Northmor boys’ track coach Kevin Ruhl has hopes for a great season behind a strong group of athletes led by two-time state champion Demetrius Johnson.
The senior claimed the state long jump title in Division III as a freshman and last year, as a junior. He also is the team’s top returning sprinter, having run in the 1600-meter relay at state, as well. Junior Alec Moore was also on that relay, while junior Drew Zoll was an alternate who ran several of the preliminary races that helped earn that relay a trip to state. Also back is junior Tony Martinez, a regional qualifier in the pole vault.
While the team graduated state competitors James Walker and Kolton Smith, Ruhl has a lot of newer faces he expects to earn points. Sophomore Gavvin Keen finished the cross country as the team’s top runner and is expected to help in the distance events. Senior Brock Pletcher is out for the first time since his freshman year, when he cleared over 18’6” in the long jump. Senior Conan Becker and sophomore Conor Becker both are coming off state placements in wrestling and will compete in sprints and relays. Also, Anthony Petulla is being counted on to help replace Smith and Walker in the hurdle events.
“Our strongest area is in the field events,” said Ruhl. “We should also be very competitive in the sprints and hurdles. I would say that our distance events and relays have to improve from last season for us to be able to compete for a league title. I think we will, but it’s yet to be shown on the track.”
The coach adds that Mount Gilead will also provide tough competition in the race for a league championship.
“Our goal would be to win the league, but it will be tough to do against a very good Mount Gilead team who returns a lot of guys from a great team from last year,” he said. “We also hope to get several guys to the state meet with a chance to compete. Obviously, we are excited for Demetrius Johnson to have a chance at a third state championship in the long jump.”
In his 23rd year with the girls’ program, Mark Yaussy also has high hopes for his squad. While they graduated Alex Borders from the throws, Selena Cortez from the throws and hurdles and Kristen Duryea from the distance events, there are still a lot of returnees.
Yaussy cited Brooke Bennett (sprints/mid-distance), Cristianna Boggs (sprints), Jessica Duryea and Sam Peters (distance), Julianna Ditullio (long jump/mid-distance) and Hope Miracle (pole vault/sprints) as key returnees.
He also has high hopes for prospects Natalie Bloom (hurdles/sprints), Katy Blunk and Julia Kanagy (distance) and Maleah Houghtby (sprints/hurdles).
“We have a nice mixture of youth and experience,” he said. “The girls are working hard and are very enthusiastic about the upcoming season. Team depth is a concern; however, we hope to try girls in multiple events to hopefully fill these voids.”
In the league, Yaussy thinks Mount Gilead will be the team to beat, also mentioning Fredericktown, Highland and Centerburg as strong squads.
“We hope to improve every week,” he said. “I feel we can be competitive every week and hope to be able to advance many athletes on to the regional and state meet.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS