that success and improve. Asberry, who’s a talented sprinter, qualified for regionals two years ago in the 100 meters, but last season his year was cut short by injury, said Chisom.
Junior Brandon Beebe returns as the primary thrower in the shot put and discus.
“They’re ready to go,” Chisom said. “We as a staff are really excited about how hard working and determined this group is. They come to practice everyday ready to work; they’re excited to be here.”
The departures of athletes like Michael Thomas and Cinque Williams have left some holes to fill for the defending SWOC champion Mount HealthyOwls.
However, head coach Ken Meibers believes he has the athletes to fill those open positions and be one of the best Division I teams in the area.
“We lost four athletes that earned scholarships; that’s a lot in track,” the coach said. “We have to develop the talent we have, stay healthy and come up with the right person to fill the holes.”
Some of the athletes the Owls will count on this season include Dominique Smith, David Montgomery, Hjavier Pitts, Tyler Holley and Chaz Jones and KeAndre Smith.
Meibers expects Northwest and Talawanda to be the biggest competition inside the conference. The two schools finished second and third, respectively behind the Owls last season.
He also believes Lakota West, La Salle, Mason and Sycamore, the Braves and Knights will be major players in D-I.
“Northwest could win the state in Division I if they line it up right,” Meibers said. “I like our team; we’re going to see what we can do against them.”
The Roger Bacon boys track team did some growing up this year, said seventh-year coach Michael Braun, who added that it’s not a rebuilding year but more of a growing year. The Spartans graduated 11 seniors last year and with that a lot of talented athletes.
“I wouldn’t say this is a rebuilding year, but a lot of kids had to grow up this year,” Braun said.
This season, Braun said, he has just four seniors but they’re quality leaders. Senior Drew Stark returns after reaching regionals last year in the 4×200 relay. Senior Nick Shooner was a regional qualifier last season in 110 hurdles, and junior Jordan Williams was a regional high jumper after taking fourth place at districts, he placed 11th at regionals. Braun said that last year was Williams’ first year competing.
Also back are sophomores Sam Johnstone and Tony Luken. Braun said Johnstone is a distance guy that really flew under the radar last year so he could be a surprise this year, and Luken finished second overall in the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed Central Division last season. Braun also likes what he’s seen from senior and first-year runner Slayton Brummett.
St. Xavier head track and field coach Oliver Mason, entering his 10th season with the Bombers, said his team is not the type of team that does well early in the season or in little meets.
But, when the stage gets bigger, and the pressure builds, that’s when the Bombers let loose.
St. Xavier’s a defending Division I state champion in two events – the 4×800 meter relay and 1,600 meter run. Both had Michael Vitucci in common. Vitucci, a senior signed with Cincinnati, was The Enquirer male track Athlete of the Year in 2014 and he was also the Division I cross country state champion this past fall. Vitucci’s 1,600 state title from last year set a new stadium record with a time of 4:07.96, and the 4×800 team set a new OHSAA state record in a time of 7:36.33. Senior Brad Eagan’s another member returning from the 4×800.
Keep a lookout for senior Connor Stelljes who was a regional qualifier last season in shot put and discus. Also, senior sprinters Rashon Edwards and Ronnie Fricke. Mason said that Fricke pulled a hamstring at the end of last season, cutting his postseason short, and if he can stay healthy he could be there at season’s end.
“We’re gonna be a late-blooming type team,” Mason said. “The distance and middle distance crew is gonna be good again. I’m excited about some of our sprint relays, too. This should be as good a season as we had last year from our standpoint.”
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Northwest senior DeVohn Jackson: Three-time state qualifier and was part of the 2013 state champion 4×100 meter relay team.
Northwest senior Justin Bergquist: SWOC champion in discus last year and coach Lori Spence said he will lead the team in throws this season.
La Salle senior Tyler Harmon: GCL South Athlete of the Year in 2014 and a regional qualifier.
Colerain senior Rodney Allen: Regional qualifier last season in 800 meters.
Mount Healthy’s David Montgomery: An all-SWOC performer last season in three events.
Roger Bacon senior Nick Shooner: A regional qualifier last season in 110 hurdles.