Advertisement

BOYS TRACK: Howard County 2024 season preview

Apr. 17—Kokomo boys track and field coach Zenova Williams sees a lot to like about her squad.

"I expect our strengths this season to be our grit, tenacity and selflessness," she said. "These boys have already shown their dedication to put in what it takes to get better each day. We have upped the intensity on training this season and they have bought in and pushed themselves to their limits. Every time we think we've stumped them, they rise to the occasion.

"Aside from their work ethic, I am blown away by the team's desire to compete where we need them, for the sake of the team," she added. "We have lots of talented athletes that could compete in many areas, but they are trusting the process and the plan us coaches have."

Kokomo finished runner-up to Maconaquah in the Kokomo Sectional last year.

From that team, the Kats return good experience, which shows most in the sprinting events. Williams said seniors Rondell Greene, Jamaree McClinton, Lukas Degraffenried, Tracy Dowling and Eric Thomas will fill the sprints and hurdles races and also contribute to field events.

"At this time, I can't single them down to a specific event, but we do foresee them scoring in the areas they're placed," she said.

McClinton is a two-time sectional champion in the 300-meter hurdles. He made it to the state meet in the event two years ago.

The Kats also have a strong sophomore class that includes Cooper Cage in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs, Chance Duncan, Jedaiah Beard and Marcus Noy in the throws and Derrick Ross and Jeremiah Young in the long jump.

All told, the Kats have a roster of 30 athletes.

"My hopes for this season would be for things to click and come together at the right time — NCC, sectionals and so forth. I am hoping that we can keep the intensity going, foot on the gas, and peak when it's time. I want these guys to have fun with it, and I hope that their hard work this far pays off in the end," Williams said.

The following are looks at the other Howard County teams.

WESTERN

The Panthers have a roster of 38, but there's only five seniors and eight juniors.

"We have an exceptionally young team," Western coach Gary Jewell said. "In our first three meets so far, 62% of our points were scored by freshmen and sophomores. In fact, Aden Yeary is the only senior to score so far.

"We're missing pieces to the puzzle and where we have strength, we're lacking depth. We thought we were going to have a nice group of older sprinters but that didn't materialize. ... Our lower classes actually have a lot of talent, but they're freshmen and sophomores and it's going to take some time for them to develop and mature."

Jewell sees distance events as a possible strength.

"We expect guys like Aden Yeary and Camden Raab to be steady performers for us in the distance events. Camden is only a sophomore, but he recorded our fastest 3,200-meter time since 2021 during the indoor portion of the schedule," he said.

Junior Lincoln McKillip and freshmen Maddox Carver and John Gilbert round out the distance group.

Sophomore sprinter Matthew McKitrick is a proven performer. In the Howard County meet last year, he won the 100 dash and helped the Panthers win the 4x100. Jewell said McKitrick is taking on an expanded role this year by adding the long and high jumps.

Jewell also has senior Deaglan Pleak, sophomore Cameron Hobensack and freshman Parker Bates in the short sprints. Pleak is new to track after previously playing baseball. Junior Kody Musgrave and freshmen Jace Bagley and Jude Sawyer are in the long sprints and junior Milan Bennett and Sawyer are in the hurdles.

"We want for our sprinters to be dispensable and be capable of handling a variety of events," Jewell said.

In the field events, McKitrick, Hobensack, Bates and Sawyer are possibilities for the jumps, junior Gavin Bourff and sophomores Owen Mashino, Cambell Robertson and Jace Smith are throwers, and Bennett and freshman Rylan Hart are pole vaulters. Hart holds Western Middle School's pole vault record.

"Our throwers should be consistent this year," Jewell said. "Owen Mashino has already surpassed his best throws from his freshman year while Gavin Bourff equaled his best discus performance earlier this season."

Jewell pointed to continuous improvement as the biggest goal for the team.

"It's going to take time for the team to find its place," he said.

EASTERN

Like Western, Eastern is lean on experience.

"I have 20 athletes on my team," coach Blake Donson said. "I have nine returning members from the last track season and the rest are either new to track or have not done it since middle school."

In junior Obadiah Greene, the Comets have the defending sectional champion in the 3,200 run.

"Obadiah will be our 'multi-tool' since we are able to use him in anything from the 400 to the 3,200 and he will be super competitive in each running event in between there," Donson said.

