GNADENHUTTEN -- Veteran boys' track coach Dave Bell will really have to earn his paycheck this spring as he prepares for his 20th season at the helm of the Indian Valley Braves program.
Bell is faced with the daunting task of replacing a whopping 16 athletes lost to graduation. That class formed the nucleus of last spring's PAC runner-up squad.
Five of the departed advanced to the state meet, led by Dominic Bell, who soared to a second place finish in the pole vault. Florence Kalies also went to the state in the high jump. In addition, the trio of Ryan Simmers, Taylor Gray and Kyle Johnson were 75 percent of the 4x200 and 4x400 teams at Columbus.
To make matters worse, returnee Cole Craddock is out due to season-ending injury. Craddock ran a leg on the state-placing 4x200 and 4x400 teams.
Only three returning letterwinners grace the Braves' roster. Juniors Bailey McBeth (distance) and Evan Menefee (distance) have each earned a pair of monograms while sophomore Travis Olinger (sprints) lettered as a freshman and was an alternate on the above-mentioned relay teams at the state level.
The remainder of the IV roster is either new or very inexperienced.
That includes seniors Ryan Pastercak (hurdles), Austin Menefee (sprints) and Dan Johnson (sprints) and juniors Kevin James (hurdles) and Kail Oliver (shot put/discus).
Currently there are six other sophomores, including Kyle Contini (shot put/discus), Jake Corpman (shot put/discus), Will Love (shot put/discus), Mickey Maurer (middle distance), Tyler Olinger (sprints) and Jay Elliott (sprints).
Rounding out this year's roster are eight freshmen, including Colin Border (distance), Jimmie Hagan (shot put/discus), Hunter Host (middle distance), Klayton Kerns (jumps), Alec Love (pole vault/400), Ross Love (pole vault/middle distance), Justin Martinelli (shot put/discus), Brandon Terry (shot put/discus) and Nate Petrie (sprints).
Despite the inexperience, coach Bell is seeing progress in this month's workouts.
"With so many new faces," he said, "it's really hard to tell what our strengths and weaknesses are going to be. Right now, I think our distance guys can hold their own. After that, I'm not sure what will happen."
The 2013 schedule is unchanged from last spring. In addition to the PAC dual meets, the Braves will participate in Saturday invitationals at Claymont, Newcomerstown, West Holmes and Sandy Valley. The PAC Championship meet is set for Friday, May 17 at Triway High in Wooster.
With so many graduated seniors, it will be difficult for the Braves to duplicate their success from last spring, especially in the always-competitive PAC, where Indian Valley was 6-3 last year. Bell indicated that Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy will again be the pre-season favorite to win the title.
Bell's assistants at the high school are Diane Bell, Tom Klasserner, Jim Krocker, Bill Love and Robby Anderson. Dave Norris is the head junior high boys' coach, with help from Tera Pryor and Jamie Herman.
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Twenty-seven athletes are on hand for coach Diane Bell as she embarks on her 11th season at the head of the Indian Valley girls' track team.
A key part of that group will be 10 returning letterwinners. Included in that number are seven who advanced to last spring's regional meet.
Leading the way for the Lady Braves will be seniors Maddy Azzardi (sprints), Courtney Emler (sprints/hurdles) and Emily Probert (distance). All three have won three varsity letters. Emler and Probert reached the regional level last spring.
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Another pair of seniors, foreign exchange student Francesca Vigna (sprints) and A.J. Smart (sprints) rounds out the 12th grade class.
In the junior class, there is a trio of two-year letterwinners led by regional qualifiers Devin Bell (sprints/pole vault) and Paige Saho (distance). The other junior veteran is Emily Baker (hurdles/sprints). Heidi Miller (distance) completes the junior class.
Four returning letterwinners pace the sophomore class, headed by regional qualifiers Alicia Jenkins (hurdles/sprints), Chelsey Swaney (sprints) and Ashley Reynolds (shot put/discus). The fourth letterwinner from the 10th grade is Kara Barger (middle distance).
Other sophs on the team are Leaha Granato (distance), Sydney Kandray (sprints/jumps), Ally Kenney (distance), Lauren Long (distance), Joy Lynn (sprints) and Maddy Miles (middle distance).
There will be eight freshmen dotting the roster, including Tawney Ault (distance), Autumn Gardner (shot put/discus), Kaitlyn Hursey (sprints), Elizabeth Lute (shot put/discus), Bailey Menefee (sprints), Desiree Smart (shot put/discus), Ashlynn Stull (sprints) and Kristen Wenger (sprints).
"Right now, it looks like we could be very strong in the middle distances and the throwing events," said Bell. "Our biggest need is to find some more jumpers and, of course, we don't know for sure what our incoming freshmen can and will contribute."
Indian Valley posted a third place finish in last spring's PAC Championships behind Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Triway.
"We hope to move up this year," Bell said, "but unseating CVCA will be tough to do."
The schedule is unchanged from last spring. In addition to the dual meets with the PAC schools, Indian Valley will also participate in large weekend meets at places such as Claymont, Newcomerstown, West Holmes and Sandy Valley.
This season's PAC Championships will be hosted by Triway on Friday, May 17.
Assisting Bell with the squad this spring will be Dave Bell, Tom Klasserner, Jim Kracker, Bill Love and Robby Anderson. The head middle school coach will be Tera Pryor, assisted by Jamie Herman and Dave Norris.
Indian Valley's 2013 season kicks off with the Jeff Arthurs Invitational at Claymont on Saturday, March 30.