By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
and Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
TROY — The Troy boys cross country team may be young this season.
But the Trojans were young last season, too — and they return all four of their top runners from last year’s team that finished third in its final season in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division. And with that year of experience for everyone, the Trojans are hoping to start off competition in the Miami Valley League strong.
Troy only has two seniors on the roster this season.
“We’re going to be a really young team,” Troy coach Phil Matthews said. “We graduated six or seven seniors last year that have been the backbone of the team for a long time. But honestly? I see our youth as a good thing, because our underclassmen have really been leaders.”
Senior Austin Zonner returns along with junior Josh Lovitt and sophomores Braden Coate and Will Schaefer — with Coate and Lovitt being the team’s two returning regional qualifiers. Senior Carson DeHart is also on the roster and will help push the team in practice, and a large freshman class will be competing for varsity spots, as well.
“Will, Braden, Josh and Austin are the only returning varsity runners this year, but they’ve looked great all summer,” Matthews said. “We’re excited to see what they can do this year.
“We’ll have to see which freshmen end up five, six and seven this year. We’ve got some talent in the freshman class, but we don’t really know what they’re capable of yet. It’s a big jump going from a two-mile to a 5K.”
And though the league’s name is new this year, Troy knows what it will be up against in the MVL — particularly last year’s GWOC American North champion, Tippecanoe. The Trojans also missed out on a trip to the regional as a team by a mere three points, and they’ll be looking to punch through this season.
“Tipp is always strong competition, plus there will be some individuals from other schools that are pretty tough,” Matthews said. “Our goals are pretty similar to last year, though. We always want to compete for a league title and make it out of the districts and regionals. We were only three points away from the last regional qualifying spot last year, so this year our goal is to get out of districts as a team.”
PIQUA — Seth Fashner returns as coach.
The team will be led by senior Mitch Fletcher and sophomore Noah Campbell.
Other seniors include Gaven Barnes, Roy Moreaux and Dakota Ward.
Other sophomores include Noah Baker, Cael Barr, Connor Brush, Jesse Furman, Bryce Gephart, Paul Hinds, Jacob Ward and Gaven Wiles.
“We had a good group of seniors and really strong group of sophomores,” Fashner said. “We have the depth at the 3-4-5 spots, which will show up in big meets.”
It is Piqua’s first year in the MVL.
“We are excited about it,” Fashner said. “I think we will be very competitive.”
TIP CITY — Tippecanoe’s boys return a loaded group that won the final Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title last season — its second title in three seasons as a member of the league. And with the returners the Red Devils have coming back, they’ll be a big threat in the new Miami Valley League.
Back is Bryce Conley, who was All-Ohio in cross country and track season — including a state runner-up finish during track in the spring. Also back are seniors Brennan Larned, Landon Fraylick, Brady Shilt and Austin Rogers and juniors Trenton Brown and Allan Murray.
“The boys team was bumped up to Division I, but this is one of our more experienced teams and talented teams,” said 11th-year coach Byron Kimmel. “The team finished 12th in the state in D-II last year, but this is one of the better teams we’ve had since our state runner-up finish in 2015. We should be in the mix for a berth to the state meet in D-I this year.”
WEST MILTON — Milton-Union returns a pair of top-10 finishers from last year’s Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division meet, and if the Bulldogs can find some depth they will be in the running to retake the top spot after finishing second as a team last year.
Senior Tristen Persinger, junior Chris Miller and sophomore Eric Trittschuch return from last year’s team to lead the way.
“We will have three very good runners with these three guys,” said Milton-Union coach Michael Meredith, who is in his 20th year with the team. “Hopefully we can develop a few more kids to help compete.”
COVINGTON — Josh Long returns as coach.
Junior Bennett Welborn is back to lead the Buccaneers.
Also returning are Tyler Alexander, Jaden Barhorst, Zane Barhorst, Owen Boehringer, Devan Brummitt, Fletcher Metz, Owen Rawson, Avery Rench, Ayden Rench, Andrew Rose and Michael Schaefer.
Top newcomers will be Mic Barhorst, Gavin Finley and Warrick Reck.
“The league will be very competitive this season,” Long said. “We hope to be running our best when we get to that point in the season.”
• Miami East
CASSTOWN — Miami East had a rough season last year, finishing eighth in the Cross County Conference. But with an experienced group coming back and a quality freshman class, the Vikings are hoping to climb that ladder this season.
Seniors Michael Bair and Alex Hayes and junior Garrett LeMaster return from last year’s team and have been working hard in the offseason, while freshman Dylan Barnes leads the group of newcomers.
“We hope to have a much improved season,” said Alan Russell, who returns for his 11th season with the Vikings. “Michael looks in great shape, and Alex and Garrett should also be able to have some great performances this year. They will be matched with a very talented roster of incoming freshmen. If those individuals are able to adopt the 5K, we should be able to have some great team finishes.
“We are always looking to improve year to year. Last year, we finished eighth in the CCC meet, and we should be able to make great improvements on that placement from last year. We hope to be able to place much higher in our league and hopefully go farther in the postseason.”
PLEASANT HILL — Audrey Hughes returns as coach.
The Indians will be led by sophomore Ben Hoover, juniors Owen Via and Jacob Moore and senior Curtis Shellenberger.
“The guys would like a top three finish in the CCC,” Hughes said. “They would also like to make a Regional appearance as a team. They have worked hard this summer and have already made multiple personal goals; which, is something that I feel is important for focus and a strong season.”
• Troy Christian
TROY — Troy Christian returns a trio of seniors from last year’s Metro Buckeye Conference championship team, and with a group of young runners to complement the veterans, the Eagles are looking for a repeat.
Senior Robert Ventura returns after winning an individual MBC title and qualifying for the state meet. He will be joined by seniors Aiden Tkach and Nate Hunnicutt and freshmen Noah Shook, Torin Schulte, Kyle Sebor and Connor Rogers.
“We will be going after the conference championship after winning it last year, but we will have some tough competition from Legacy Christian and Emmanuel Christian,” said Troy Christian coach Jeff McDaniel, who is back for his 18th year with the team. “Our team is made up of three seniors and four freshmen, so our seniors will need to be sure to pass on the great work ethic of past runners from TC and build up those important fourth, fifth and sixth runners.
“We will be working hard to repeat as conference champs and working to get the team through to run at the regionals in Troy.”
• Lehman Catholic
SIDNEY — Kyle Hermiller returns as coach.
Returning this season will be senior Alex Vanderhorst, juniors Scott Petersen and Andrew Wiseman and sophomore Casey Topp.
Top newcomers are freshman Wyatt Jackson and Hezekiah Bezy.
Hermiller hopes to be competitive in the Northwest Central Conference and with Waynesfield-Goshen at the conference meet.
“My goal for the boys this year is for them to develop a love for the sport,” Hermiller said. “We have graduated many of our lead runners in the past couple of years and so our boys have come together and supported each other very well to create a culture of of positive attitude and support for each other.
“Our six boys will likely be broken up into packs of three and three. I hope they are able to push each other in these packs in order to achieve personal bests this fall. I am very proud that they rally around each other so well and look for our senior Alex Vanderhorst to be a positive role model for our younger athletes this fall.”
Rob Grillot returns as coach.
Key returning runners include Jay Roberts, Aidan Beachler, Jared Shellabarger and Hunter Biddlestone; while key new runners include Jayden Dues and Dalton Reck.
“We would like to fill the role of being a league spoiler and place up among the top teams of the league,” Grillot said. “Generally speaking, we have an inexperienced team with only two seniors. However, with time I believe the underclassman will turn some heads.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter. Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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