By JAMIE BAKER
Just about every year at least one area boys athlete will stand on the top step of the awards stand at the OHSAA state track and field championships.
It will be a tough act for this year’s track athletes to follow after a solid group of seniors led by Findlay’s Tyler Brown (Division I 400, HJ state champ) and Columbus Grove’s Collin Grothaus (Division III pole vault state champ) graduated last spring.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of athletes representing the area in Columbus the first weekend of June.
Last year’s Division III boys regional meet at Tiffin was dominated by area teams. Columbus Grove nipped Liberty-Benton 75-72 for the team championship while Elmwood finished in fourth place. Only twice in the past 20 years as a boys team from outside The Courier’s circulation area won the regional team championship.
Columbus Grove, though, was hit hard by graduation losing standouts like Grothaus, Jake Graham (distance) and Dakota Vogt (discus) and will likely be in rebuilding mode. Liberty-Benton has several returning state qualifiers and with a roster of 55 athletes, veteran coach Jack Quisno will have another team that will be tough to beat when it’s time to compete in conference, district and regional meets.
In no particular order, here is a look at some of the top returning area boys track and field athletes to watch from around the region this season.
CHASE COOK (Liberty-Benton)
Cook was one of just three athletes to medal in four events at last year’s OHSAA state track meet. He was fourth in the 200, long jump and as a member of the Eagles’ 400 relay team while adding a sixth-place effort in the 100 at last year’s state meet.
He’ll be one of the top athletes in each of those events again this season. The University of Akron-bound senior will have his work cut out for him to win a state title though as defending champs Carl Zallow (Warren JFK) and Mykale Rogers (Lima C.C.) are returning state champs in the 100 and long jump respectively.
Cornwell will also be competing at the NCAA Division I level as he’s signed to compete in the pole vault at Western Kentucky University. The 2013 indoor Division II-III state indoor champ had a season-best jump of 15-feet last spring but missed on all three of his attempts at last season’s outdoor state meet.
Expect Cornwell to extend the area’s string of success at the state meet level in the event.
CHASE HOERIG (Findlay)
Just a sophomore last year, Hoerig cleared a season-best 14-feet for Findlay High School and ended up placing seventh at the Division I regional meet at Amherst Steele. He’ll be counted upon to provide some valuable points as the Trojans try and find a way to replace the output provided by Brown.
MATTHEW WILCOX (Ada)
There are few athletes excelling in three sports anymore, but Wilcox is one of them. He’s committed to play football at Ashland after spending last season as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. He’s also a state placer in swimming and a returning state qualifier in the 400-meter dash.
He was a valuable member of a resurgent Ada boys track team last season in the relays and will look to medal at state in the 400 after making the final but finishing ninth a year ago.
AARON ARNOLD (Elmwood)
Another three-sport standout, Arnold will play football at Ohio Dominican next year and was one of the Royals’ top basketball players last winter. But track and field is his top sport. He qualified for state in the long jump and 1,600 relay for the Royals. He was one of five area boys to post a leap of better than 21-feet in the long jump.
NOAH STRATTON (Bluffton)
As a junior, Stratton kept Bluffton’s string of state placers alive by finishing seventh at state in the 400-meter dash. Stratton should also be strong in the 200 and could be a threat to place in state in the 1,600 relay as he returns along with teammates Robbie Stratton, Robbie Demellweek and Andrew Hoff who teamed up for a 12th place finish at state in the event.
BRIAN MILLER (Liberty-Benton)
Another predominately single-event athlete to watch for Liberty-Benton is senior high jumper Brian Miller. Miller cleared 6-4 at state last season good enough for fourth place. He is the second-highest placer returning in the event behind only talented multi-event athlete John Lint of Columbus Academy. Teamed with classmate Zach Garver, the Eagles should score a bundle of points in the high jump this season.
MARCUS MYERS (Patrick Henry)
Myers assumes the mantle of the area’s top returning performer in the discus circle. He didn’t have the state meet performance he would have liked as the PH senior finished fouled twice and had to settle for a throw of 132-3 on his way to finishing 15th in Columbus. He had a season-best toss of 167-0 for the Patriots last season.
ZACH NYE (Patrick Henry)
Nye is back for his senior year and will be the area’s top hurdler this season. Nye was fourth at state last spring in the 110-meter high hurdles and was among the area’s top 10 in the 300 hurdles last season. During the indoor season, Nye was fourth in the Division II-III state 60-meter hurdles. He has signed with Grand Valley State. signee will also likely compete in the relays for the Patriots this season.
MATIAS TRAMPE-KINDT (Ottawa-Glandorf)
A two-time state participant and all-Ohioan in cross country, senior Matias Trampe-Kindt will be one of the area athletes to watch in the middle distance and distance races in Division II. He is still looking to earn his first state meet berth in track and field though, he was on the Titans’ fifth-place 3,200 relay and also placed fifth in the 1,600 last season at the Division II regional meet at Lexington.
Others to keep an eye on are Findlay’s Isaiah Gaines (distance) and Rasheed Ajala (sprints), Ada’s Danny Klinger (wheelchair events), Columbus Grove’s Colton Grothaus (distance), Arlington’s Matt Inniger (shot put) and Riverdale’s Chad Pever (800).
By JAMIE BAKER