By Jake Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org
Hendricks County Flyer
---- — With four new boys’ track coaches and a slew of solid athletes returning from impressive seasons last year, county teams should improve upon their successes in a big way.
Last season Avon concluded its season with a school best eighth-place finish at the state meet. This year, the Orioles hope to better that, and with the returnees coach Zach Toothman has back, expectations are sky-high.
“Last year’s success has been critical for what we want to do this year,” Toothman said. “We always want to improve. The better you do the year before, the tougher it is, and the higher the expectations get. The group we have is 100 percent committed to competing for titles in every meet we run, including a run at a state championship as a team. This is by far the most committed group I’ve had at Avon, and they all believe that nothing is impossible.”
The seniors are also special to Toothman, as they are the first squad of youngsters he began coaching when they were freshmen.
“I’m very excited about our senior class this year,” Toothman said. “With this being my fourth year with the team as a coach, many of our current seniors started with me.”
Avon seniors Cameron Hollins, Angelo Allen, James Bryant, Zack Czerwonky, Presley Martin, Jon Cramer, Brandon Vu and Cameron Farris will try to lead the Orioles into unchartered territory this season.
The competition for middle- and long-distance spots will be fierce. Cramer and fellow senior Dawait Woldai; juniors Will Anderson, Keegan Ridgway and Alex Layton; and sophomores Alec Scheerer and Matt Everling, will all vie for spots.
Avon returns Martin, Evan Snodgrass and Taylor Kleyn from last season’s state runner-up 4x800 team. Vu, Ryan McAndrews and Ben Harmon are competing for the fourth spot.
With the departure of Sogo Akinyosoye — last year’s 100 state runner-up and third place finisher in the 200 — Avon looks to Bryant, Farris, Josh Maigan, Osadolor Idahosa and Domo Shields to fill the hole left by Akinyoosoye.
Hollins and Griffin, along with Harrison Weber, have emerged as the top hurdlers.
Avon has traditionally been strong in the field events and this year is no exception.
Allen, last year’s fourth-place finisher in the shot put, is ranked first in the state, while teammate David Schall is fourth. Sam Overton and Stephen Vivace are in the shot mix as well. Will Hargis, Hollins and Farris are tops in the long jump, and each has cleared over six-feet in the high jump. Czerwonky is making great strides in the pole vault.
Former Brownsburg state runner-up in the 3200, Julie Waggoner, takes over the boys’ track team this season and looks forward to the challenge. While it’s Waggoner’s first season as head coach, she’s served as an assistant for seven years in both track and cross country. She inherits a team that placed third at county, fourth at sectionals and eighth in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.
Waggoner furthered her running career at Indiana University, where she was a Big Ten finalist in the 1500 and competed in the national cross country championships.
“I hope my knowledge as an athlete/coach and passion for the sport will help motivate my athletes and help make them the best they can be,” Waggoner said.
Brownsburg lost nine seniors last year and each was in the top 10 in scoring. That production will be hard to replace, but Brownsburg has a good place to start.
Mark Bond and Hari Sathyamurthy both come off impressive cross country seasons and will give Brownsburg a boost in the middle and distance events.
“Mark has really focused on his winter training,” Waggoner said. “He has increased his mileage and is already setting personal bests during our indoor season. Hari will lead our team in the 800 meters. I’m looking forward to seeing how much faster he gets throughout the season.”
Captained by seniors Bond, Johnny Dotlich and Isaiah Hightower, the Bulldogs will have leaders in key positions. Dotlich looks to contribute in the hurdles, sprints and relays, while Hightower will be in both field and track events.
Fellow seniors Isaiah O’Neal (sprints) and Kevin Albert (pole vault) will also take leadership roles.
Waggoner said the Bulldogs’ 4x400 team will be “exciting to watch,” with Sathyamurthy, Dotlich and Hightower, and looking to add Tyler Kirtz, Nassif Kouton and KJ Edwards to the mix.
Waggoner credited her assistants for helping ready the team and make the transition a smooth one.
“I am lucky and excited to be coaching with a very knowledgeable and motivating staff,” she said.
Cascade coach Tim Whicker comes in as a first-year coach in track and field. Whicker described himself as an “avid runner” and an athlete that “ran distance in high school.”
Cascade also has all new assistants in place, and Whicker will look to J.R. Dugan, Tony Shepard, Lori White, Morgan Ford and Maggie Weatherman to help guide the team throughout the year.
Cascade placed second in the West Central Conference last season, but with the departure of a talented senior class, the Cadets have their work cut out for them.
“It will be difficult to match last year with the loss of some key seniors, but this group is excited about maintaining this level,” Whicker said.
Seniors Taylor Wilson, Kyle Harbison, Nick Evans and Lucas Stoutenour will lead Cascade.
“They bring great attitudes and work ethic to the team and understand the need to get as cohesive as possible,” Whicker said.
Mac White, Brent Trauner and Zac Masner will take over the distance events.
Gabe Gomez, Colin Reynolds and Bip Saini will push a young group of freshmen and sophomores in the mid-distance events.
