When you talk West Virginia Class A track and field locally most of the attention normally goes to Wheeling Central, with Valley, Bishop Donahue, Weirton Madonna, Paden City and Cameron offering a little noise as well.
However, that conversation must now include a pair of former Class AA powers, each of whom has made their own respective noise in Charleston recently. Welcome Magnolia and Tyler Consolidated to the Class A track and field ranks.
Head Coach Matt Quinet's Blue Eagle boys finished third at the state meet a season ago after bringing home the gold in 2011 while J.C. Kimble's Silver Knight girls were second in 2011 and sixth in 2010.
Numbers are down, but spirits remain high at Wheeling Central where Coach Eric Belancic will try to keep his Maroon Knights at the top of the heap.
But Central will have to go on after losing three key components to its boys' team to graduation, including Daniel Scott who finished his career with the seventh highest mark in pole vault history at 14 feet, 7 inches. Also gone are Corey Bryan and Noah Clark.
A young squad will be led by senior Luke Harto in the long jump and sprints, however, he is the only upperclassman on the squad. Sophomores Adler Roth (distance) and Zach Fahey (sprints) return, but classmates Ryan Bartsch (sprints) and Peter Hartzell (shot put, discus) are new to the team as are freshmen Collin Spangler (sprints), Brent Blazier (shot put, discus) and Caleb Estep (distance).
The Maroon Knights girls were hit even harder by graduation, losing Addie Schneid, who was a relay specialist and a member of a highly decorated shuttle hurdle unit. Also graduated are Anna Pockl, Hannah Mason, McKensie Mason and Sarah Nolan.
Like the boys, Central's girls also have one senior in Aspen Matlock, who will lend her talents in the sprints and hurdles. Juniors are Ava Iuliucci (mid-distance), Bailey Clark (hurdles, sprints) and Courtney Garloch (distance) while returning sophomores include Holland Matlock (mid-distance) and Karina Smith (mid-distance).
Sophomore Kyli Glaser (mid-distance) is a newcomer and will join freshmen Natasha Georges and highly regarded sprinter Lindsey Baker, who Belancic is expecting big things from.
One of the area's best hopes for team, and plenty of individual, gold this year in Charleston is Quinet's Blue Eagles, who are no stranger to the top of the podium. And while the graduated trio of Alec Hinerman and Bill Feeney in the distance events and relay specialist and 400 runner Nick Blatt will hurt, there are plenty of stars remaining.
Leading the way is do-it-all athlete Stephen Rogalski, who has become well known throughout the state not only for his track ability but also as an All-State wide receiver in football and a key component to Magnolia's OVAC championship basketball team.
Rogalski finished second in the 200, second in the 400, seventh in the long jump and helped the 800-meter sprint relay unit to a second place finish a season ago. Another key component will be junior Kage Rohde, who was second in the long jump and fifth in the 400 last year.
The only other individual placer returning is senior James Haught who was sixth in the 800. Both Hinerman and Feeney placed in the distance events last year.
Rogalski and Rohde will be joined by senior Alex Pancake as returning members of the 800-relay squad while the sixth place 1,600-relay unit has Rohde and Haught, who is the only remaining athlete on the fourth place 3,200 relay team, back.
The remainder of Quinett's team includes Tyler Akers, Alex Anderson, Hunter Brill, Oscar Celedon, Mike Dantrassy, Gage Deem, Kenny Headley, Jarod Kacor, Ken Lafferty, Zac Lackhart, Paden McConaughtey, David McIvan, Hunter Melott, Jacob Pancake, Archie Petin Eric Piecarski, Devin Taylor, Charlie Wade, Michael Wade, Stephen White, Lane Whiteman and Brian Wilson.
Magnolia girls' coach Steve Ross is excited about the 2013 campaign with 12 returning members of his team and a strong freshman group that he is very excited about. Ross believes his team will be very strong in the distance events and have potential in the shorter events with the younger kids.
