Advertisement

2024 boys track and field area watch list

Apr. 2—ATHLETES TO WATCH

(in alphabetical order)

Tyrell Cloud, Brush: This Arcs' program staple and complete package as a hurdler with his technique and hurdle attack should be deep in the mix as a senior for Division I state titles in 110- and 300-meter hurdles coming off his fifth and third, respectively, at state a year ago and considering everyone that placed ahead of him there graduated.

Billy Dennison, Mentor: Entering the back half of his Cardinals' career, this junior is The News-Herald coverage area's top returning two-miler who should push deeper into the 9s on the big stages this spring and is an assertive 4×800 relay leg as well, coming off a cross country season in which he set the school-record time.

Matthew Dienes, West Geauga: The optimism for this Wolverines' senior is twofold, given his outstanding cross country campaign in the fall that concluded with him taking sixth at the D-II state meet, as well as the strong work he turned in on the Wolverines' D-II state runner-up 4×8 in 2023.

Karl Dietz, Chardon: The reigning D-I 400 state champion has already authored one of the best careers in the event in News-Herald coverage area lore with his senior year still to go, looking to join Robert Smith as the lone four-time state qualifiers in the event locally all-time as he eyes a repeat. He'll put in confident work in sprints, 4×4 and 4×8 as well, but that open 4 could get into the 46s again and be very special in 2024.

Nick Garcia-Whitko, Hawken: As a junior, a tight and poised fourth in a competitive D-II 1,600 final at state last year was a statement of intent. With his race savvy and experience, it should get deep sub-4:20 and in high podium placement territory when it matters.

Nathan Gaspersic, Riverside: Soccer, swimming, diving — this senior wears a lot of proverbial hats well for the Beavers. But his bread-and-butter is pole vault, in which he'll be seeking a return trip to state in D-I and aspire for 15-0 and above along the way.

Brayden Green, Gilmour: It's unfortunate that this multi-sport standout senior can't show his triple-jump prowess outdoors since it's only an indoor event, but his long jump quality compensates for that with high 21-plus caliber and coming off a seventh in D-II last spring.

Lamonte Hamelin, Euclid: Getting a taste of state as a junior in 100 and on the Panthers' 4×1, and a third at state indoor in D-I 60, will aid the cause for this promising sprinter to have a breakout campaign in his final ride outdoors. He has the closing power and raw ability to aspire for sub-10.7 in open 1s when it's all said and done.

Ty Jackson, Mayfield: When his trail leg and start are dialed in, this talented Wildcats' senior is right in there for the best coverage area 110 hurdler with his neighborhood rival Cloud, a low-to-mid 14 performer and better waiting to happen.

Keion Mayberry, Benedictine: With the coverage area sprinting depth of recent years, this Bengals' standout senior may not have gotten the praise or credit he deserves. But on the day, and on prominent stages, there are few performers who have been as dependable for as long in open 2 or open 4 or setting the tone on 4×2 and 4×4.

Andrew Merritt, University: After taking a D-I state indoor title back to Hunting Valley earlier this month, with a 22-2 1/4 no less, no one will be more excited to get outdoor season rolling than this versatile and explosive senior, who should push for high on the podium in Dayton, too.

Matthew Penkowski, Mentor: This sophomore displayed some moxie as a ninth-grader on the Cardinals' D-I regional champion 4×8 and should help pace the middle-distance ranks for a program renowned as a pipeline for it.

Brayden Richards, Perry: It's not hyperbole to state this senior and reigning D-II state champion in 300 hurdles, who should also push for Matt Ludwig's all-time News-Herald coverage area record 16-4 and a D-II state crown in pole vault this spring as well, is one of the most well-rounded and skilled track and field student-athletes ever from the coverage area ranks.

Matthew Sopchak, Chardon: With the graduation of some strong performers in the event locally, including NDCL's Brian Bates, the mantle for best News-Herald coverage area 800 performer is inherited by this senior, a super-deep sub-1:57 threat when the stages call for it in open 8 and someone who has been a 4×4 and 4×8 leg of the highest caliber throughout his career.

