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GNADENHUTTEN -- Following a highly-successful season for the Indian Valley High track program, both the Braves and the Lady Braves will look to keep things rolling along.
For the boys, there will be 42 athletes competing and 27-year Indian Valley coach Dave Bell is excited to have a lot of the same guys returning.
"We have big numbers out this year," offered Bell. "It is always good to see a lot of guys competing and a lot of them have been in the program for some time now, so they know what to expect and they understand what we need to do to be a successful team."
The Braves finished the 2016 season with an impressive 9-1 dual record, finished second in the Principals Athletic Conference and sent several athletes to the Divison II Regional, but they fell just short of making it the state meet so Coach Bell looks to make farther than the Regionals this season.
"Even though we fared will in the regular season, last year was a bit of a disappointment for several of the guys along with myself," said Bell. "We were really hoping to get to the state meet, but I think we will be able to send a few there this year."
Bell noted that Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy will continue to be the team to beat in the Inter-Valley Conference.
"It is really tough to win our conference," admitted the IVHS mentor. "CVCA is tough year-in and year-out, but as always we will work hard to try and win the league and continue to do well in our invitationals."
Returning senior lettermen for the Braves are Cory Carlisle (sprints/relays), Bronson Phillips (pole vault/hurdles), Garett Mozena (distance/high jump), Adam Porter (hurdles), Cody Booth (distance), Brandon Leggett (hurdles), Nic Haga (hurdles/high jump) and Trevor Ault (distance).
"We have a lot of guys returning who have had a lot of success so far," said Bell. "Brandon, Trevor, Garett and Hunter (Probert) will give us some good leadership because of their success in the past, so I am sure they will be leading the way for us."
Other returning letterwinners for Indian Valley include juniors Probert (distance), Matt Love (middle distance), Conner Caldwell (400) and Nick Love (throws) and sophomores Caden Hostetler and Caleb Hostetler (long jump/sprints).
Other Indian Valley varsity track athletes will be seniors Hunter Baker, Nathan Brown, Joey Ford, Clinton Kenney, James Metzger, Clay Riddle and Josh Thorton along with juniors Jase Green, Wyatt Lawrence, Logan Morrison and James Noel.
Rounding out the boys track team are sophomores Daniel Adams, Nick Bolon, Cade Liggett, Jarrett Lute, Josh Metzger, Cedric Rummel and Clayton Sprowl; and freshmen Joe Brown, Solomon Cox, Seth Devault, Derrick Dunlap, Alex Gardner, Caden Keathley, Zack Love, Mason Rummel, Reese Saho and Skyler Striker.
"I think we have a real well-rounded team," said Bell. "We have some guys who have had a lot of success in sprints and field events. During the off-season, we had a group of guys compete indoors and they had a lot of success. Our 4x400 team of Probert, Mozena, Leggett and Ault made it to the State Indoor Meet and placed fourth overall, so I am really excited to see what this season brings."
Much like the boys, the numbers are high for the Indian Valley girls track team as they will have 37 athletes competing this season.
"This is the largest group of girls we have had come out for several years," offered IV girls' coach Diane Bell. "It will be fun to see everyone improve and to see where each athlete can excel."
The Lady Braves also finished the 2016 season on a high note as they posted a perfect 10-0 record in dual meets, finished second in the PAC and sent seven girls to the OHSAA State Track Championships.
"We sent two relay teams and a 400-meter runner to the state meet last season," said Bell. "Celina (Mayforth, who qualified for Columbus in the 400, the 4x800 and the 4x200) placed eighth in the 400, making her all-Ohio, and then my 4x200 team was close to placing but had a bad exchange and it cost them. They are mad about it though, and they already told me that they will be on the podium this year."
The Lady Braves will be without a pair of state qualifiers from last season including Tawny Ault and Kaitlyn Hursey, who have both graduated.
"They were a big part of this team and they will be missed," admitted Bell, "but it will be important that we find girls to take their place. Leadership will be the key, I look to my juniors and seniors to provide leadership and help from the girls who made it to the regional finals and states."
Returning senior letterwinners for Indian Valley will be Alex Chrisman (middle distance), Jenna Kanter (shot put/discus), Trisha Kohl (hurdles/relays), Mayforth (sprints/middle distance/relays), Shannon Regula (distance, a state qualifier in the 4x800) and Brie Schwab (high jump/relays).
Other returning letterwinners for the Lady Braves are juniors Mikayla Baker (middle distance/relays), Rylie Byers (sprints/relays), Bayli Conner (sprints/relays), Alex Pirano (hurdles/relays) and Brittany Roth (distance/ a state qualifier in the 4x800) followed by sophomores Lexi Brown (hurdles/sprints), Shelby Cagot (hurdles/sprints), Jessica Leishman (hurdles/sprints), Elly McDaniel (pole vault) and Kiara and Kitanna Rakestraw, who will both compete in high jumps, sprints and relays and were both state qualifiers in the 4x200.
Other members of the Indian Valley girls' team are seniors Brittney Jeandervin and Jade Phillips; junior Raven Segee; sophomores Megan Allen, Brianna Carpurso, Gabby Conklin, Hailey Jones, Lizzy Maple, Almudena Mareca, Madylin McDaniel and Ashton Warner; freshmen Kylie Cagot, Cassidy Carlisle, Lexie Gerstung, Morgan Hostetler, Lorelai Lawver, Emily Love, Vanessa Shaw, Shaylee Shepherd and Jaylin Stewart.
Coach Bell also feels Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy will be tough to beat in the league.
"CVCA will once again be the one to beat in the PAC," admitted Bell. "Every year they just seem to reload, but we did beat them once last year so we will see what we can do this season.
"The girls are working hard and are receptive to trying new events," said the IVHS coach. "During the first half of the season, we will be trying to find the best people for each position and there will definitely be some strong competition for different events.
"These girls also understand how difficult it is to get to states," concluded Bell. "They want to get back there, but they need to understand the importance of flexibility. We work to find the best combination to get us competitive at the end of the season."