Senior distance runners Christa Harshberger (800, 1,600, 3,200) and Julianne McIlvain (1,600, 3,200) lead the way with classmate Sarah Goddard (100, 200, 400, 800, long jump) also a key component. Other distance runners include sophomore Katie Ensinger (1,600, 3,200) and freshmen Bri Ritz (400, 800, 1,600).
Juniors Lauren Cline (400, 800), Shelby Sands (400, 800) and Renee Smith (400, 800) are the mainstays in middle distance while classmate Emily Clegg is versatile (hurdles, 400, 800, high jump).
There are plenty of sprinters with Alyssia Murdock (200, 400) joining Goddard and junior Michaleen Taylor (200, 400) as the top upperclassmen. Sophomores Shannon Hoskings (200, 400) and Kiera Standiford (100, 200, hurdles) will be available along with freshmen Rachel Arbogast (100, 200, 400, high jump), Michelle Blizzard (hurdles, 100), Evan Dawson (100, 200), Sofia Herrick (100, 200, long jump), Anne Miller (100, 200), Cedar Sands (100, 200, hurdles, long jump), Courtney Slider (100, 200, hurdles, high jump, long jump), Mandi Theodoro (100, 200, long jump) and Hailey Waters (100, 200, long jump).
Returning in the weight events are seniors Emily Moulton, Tammy Tedrow and Haley White along with sophomore Traysa Robinson. Freshmen candidates are Blizzard, Dawson, Miller and Summer Timbs.
Kimble's girls did not fare as well last season as they had the previous two, but there are seven seniors and six juniors on his squad with experience and athletic ability over a variety of events.
Senior Haylea LeMasters returns after placing in three events in Charleston as a junior. LeMasters took fourth in the pole vault, eighth in the 100-meter high hurdles and teamed with Sami Jones, Allison Wable and Makayla Clegg for a runner-up finish in the shuttle hurdle relays. The good news for Kimble is that seniors Wable and Clegg both return this season.
Along with the shuttles, Wable will compete in the 1,600 and 300 hurdles while Clegg will run the high hurdles and high jump. Seniors Lauren Seckman (800, 1,600, 3,200) and Cortney Daugherty (800, 1,600, long jump) will be big parts of the distance events.
Classmate Torrye Cline will headline the sprints in the 100, 200 and 800 relay while the final senior in the group, Stephanie Kelley will handle the shot put and discus.
Other sprinters include juniors Carly Fletcher (400, 800 relay, 1,600 relay) and Hillary Casteel (200, 400 relay, 800 relay, long jump), sophomores Kerstyn Cline (100, 200, long jump) and Sydney Yoho (200) as well as freshmen Hannah Roberts (200), Sydney Glover (100, 200, 400 relay, high jump), Katelyn Gogan (200, relays), Hannah Casteel (200, sprints) and Madison Kissner (200).
Adding to the distance depth will be juniors Megan Carpenter (800, 1,600 relay, 3,200 relay), Kelly Rice (1,600, 3,200) and Caroline Bantug (800, 1,600, 3,200 relay), sophomores Haleigh Smith (800, 1,600, 3,200 relay) and Laura Jochum (1,600, 3,200) as well as freshmen Amber Watson (800, 1,600, 3,200, 3,200 relay), Becky Bolin (1,600, 3,200) and Rae VanCamp (400, 800).
Junior Megan Schlabowski will throw the shot and discus along with candidates sophomore Hannah Dennis and Breanna Yeater and freshman Kara Dalrymple. Sophomore Kaylee Hartsfield will add depth to the hurdles while freshmen Lacey Seckman, Baylee Roberts and Marisha Morris round out the roster.
Jill LeMasters has taken over the boys' program at Tyler Consolidated, which comes with a pair of highly decorated senior athletes.
Hunter LeMasters captured the Class AA state pole vault title last year in Charleston with a 13-6 effort after finishing in second the two previous seasons. He is a multi-talented performer who has also competed in the hurdles at the state meet and has even placed in the high jump.
Meanwhile, speedster Alex Doak has become one of the top local threats in the sprints and was third in the 400, fifth in the 200 and seventh in the 100 last year at the state meet.