Donson pointed to the throwing events and high and long jumps as additional strengths for his team. Juniors Andrew Cavazos and Braylen Word anchor those events.

"Andrew is a stud thrower for us and we will rely on his points each and every meet. Braylen will hold down the high jump and long jump for us as well as getting us points in the sprints," Donson said.

In Greene, Cavazos and Word, Donson sees plenty of potential.

"My hopes for the season are that I have at least two or three regional qualifiers and state qualifiers. I also have hopes for a couple of guys to become sectional champions because I believe they have really good opportunities to do so," he said. "Obi will be a defending sectional champion in the 3,200 and Andrew Cavazos also qualified for regionals last season."

Also filling key roles in the Comets' lineup are: junior Levi Ramer (sprint relays, long jump and 300 hurdles); sophomores Isaiah Pickett, Lincoln Mentis and Gavin Zhuo in the sprints; and sophomores Amos Greene and Chase Roseberry and freshman William Kuntz in middle distance and distance.

Seniors Phillip Beedham and Ryder DeYoung are pole vaulters and senior Rafe Combs is a thrower.

Donson is hoping for a top-three finish in the Hoosier Heartland Conference meet.

"It will be a tall task to win the conference with the lack of depth on the team," he said, "but I do think it is possible if we are able to get the right people in the right places."

NORTHWESTERN

With 41 athletes, the Tigers have the largest roster in the county.

"We are trending towards a higher average level of experience this year," Northwestern coach Alexander Pier said. "Last year we had predominantly new-to-track athletes. This year most of our boys are at one or two years of experience. This has helped quite a bit. Getting those older more experienced athletes in to guide the younger ones has been great."

Pier pointed to throws, sprints and hurdles as the Tigers' strongest events.

Senior Preston DeWitt, juniors Sam Craig and Owen North and sophomores Gavin Pyatt and Aiden Swope are shot putters. DeWitt, senior Dillon Bridgewater, junior Caleb Ledford and sophomores Seth Polhman, Maverick Harrell and Wyatt Lay are discus throwers.

The sprinters and hurdlers will come from the group of seniors Mychal McGriff and Nico Puglia, juniors Michael Groves and Peyton Tarrh and sophomores Blake Abbott and Sam Martin.

Pier is also optimistic about his distance crew of senior Jacob Bumgardner, sophomores Ryland Barnes and Kaden Herschberger and freshmen Mason Broeker, Isaac Everson and Bryan Burkhalter.

"The area around us [for distance] is quite good for anyone who has been watching. Our boys have noticed this and really put in the work to try and hang with those in the area," Pier said.

Tarrh and seniors Sam Stephens and Noah Kanable are high jumpers, Puglia and Groves are long jumpers and Bumgardner and sophomore Sam Martin are pole vaulters.

"I have several more athletes that are developing well so far in every event. I expect some newcomers not on this list to make some serious impacts on the track in the second half of this season," Pier saod.

Pier said the Tigers' mindset is to attack every opportunity and do their best.

"With this team mentality our goal is twofold — PR as much as each athlete can and crack the top half of the sectional meet," he said. "I am impressed with our fight this year and I look forward to seeing where it will take us."

TAYLOR

Taylor coach Tim Weeks reported a turnout of 19, which is more than double than what the Titans had last year.

"With numbers up and a lot of first-time competitors in track, we will be looking to improve each meet," Weeks said. "Likewise, it has been a long time since we have had enough athletes to fill all the events in a meet. Definitely looking to build on this year for the future."

The Titans' returning athletes are seniors Teme Moody (distance) and Antwon McMillan (sprints), junior Britton Dillion (throws) and sophomore Braden Wunderlich (distance).

In addition to the returning athletes, Weeks is hoping junior Jayln Wooten can provide consistent points. He can run the 300 hurdles or sprints and also handle the long and high jumps.

Senior Phillip Fort and junior Treyton Rigsby are penciled in for the 100 and 200 dashes. Sophomore Jonoah Trueblood and freshman Caleb Hemsoth are in the 400 dash. Senior Joaquin Cavazos is in the 110 hurdles.

In addition to Dillon, the Titans' throwers also include sophomores Gabe Rust and Elijah Brumley and freshman Angelo Flynn.

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at bryan.gaskins@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8567.