WEST LAFAYETTE -- Led by a pair of returning state qualifiers from last season, Ridgewood High boys' track coach Josh Lahmers enters his fifth season leading the Generals' program with high hopes on another successful season on the cinders. Coming off a pair of solid seasons, Lahmers knows he will have some spots to fill this season to keep the Generals up at the top of the Inter-Valley Conference after taking the title a year ago.
"The last two years have been two of the best teams I've had and maybe we've ever had here at Ridgewood," Lahmers said. "This year we've lost a lot of those guys and are looking to replace them this season."
Leading the Generals will be seniors Chris Saylor and Mark Border, who each earned a spot at the state track meet last season. Saylor competed in the pole vault and finished seventh while Border ran a leg on the Generals' 4x100 relay team which finished third in Columbus.
"Chris is back off a trip to the state meet which is a real plus, and he's going to contribute not only in the pole vault but in several other ares for us." Lahmers said. "Mark Border is the only one back from our state 4x100 team, and we'll be looking to find him some new running mates."
Yet another standout senior is Evan Jones, who was a regional qualifier in both the shot and discus a year ago.
""He's just a tremendous athlete and was a regional qualifier in both the shot and discus last year," Lahmes said of Jones. "I think he has a real shot at doing some special things this year."
Jones, a standout on the football field for the Generals, earned a scholarship to Michigan State for his exploits on the gridiron.
"He's excited to come back out. He's worked hard in the weight room," Lahmers said. "We talked about it and I think his coaches at Michigan State encouraged him to come out and stay here and finish out his senior year."
With Jones leading the way, Lahmers feels the field events will be the strength of the team.
"Going into the season, I think our field events are real strong," Lahmers said. "Joe Holmes was decent for us in the discus last year and sophomore Jared Lindig could contribute this year."
A total of 16 returning lettermen are back for the Orange and Black, including seniors Davey Garber (hurdles), Joe Holmes (throws), Pat Cushman (distance), Daniel Burch (distance), Derek Lahna (high jump, sprints) and Lenard Davidson (sprints) and junior Elson Rouse (jumps, hurdles).
Other upperclassmen back for RHS include seniors Tyler Mann (throws), Jacob Gallagher (throws), Seth Mason (throws) and Nigel Hackenbrackt (distance). Tyler Rizer (sprints), Zach Israel (sprints), Lindy McConnell (distance) and Ben Newell (throws) comprise the juniors.
With the heavy losses to graduation, Ridgewood will turn to some young performers to help fill that void.
"We're going to rely on some young guys this year, which has not been the case the last few years," Lahmers said. "I have three sophomores that I feel will contribute in some way this year."
The other sophomores are Laken Bluck (sprint/jumps) and D.J. Varian (sprints/jumps).
Freshmen include Matt Saylor (distance), Matt Leitz (sprints), Jarrett Art (sprints, jumps, hurdles), Blake Feldner (throws), Tommy Montague (sprints), Thor Reed (distance), Sam Bucher (distance), Colton Buchanan (throws), Derek Ridenhour (sprints) and Phillip Shannon (distance).
Lending support to Lahmers as assistant coaches will be varsity assistant Dan Smith while Nate Carpenter will guide the junior high program.
A new season brings with it change in leadership for the Ridgewood girls' track team this spring season as Brendan McKee takes over as coach.
"We have some good numbers too work with," said McKee, who
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participated in track and cross country at Walsh University. "Hopefully, we still have some girls working into June at the state level...that's the goal this year. We'd also like to grab one of the top two spots in the IVC this year."
Leading the Lady Generals will be a trio of athletes coming off strong seasons a year ago, headlined by senior Meghan Cunningham, who was a state qualifier in the pole vault last year.
"We're fortunate to have a strong senior class that has some top performers led by Meghan. She's our top pole vaulter, and in fact is teaching me some things about pole vaulting, which is exciting," McKee said. "I really feel she will have a shot at making it back to the state meet this season."
A pair juniors who each qualified for regional last year are back in Maddy Jones (high jump/distance) and Victoria Wiggins (high jump/sprints).
"Victoria and Maddy are out top two juniors," McKee said. "They both placed high in the IVC last year and then made it to regionals. I'm expected some big things from both of them."
McKee is expected his trio of veteran performers to provide needed leadership to the rest of his team.
"It's nice to have three girls who have had some success on the track," McKee said. "That helps set a good example for our younger girls, and they can help out by keeping things running smoothly. I can't be everywhere all the time and they will be a big help in that area."
In addition to Cunningham, Jones and Wiggins other returning lettermen for RHS include seniors Joy Heller, Kayla Tedrick, Alaynee Wright, Shelby Matchett, Katie Share and Ali Lusk. Juniors back are Kira Smalley, Stormie Curry, Lauren Preston, Kennedy Newell, Leigh Allman and Mackenzie Bates.
Newcomers for the Lady Generals are led by sophomore Jessica McCoun, a transfer from Newcomerstown who lettered as a freshman.
"McCoun can place high in may events in the IVC," McKee said. "But she will focus on the 400, she will be a real plus for us this year."
Other newcomers who McKee feels can make an impact include freshmen Hollie Schwab and Kadie Conkle.
"Hollie will look to help out in the hurdles," McKee said. "Kadie is a real versatile athlete that can add to our relays."
Rounding out the Ridgewood roster will be sophomores Winter Preston, Regina Heck and Amanda Matchett, along with freshmen Marissa Whitt, Cora Thompson, Makayla Zimmerman and Bryse Gilmore.
"We're excited for the season and feel we will be competitive in the IVC," McKee said. "We have some sound runners that will show in our relay teams and we are strong in all of our field events. Hopefully we will still have some athletes competing throughout the season until June."
Veteran coach Darryl Ball will be assisting McKee.
McKee is anxious to bring a few new way of doing things from his college track days to his first high school coaching job.
"I've already changed the way we do a few things around here," McKee said. "I was a miler in high school and college and I'm hoping to build up over distance and middle distance runners. There's a lot of athletes here at Ridgewood, so the talent is here we just need to fine tune a few things."