They are joined by classmates Drew Casey, who is a veteran in both the shot put and discus, Christian Ice, who Jill LeMasters is hoping can be a key factor in the sprints and hurdles, and Jay Early, who is a thrower who was injured last year. Dustin Tawney and Gian Melchionna are first-timers who are still being evaluated while Scott Sole could also be a factor.
Junior Josh Ruble will be the second pole vaulter, and has already gone 11 feet while also helping in sprints, hurdles and relays.
A pair of juniors who are expected to be big contributors in the distance events are Dylan Reynolds and Ryan Dalrymple. The remainder of the junior class will be used mainly in relays and includes Swen Scheidemantal, Jacob Highley, Skyler Leasure and Mert Coskum.
There are three sophomores on the roster, all of whom look to back Casey in the weight events. The trio are Zack Zills, Nick Anderson and Ryan Rickets. Depth will be provided by freshmen Kyle Frum, Josh Peck, Daron Weekley, Chase Cooper, Julian Work and Scott Gorby.
''The team has a strong group of returning seniors who have experience and many accomplishments among them,'' Jill LeMasters said. ''Moving from Class AA to A will be a big step for us and we will be running with some tough competition in the likes of Magnolia, Doddridge County, Williamstown and St. Marys, which are all Class A and all in close proximity to us.
''But we feel like we can compete, even though we don?t have a big group of kids, we have enough experience that I believe will help us accomplish many strides.''
Things are also looking up for Cameron, as third-year Coach Tom Hart not only welcomes back a pair of former standouts, but also has a new facility to help get his Dragons ready for the upcoming season.
''The numbers have drastically improved for the boys' team,'' Hart said. ''We have 13 kids this year, and while only three of them have participated before we are really looking forward to the season. Another big advantage this year is the new mini-track located in the main gymnasium of the new high school.''
Weightman Hunter Chambers is the only senior on the roster with a five-man junior class that includes a pair of previous performers. Zach Hall was an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference placer and a state qualifier as a freshman before missing his sophomore campaign due to reconstructive knee surgery.
Hall will run the 100 and 200-meter dashes along with the 400 and 800-meter sprint relays and long jumping. Classmate Skylar Canas is back after taking season off and will be looked to in the 800, 1,600 as well as anchoring the 3,200 relay.
The other juniors are Dylan Coulter (800, 1,600, 3,200 relay), Joe Yoho (400, 800, 1,600 relay, 300IH) and Shane Williams (400 relay, 800 relay, 300IH, 110LH). Sophomores Clayton Ward and Kyle Schlieper will be used in the sprints and shorter relays, with Ward also in the long jump, while classmate Kyle Miller will run the 400, 800 and longer relays.
A total of four freshmen will all be involved in the shot put and discus. Jared Neehouse, Brandon Stern, Dalton Coulter and Devin Pettit all have the ability to join Chambers in the weight events. Neehouse will also run the 400 and the longer relays as well.
The girls' team will have a new look with long-time coach David Evans hanging up his clipboard after 22 seasons and handing the reins over to Matt Burge.
Leading the way will be three of the four members of Cameron's state-qualifying 3.200-meter relay unit in Rena Reid, Jordyn Higginson and Jenson James. Reid also advanced to Charleston in the 800-meter run. Cheyenne Debolt and Sammy Debolt return in the shot put and discus while first-year performers Leah Stern (sophomore) and freshman Maddie Ross will add depth in the sprints and relay teams.
Boys' coach Kim Huffman has a big problem on her hands, but it is a good one - how to handle and what events to run 19 kids in, the most the Wildcats' roster has seen in over five seasons.
Along with the larger than normal roster, Huffman has a squad that consists of just one senior, one junior, six freshmen and a big, athletic group of 11 talented sophomores. There are, however, only six letter-winners back.
''It is the most kids we have had in a while and I am very excited about that,'' Huffman said. ''Our main focus will be on sprint relays and hurdles. We have not had a shuttle team in a few years, but we will this year. We have a couple of freshmen that I am excited about and some other kids as well.''