Jay'veion Ware, Chardon: After going 6-5 in the regular season in 2023 as a ninth-grader, this sophomore is the present and future of high jumping in this corner of Ohio. His raw talent and ability to be so explosive at the bar and clean and easy at 6-3 and above so soon is a thrill to watch. But what will be even more thrilling is to watch his continued development.

MEETS TO WATCH

Ned Weingart Relays (April 6 at Cleveland Heights), Nordonia Knight Relays (April 6), Gene Kobus Perry Relays (April 13), North Ranger Invitational (April 19), Beachwood Invitational (April 20), Kurt Frankel Memorial Invitational (April 20 at West Geauga), Chardon Hilltopper Invitational (April 20), Dick Beeler Booster Invitational (April 26 at Harvey), Mayfield Invitational (April 26), Miele Invitational (April 26 at Gilmour), Mentor Cardinal Relays (April 27), Crown Conference meet (May 1 at Walsh Jesuit), Euclid Relays (May 3), CVC Chagrin meet (May 6 and 8 at West Geauga), CVC Valley meet (May 7 and 9 at Berkshire), CVC Lake meet (May 7 and 9 at Lakeside), WRC meet (May 9 at Mayfield), GCC meet (May 8 and 10 at Brunswick)

AT THE LINE

—Beyond the well-documented one-year temporary move of the state meet back to Dayton from Ohio State as Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium undergoes a track upgrade, there is another postseason address change. Mentor returns this spring as host of the "primary" area Division I district meet. The district had most recently been at Riverside and, prior to that, at Mayfield.

—Some regular-season tweaks are in store as well. The CVC Chagrin meet is listed as being back on a Monday/Wednesday schedule this season and will be contested at West Geauga on May 6 and 8. The remainder of the CVC, including the new CVC Lake meet, remains Tuesday/Thursday. Gilmour's Miele Invitational is being staged on a Friday (April 26) this year instead of its usual Saturday slot.

—As the coverage area athletes to watch list indicates, Chardon has a lot to which to look forward this spring with Dietz, Sopchak and Ware, among more, all back in the fold. But the Hilltoppers also logged some encouraging relay work indoors, including a 7:54.01 4×8 during an NEOITC meet in February. That's quite a tone to set heading outdoor, and if it can be matched and surpassed this spring, that quartet will be state and, possibly, state-podium caliber.

—Speaking of relay work, despite graduating three of their four legs from a quartet that took fourth in D-II a year ago, NDCL's 4×4 is back at it again with lone returnee Rob Bonchak and a new-look quartet. The Lions won the D-II/III state indoor crown with a 3:25.90. Getting Bonchak anchor reps as a freshman with a senior-heavy quartet in 2023 was smart and helps bridge the transition to 2024 and what has been seen thus far.

—Throws caliber took a hit locally with the graduation of Riverside's outstanding duo of Brett Stephens and Carter Rudler, University's Fanon Miller and more. But there are some young throwers who could impress. Right toward the top of the list as far as taking a next step is Madison's Bryce Brock. Brock showed promise as a freshman, particularly in discus pushing for 150 in the regular season, and he just had a fifth in D-I state indoor shot put (50-9 1/2).

—In hurdles, Cloud, Jackson and Richards will lead the coverage area charge in 1s and 3s. But keep an eye on Mentor junior Jaden Russell as well. There were glimpses as a sophomore, getting deep into the 15s in 1s and going sub-40 in 3s before getting to regional competition in both. D-I district hurdles, not to mention the weeks that follow, could get interesting in a hurry.

—Jumps should be a strong suit, too. In long jump, with Merritt, Green and Richards, emerging performers such as Chardon's Caleb Hewitt, Harvey's Antonio Soto and more, it wouldn't be a surprise to see caliber get deeper in the 21s earlier than usual this outdoor season. With high jump, the aforementioned Ware is outstanding. But University's Justin Belcher and Perry's Anthony Anderson are poised to burst on the scene as well outdoors. Belcher showed 6-2 ability last spring as the third US jumper behind 6-4 and above skill in seniors Brian Kellon and Andrei Radjenovic, an abundance of riches in Hunting Valley. Anderson, a sophomore, had a breakthrough performance at state indoor, taking second in D-II/III at 6-4.