Wilson and Michael Pence look to lead the hurdlers, while Harbison, Taylor Wilson and Zac Butler look to lead the sprints. Butler will also be expected to carry some long-jumping duties.
Wyatt Fuehrer and Daniel Shepard will claim pole vaulting responsibility, while Tim O’Brien and Butler will compete in the high jump.
Although the Warriors graduated a lot of key contributors last season, Danville returns a good group, with solid varsity experience to ease the early transition.
Seniors Sam Bratton (distance), Shawn Weir (distance), Wes Lefler (pole vault), Matt Garrett (mid-distance), Landon Dowell (throws), Austin Anderson (high jump) and Austin Earlywine (sprints and long jump) should make first-year coach Russ Sumner’s job a bit easier.
“(They) will each provide strong leadership in various roles for us,” Sumner said. “They do a good job of setting the tone in practices and being strong, positive role models for the younger members of the team.
“Even though this is my first season at the helm, I am aware that we lost some quality talent to graduation last year. We have every reason to be optimistic about our upcoming season though with such a strong, hard-working group.”
After a successful cross country season, Bratton, Weir, Bryce Modglin and Daniel Gerber look to continue that trend in the distance events.
“(That group) will be strong distance runners for us this coming season, capable of filling multiple roles in a number of events,” Sumner said. “We have strong leadership here from our more experienced runners, along with some younger runners who are eager to step up and contribute.”
Sumner said Garrett, Chris Genin, Austin Stewart, Nick Hamilton and Sean Wolf will all be strong competitors in the mid-distance events.
Holding down sprinting and hurdling responsibilities will be Nick Gilliam, Jonathan Curtis (hurdles), Jacob Shirrell, Jesse Vondersaar and Earlywine.
Austin Scamahorn, James Banich and Eli Taylor will take spots in the throwing events.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to coach our boys’ track team,” Sumner said. “Coach (Pat) McKenzie did a great job building a solid program. I am fortunate to follow in his path.”
The Quakers are ready, after being the only county team other than Avon to send athletes to state, winning the Mid-State Conference and placing third at sectionals.
“We always strive to win Mid-State Conference, Hendricks County and Plainfield sectional,” Plainfield coach Brian Pelkey said. “We were able to win the Mid-State last year and look to defend our championship. Avon and Brownsburg will be very tough in the county, and then adding Zionsville to our sectional, it is now ultra-tough.
“If we can stay healthy and get the right athletes into the right events, we could challenge for a sectional championship, and this could be a special season.”
Leading Plainfield’s charge are seniors Josh Miller, Zach Richardson, Justin Pelkey, Joel Thompson, Tyler Kinman and Jakeb Miller.
“Our seniors have shown great leadership and continue to emphasize our strong track tradition,” Pelkey said.
Josh Miller, Andrew Snoke, Kris Clark and Keshawn Robinson all return from the 4x100 team that advanced to the state meet, and look to lead the Quakers’ sprinters. Chris Mikeworth and Conner Brens will add depth to the sprints, and Austin Hall and Logan Davis will man the hurdles.
Robinson and James Mayberry both have cleared 21-feet in the long jump.
Regional qualifier Tyler Kehrt, along with junior Luke Miller and freshman Bryce Biddle, look to man the shot put ring. Jakeb Miller, Drew Thomas and Logan Miller will hold down discus positions.
Tyler Kinman leads a group of pole vaulters that includes Jack Burkmire, Chandler Chase, Dan Wiegand and Jon Hagee.
Tri-West welcomes a familiar face who’s taking over its track program. Athletic administrative assistant Rebecca Saylor replaces coach Brian Powers, who now occupies an assistant role with the team.
For the past two years, Saylor was the assistant Tri-West Middle School sprint coach and also assisted with the sprinters at the high school last season.
“My expectations are high for this season,” Saylor said. “I am very excited for the track team both on the girls’ and boys’ side. We return a lot of key runners, throwers and jumpers. We have 17 freshmen that came out to participate and a few of them will be key factors to our success as well.”
Helping ease the Bruins’ transition are seniors Kyle Cook and Nolan Kinch. Cook is the team’s No. 1 high jumper and long jumper, and will compete in the 4x100 relay along with some sprints. Kinch, a hurdler, will also play a role on both the 4x100 and 4x400 teams.
Returning from a strong sprint showing last season is Wes Cook. The sophomore sprinter burned up the track last year and will be a force in the 100 and 200 as well as the anchor for the 4x100 team that includes Kyle Cook, Kinch and Tony Kahl.
Matt Knights, Keiland Cooper and Nick Hermann will compete for spots in the middle- and long-distance events.
Saylor pointed to Cory Hagemier and Matt Wilson as runners to watch in the 400.
In the field events, three freshmen — Austin Staton, Bryce Williams and Matt Mitchell — all should bring added points to the Bruins.
— Follow Hendricks County Flyer sports editor Jake Thompson on Twitter @JacobEThompson.