The freshmen are hurdlers Logan Carroll and Deven Price while the other timber-toppers include sophomores Brandon Cross, Kennedy Cain and Dean Frye, all of which are back from a season ago. The other two returners are junior Austin Quinn and sophomores Denton Thomas and Kane Pyles.
Drew Bidwell is the lone senior on the roster while the remainder of the junior class includes Matthew Greathouse, Michael Lanham, Zach Heasley, Kalob Byers and foreign exchange students Michael Hung and Peak Chansawang. The remaining freshmen are Tyler Kiger, Kris Byers, Travis Leonard and Dakota Gatain.
While experience is certainly lacking for Coach Jason Salva's girls, there are 10 underclassmen joining a junior and two seniors who are ready to learn.
Leading the way will be senior returnees Logan Cosper and Lynnsie Parsons along with junior Josie Fox and sophomore letter-winners Kayla Hizer and Mallory Estel.
New to the squad and hoping to learn quickly are sophomore Abigail Demko and freshmen Aubrey Ritchie, Chelsea Dennis, Erin Richmond, Michaela Askew, Miranda Reynolds, Natasha Tallarity and Taylor Cosper.
Coach Eric Nejus will again look toward his relay teams on both the boys' and girls' sides to lead the way for the Blue Dons.
On the girls' front, Madonna sent all five of its relay teams to Charleston a season ago and returns everyone in a pair and three girls in the remaining three baton-passing events. The biggest loss, however, is Kaitlyn Conner, who is on the track team at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Conner was a member of both the 400 and 800 teams that both finished seventh last year along with taking fourth place in the long jump.
She also anchored the shuttle hurdle relay team that took fifth place. The 1,600 team returns everyone in sophomore Cammie Dowiak, Molly Paven, Basil and Anile while the 3,200 is full with Dziatkowicz, Dowiak, sophomore Gabrielle Kotten and junior Shelby Kirk.
Among the biggest returning factors is senior Taylor Pavan who brought a state championship back to Hancock County with a 108 feet, 9 inch twirl of the discus and also qualified in the shot put.
The remainder of the girls' team includes sophomore Hannah Barger and freshmen Chloe Conner, Tessie Tokash, Elijah Dillie, Hannah Barger and Domonique Brown.
''Our relay teams should do very well and we feel that the shuttles are our strongest event,'' Nejus said. ''Sophomore Hanna Barger qualified in the 800 last year, but could not make the trip to Charleston, and Chloe Conner looks to step in and follow in her sister's (Kaitlyn) footsteps.
''Overall, our numbers are down, but we return some experienced running with plenty of state qualifiers in the relay events. In addition, we have some exciting underclassmen that could contribute right away.''
Similar to the girls, the Blue Dons boys sent four relay teams to the state meet and will return three athletes on each one of them. Nate Nero is the only graduated member from a 400 team that took fourth while the eighth place 1,600 team had only one defector.
Senior Garrett Hypes, junior Elliott Nero and sophomore Marquise Jeter are all back in both the 400 and 800 relays while junior Gabe Hypes, Garrett Hypes and Elliott Nero return in the 1,600 relay and Gabe Hypes, sophomore Anthony Basil and senior Alan Green are back in the 3,200 relay.
Also available for events are seniors Dominic Notay and David Cullinan, juniors Garrett Bever, Stevie Maus, Josh Smearman, Geuntue Kim, Ross Comis and Marcello Biondillo and freshmen Lorenzo Basil, Ricky Daddario, Thaiddeus Dillie and Adam Davis.
Green and Smearman will be the main distance runners while Anthony Basil and Lorenzo Basil will handle the middle-distance events. Bever will be the main competitor in field events.
''Senior Garrett Hypes and Alan Green are our leaders after losing Nathan Nero to graduation,'' Nejus added. ''Relays will again be key here, and the 400 should be our best event. Numbers are actually up on the boys' side and the kids are maturing and looking to improve on some state finishes this season.
