It will be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Newcomerstown High track teams as both the boys' and girls' squads will be extremely young.
Despite losing just three boys and two girls to graduation, the Trojans graduated a lot of points from those individuals.
On the boys' side "Mr. Everything" Darian Arnold, who qualified for the state meet in three events, finishing 11th in the long jump, 13th in the pole vault and 14th in the high jump, is gone along with Brandon Cope and Casey Dressler. On the girls' team, four-year letterwinner Erica Roberts and Allison Snyder are gone.
"Both teams will be extremely young," sixth-year coach Joshua Branch said. "We are looking for our seniors to step up and lead us and the young kids will have to grow up fast."
The cupboard isn't entirely bare with state meet qualifying senior Matt Ayres, a three-year letterman, returning to lead the throwers after earning all-Ohio honors last spring with a seventh place finish in the shot put with a heave of 51-0; while senior two-year letterwinners Taylor Lehman and Kelsey Dean are back for the Lady Trojans.
"Matt being to the state meet last year will help," Branch said, "and Taylor and Kelsey had success last year. Our boys' field events will still be strong with Matt, who was district champion in both events, back along with two junior throwers. Sophomore Bret Burrier was a regional qualifier in the pole vault last year and is back and junior Cydney McMillan, a two-time state qualifier in the pole vault, returns."
Joining Ayers in the senior leadership role for the Trojans is letterman Trae Garlando (sprints/relays) and Ryan Webster (distance). The two junior lettermen throwers are Josh Deal and David Marburger.
The bulk of the upperclassmen come from the sophomore class led by letterman Burrier. Others that lettered as freshmen were Cody Hall (sprints/relays), Nate Marinucci (distance) and Derek Stamets (distance). The other 10th graders are Tristan Durr (throws), Erik Hayhurst (hurdles), Logan Lehman (sprints/jumps/pole vault), Daniel Lovernic (distance) and Patrick Bryan (sprints).
"Our junior throwers will have to step up," Branch said, "and we have a good group of freshmen throwers. Burrier is back in the pole vault and we have added Lehman. Our distance runners have gotten a lot better and Stamets has come in from Indian Valley. Hall will probably be our top sprinter, but we have added Garlando, a transfer from Claymont. We are young, but the kid have responded and are working hard. Our points will be more spread around and balanced. We obviously don't have an athlete like Arnold, but hopefully some of the young kids will step up to fill in with points. We want to be running our best at the end of the year."
The freshman candidates include Julian Balajadia (throws), Kole Carpenter (distance), Darnell Crider-Harris (throws), Chase Eggleston (sprints), Collen Mozena (distance), Marcus McVey (throws), Austin Stringer (sprints) and Kyle Pritchard (distance).
The Lady Trojans don't have a lot of experience and may not score well as a team, but have some individual standouts.
"There will be a few events for the girls that we won't be able to fill," Branch admitted. "We will try to put them in the best places and let them have success. That will be a big help for the future."
Lehman in the sprints and Dean in the sprints and hurdles will provide the direction.
Junior letterwinners are the state-qualifier McMillan (pole vault/distance), who was 13th in the state last year with a vault of 10-6 and is also playing softball as her primary sport, along with McKaila Goodwin (distance), Alexes Sanders (distance) and Ashley Wheeler (sprints/hurdles). The other junior is Amanda Perkins (distance).
Two sophomore letterwinners, Emily Davis (hurdles/sprints) and Krista McVey (throws), also return. Other sophomore candidates are Cassidy Johnson (throws) and exchange student Ana Voraberger (distance).
Seven freshmen round out the roster -- Erin Burrier (sprints/pole vault/jumps), Kaseana Gandy (sprints), Alyssa Hunt-Jackson (sprints/hurdles), Tamara Lazette (throws), Jocilyn Lenhoff (throws), Paige McMullen (sprints/jumps) and Sara Miller (shot put/discus).
"We have more experience back on the boys' team," Branch admitted, "and hopefully, some of the young kids will grow up and can fill some roles by the end of the year. It will be an interesting year."
Branch works primarily with the sprints and relays and has a lot of coaching help with assistants Chris McClellan handling the jumpers, while volunteer coaches Tom Addy (pole vault), Jack Lenhoff (throws), Mario Loverinc (distance), Steve Meeks (pole vault), Troy Mozena (distance), Brian Collins (throws) and Delon Jackson (hurdles) provide a lot of assistance. Donnie Stevens and Nate Smith handle the junior high squad.
The Trojans will host the annual J.D. Milburn Relays on March 30.