By Rob Kiser
As the spring sports season nears its start, there are a number of local competitors returning who competed in the state track and field meet a year ago.
Versailles girls were the only team to compete in Division II last year, but they will be joined by the Tiger boys this year in D-II.
The Lady Tigers return a strong group from last year’s impressive showing at state, led by junior pole vaulter Jenna Frantz and the 4×400 relay team.
After an impressive debut season as a freshman in the pole vault, clearing 10-8 — Frantz soared to 12-4 in the pole vault last year at state to finish second.
And while the only girl to beat her was a senior, Frantz did not put herself in the favorite role for this season at that time.
“Not at all,” she said at the state meet last year. “There is a freshman that looked really good. If we go back to D-III, there is a freshman there that is clearing 12-0. I went from 10-8 last year to 12-4. If I can continue to make that kind of improvement, I would be thrilled.”
Just as thrilling last year was the 4×400 relay team’s second-place finish in 3:56.70 last year after having the sixth fastest qualifying time in the semifinals.
Returning off that team are Camille Watren, Kayley Ruschau and Haley Winner, who teamed with Taylor Winner for that amazing finish a year ago.
“Indescribable,” Haley Winner said as she watched Watren nearly chase Akron St. Vincent St. Marys down on the anchor leg last year . “We came in there with the sixth fastest time and look what we did. If you had told me at the beginning of the year — heck, if you had told me yesterday, I would have never believed this. Having to only run one race definitely helped us, but I think we just needed to believe in ourselves.”
Haley Winner, Watren and Cassie Peters return from the 800 relay team that finished 10th in the semifinals a year ago in 1:45.59; while Winner and Peters return from the 400 relay team that finished 12th in the semifinals last year in 50.34.
Watren also competed in the 400 a year ago, finishing 11th in the semifinals in 59.91; while Madison Grilliot and Emily Langenkamp return from the 3,200 relay team that finished 16th in 9:59.95.
The Covington boys return three runners off last year’s 400 relay team that finished seventh at state in 44.48.
Ethan Herron, Brandon Magee and Shane Straw teams with Ben Miller to reach the podium a year ago.
While moving up to D-II this year, Versailles boys have some comeptitors with state experience.
Josh Steinbrunner finished 10th in the semifinals in the 110 hurdles in 15.39, just missing the finals; while Trevor Noggle, Mitchell Paulus and Noah Pleiman are back from the 3,200 relay team that finished 13th in 8:19.01.
Russia girls return a strong group from last year’s state meet.
Shaelyn Goubeaux, Grace York and Lauren Heaton return from the 3,200 relay team that teamed with Emily Borchers for fifth last year in 9:32.62.
Heaton, a state champion as a sophomore in the 400, placed sixth last year in 58.75 and Heaton and York were part of the 1,600 relay — with Borchers and Leah Francis — that finished eighth in 4:08.28.
Molly Kearns is back for the Lady Raiders after a 10th-place finish in the 3,200, 12:03.
Miami East discus thrower Megan Kinnison is back after just missing finals at state last year, finishing 10th with a distance of 118-2.
Covington returns three runners from the 400 relay team that ran at state last year.
Breanna Kimmel, Tori Lyle an Shae Robinson teamed with Heidi Cron to finish 12th in 1:49.14; while Lehman sprinter Alanna O’Leary returns after finishing 16th in the semifinals at state in the 200 as a freshman in 26.79.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.