''We have some exhilarating underclassmen and some new faces that potentially could make us more competitive right away.''
The trio of senior Makenna Dziatkowicz, junior Gianna Anile and sophomore Molly Pavan are all back in the two shorter relays with Dziatkowicz, Anile and junior Francesca Basil all back in the shuttles, as only Conner is missing.
Life without state champion sprinter Casey Pingley begins, but for Coach Leslie Lively the cupboard is anything but bare.
Senior Spencer Mason returns and is looking to return to Charleston and take care of some unfinished business himself. Mason finished second in the shot put and third in the discus in 2012, but is looking for gold this time around.
Lively is also counting heavily on his other four seniors with Brett Christensen in the distance events, Troy Hubbard in the hurdles, especially the 300s, Caleb Norris in the hurdles and Chuck Roberts who can run distance, sprints and will even give the pole vault a shot this season.
Just two juniors are on the roster in weightmen Wesley Dulaney and Russel Stout while the sophomore class includes Nathan Arnolds (distance), Travis Slater (shot put, discus), Trey Smith (hurdles), Lathe Ueltschy (multi-purpose), Jack Wells (high jump, multi-purpose) and Tyler Williams (shot put, discus).
A large freshmen class has Tucker Cain (mid-distance, pole vault, long jump), Joey Goontz (hurdles, mid-distance), Kale Lloyd (sprints, discus), Cole McGee (distance, hurdles, high jump), Joey Preat (hurdles, high jump), Austin Rogers (pole vault, sprints, mid-distance), Trey Streets (sprints, long jump) and Rocky DeBolt (shot put, discus).
''We are going into the season looking to defend the OVAC Class A title we won a season ago,'' Lively said. ''This is a hard-working group that is going to be fun to watch and we are very excited with all of the great athletes we have this season.
''Many of these kids participated in the indoor track season this year and have been running and throwing since last season ended in Charleston. We have a lot to prove, but the kids will do their best at all of our meets.''
Deb Kocher returns as head coach of the girls' squad with just one returning state qualifier and a youthful team that does not include a senior.
Junior Abby Willey advanced to Charleston in the long jump and will be joined by classmates Mary Bassett and Amy Mason, whom Kocher feels could make some noise in the discus. Sophomore Sammi Roberts leads a class of three that also includes Samantha Dulaney and Andrea Loy. Roberts will be counted on to heave the shot put.
A strong, and speedy, freshman class has Savanna Bates, Olivia Brooks, Erin Brown, Katelyn Brown, Marah Dudgeon, Rebecca Gill, Cassidy Price and Bailea Underwood.
Former standout Ken Barrows takes over both the Bishop Donahue boys' and girls' programs and will be dealing with small rosters and little experience.
While the Bishops will be missing a couple of athletes who chose not to participate this season, the biggest loss is that of graduated Tyler Zahnow who took third in both individual hurdling events, fourth in the 100 and anchored Donahue's second place shuttle hurdle relay team last year at the state meet.
Senior Saquan Hill is back and could be someone to keep an eye on in the high jump, and is also the only remaining member of the Bishops' 2012 shuttle team. Jacob Zombek is a three-year competitor in the weights and is back for his senior campaign.
Junior David Beazel is the only returning individual placer at the state meet, taking eighth in the 800, and will continue in his specialty along with the 400 and 1,600. Classmate Gabe Mickey is a three-year returnee in middle-distance while Chris Vani is back in the shot put and discus.
Sophomore Bill Bauerle is back in the hurdles while Chase Padlow is available in the throws and freshman David Coleman will run sprints.
The girls' team will be led by four-year letter-winner Becky Beiter and three-year performer Liz Potts. Beiter will again compete in the shot put and discus with Potts in the sprints. Alexa Tweedlie is back in the hurdles for her third season while junior classmate Shannon Barrows is in her second campaign in the hurdles and jumps.
Sophomore Taylor Koontz (mid-distance) and Rebekah Trader (distance) will be joined by freshmen Shelby Davis (hurdles, jumps) and Adrienne Rulong (sprints).