Newcomerstown High’s track program has a real "ace in the hole" entering the new season on the cinders with the return of senior state-champion pole vaulter Ryan Stevens back to lead the Trojans’ track squads for one final season.

Last season, with a vault of 15 feet, 2 inches, Stevens  stood atop the podium in Columbus at the Ohio High School Athletic Association with the Division III pole vault crown.

Stevens became the fourth state pole vaulting champion from Newcomerstown as the Trojans claimed titles in 1984 (Dave Bell), and his current head coach Jamie Lewis who captured back-to-back state titles in 1994 and 1995.

Last season marked Stevens; third straight appearance at the OHSAA state meet after placing seventh as a freshman and fifth during his sophomore season.

Stevens - who also competes in the springs for NHS - has already signed his letter-of-intent to attend the University of Findlay next year to continue his athletic and academic careers.

Also back for Newcomerstown is another state qualifier in the pole vault - junior Dylan Garretson (pole vault/sprints) - who finished seventh with a vault of 14-2 at the state meet.

With Stevens and Garretson showing the way, the Trojans return a total of 10 lettermen on the boys’ team including seniors Calvin Ringer (throws), Daniel Russell (throws), Noah Creager (sprints), juniors Tanner Norman (middle distance), Jacob Robinson (distance), Dylan Donathan (long jump/sprints), Chase Bryant (sprints), and Hunter Garretson (pole vault/hurdles/sprints).

Lewis, a former NHS standout performer, enters his third season guiding his hometown track program.

"Of course. it’s always nice to return a state champion like we have in Ryan," Lewis offered. "His work ethic and success just sets a very good example of what hard work can do for you for the rest of the team."

"After watching our team grow, both individually and as a team for the past two years, I’m excited to see how we come together this season," he continued. "I’m looking for us to have a really good year."

Rounding out the Newcomerstown boys’ squad are Tyler Maddox (throws), Marcus Goodwin (sprints), Kobe Lower (high jump), Rees Creager (throws) and Gavin Shalosky (sprints).

For the Lady Trojans, a total of eight letter winners are back in the fold led by a trio of three-year senior veterans - Amaris Wells (sprints), Erin Lynch (long jump/sprints) and Destiny Grewell (hurdles/sprints).

Other veterans back this season for NHS include juniors Sydni Zufelt (pole vault), Trew Davis (distance), Azure Kitsmann (sprints), Katelyn Glazer (sprints) and Jade Johnson (throws) along with sophomore Kim Halsey (hurdles).

"Our numbers are up on the girls’ side from the last couple of years," Lewis added. "All of our new athletes, along with our returning letterwinners, are going to add both talent and depth to our girls’ team.

"I’m looking forward to this season to see how much our girls have improved," the NHS mentor continued. "Not only through our bigger numbers, but also through all of their hard work."

Making up that added depth on the Lady Trojans’ roster are Jada Duerson (throws), Kylee Casteel (sprints), Autumn Lahmers (relays/high jump), Crimzen Christmas (throws), Madison Shisler (throws), Bella DeBoer (sprints/Long jump) and Eva Donathan (sprints/relays).

"We have several new girls out on the team this year who are working really hard," Lewis stated. "I feel they all have a real chance to contribute to our team this season."

In sizing up the newly-expanded Inter-Valley Conference, Lewis feels the competition level will be even higher throughout the league.

"It is going to be an exciting year for IVC track," Lewis offered. There are more teams, so the competition is going to be better than ever."

Newcomerstown will kick off the 2018 season on Saturday at the Claymont Invitational.