Belancic Looks to Keep Central Track at High Level
By TRACY WATSON
After a stellar track and field career at Wheeling Central High School, Head Coach Eric Belancic has continued to keep the Maroon Knights’ boys’ and girls’ programs competing at a high level since taking over.
The 2017 season should be no different on either side.
Central has plenty of talent returning on a girls’ squad that finished third place in the Class A state meet last year, after picking up a team runner-up finish in 2015. The Knights are also defending Class A/AA OVAC champions.
Belancic’s girls should once again be very strong in the relay events, where they captured state championships in the 4X100, 4X200 and 4X400-meter relays last season. The one constant in all three is junior Nikki Nolte, who not only took home gold in the three relays, but is also a two-time state champion in the 400-meter dash.
Sophomore Kenadee Wayt was a state placer in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes, along with the 4X100 while classmate Nicole Billie placed in the 400 and appeared on 4X400 title winner. Sophomore Ireland Wayt, Kenadee’s twin sister, was a member of both the 4X200 and 4X400 quartets.
“I am very excited about this season,” Belancic said. “I feel that even though we are a young team, we are also an experienced team because these girls have shown they can handle the pressure in big meets and big situations.
“We work hard and believe in our abilities and I know we can compete at a high level at any meet we attend.”
The remainder of the Maroon Knights’ roster is comprised of senior Monica Minor (800, 4X800); juniors Maria Dzmura (100, 200, 4×100, 4×200) and Caroline Lestitian (3,200, 4×800). Freshmen are Camryn Blair (100, 200), Meliyah Gayton (100, 200), Ally Persinger (100, 200), Jaden Thomas (100, 200, shot put) and Hannah White (100, 200).
Dzmura was also a member of the state championship 4X100 and 4X200 squads.
Success has also been achieved by the boys’ team in recent seasons with last year’s team winning an OVAC 1A/2A title and finishing fifth at Charleston.
Returners to the squad include three members of the state champion 4X400 team in seniors John Burkhalter and Brother Jackson and sophomore Bray Price. Burkhalter also took second in the 110-meter high hurdles while Jackson finished fourth in the 400.
“I have just as much excitement in this boys’ team as I do the girls,” Belancic added. “Our seniors have finished well in races for the last three seasons and are now poised to do even bigger things on the track this year.
“We are the defending OVAC champions and our goal is to repeat there. The kids are working very hard, and they are hungry. I think this will be another very successful season.”
Other seniors competing are Emil Capito (800, 4×800), Michael Niggemyer (100, 200) and Alex Quinn (300 hurdles, shuttles) while juniors are Robert Kahle (400, 800, 4X800), Michael Runkee (shot put), Jack Stryker (800, 4×800), Cedric Williams (100, 200, 400, long jump, high jump), Jimmy Zecca (100, 200, 400) and Timmy Wensel (800, 4×800). Sophomore athletes include Luke Duplaga (shot put), Edoardo Ghigo (1600) and Quinton Thomas (800, 4×800, 1600, 3200) while the freshmen are Jeremiah Blackmore (100, 200, 400), Timmy McCabe (shot put), Curtis McGhee (100, 200) and Manny Miller (100, 200).
Coach Tom Hart has three returning state meet qualifiers to highlight the Dragons 2017 edition.
“We compete in Region One and it is always the toughest in the state,” Hart admitted. “It’s loaded every year from top to bottom and with the addition of Ritchie County this season, it’s stronger than ever.”
Leading the way is senior Ben Hart, Tom’s nephew, who is a two-time state qualifier and 2016 regional champion in the 1,600-meter run. Also back are juniors Wyatt Wingrove and Jose Stern, both state qualifiers as sophomores.
That trio will help form Cameron’s 4X800 and 4X400 squads with Wingrove and Stern both splitting time between the 800 and 3,200-meter runs. Wingrove could also see some action in the sprints with both also in the middle-distances.
Junior Justin Schrack and freshman Zane Clutter will both compete in mid and long distance events and both could see time as the fourth member of the two longer relay races. Sophomores Ian Simms and Dillon Meintel return in the hurdling events, including the shuttles.
First-year performers Logan Mackey, Travis Mickey, Matthew Richea and Andrew Richea should help provide depth in the sprints and sprint relays. Mickey may also participate in the long jump and high jump. Senior letterman Austin Cain and first-year sophomore Hayden Hoge will handle the shot put and discus.
Adam Starcovic, another sophomore, will take part in the middle distance events and long jump.
“We are a fairly young team with Ben (Hart) and Austin (Cain) our only seniors,” Tom Hart added. “Half of this team are out for track for the first time, so we are very happy to have them. We will look at them in different events and see where they can perform at their bests and work them in with our returners.
“One thing we do have this season is depth and flexibility.”
Cameron girls’ coach Matt Burge has a nice place to start in senior Caitlin McCurdy, who is a four-year member of the team and a two-time state qualifier. But McCurdy isn’t alone with juniors Bailey Lucas, Peri Gray and Sophia Aston all returning on the state-qualifying 4X800 team with her.
Also back are seniors Claire O’Neil (100, 200, long jump), Angela Starcovic (100, 200, long jump) and Jasmine Jasner (shot put, discus). Junior Faith Wright also returns from an injury-filled sophomore campaign in the hurdles.
First-year participants are juniors Bailey Lyons and Kelsie Meintel; sophomores Kayleigh Neely, Raven Strope, Shelby Berardi and Carlee Francis and freshman Madison Stevey.
Jake Lemmons will assist Burge.
If you are looking for somewhere to start with Coach Bob Kolanko’s Blue Dons, you need look no further than four-year athlete Lea Colantonio. The senior dandy is coming off a season in which she was third in the 100 in Charleston and was on the fifth place 4X400 unit.
“Lea came to us four years ago and instantly made an impact on the track, both in performance and setting the standard by which the girls strive to become,” Kolanko said. “She constantly strives for perfection with her form and her attitude.
“From the start to the finish, she is as quick and as smooth as anyone I have ever seen, and she competes hard at every meet and in every event.”
Senior Gianna Antinone and junior Emily Rovira are also back to join Colantonio on the 4X400 once again. Antinone will also look to continue to make strides in the 400 and will concentrate on the shorter sprints as well. Rovira is also a member of the 4X100 and 4X200 relays as well as the shuttles.
Rebecca Garan, a four-year thrower will be joined by senior newcomer Hayley Timko, who has already been inked to play soccer at Edinboro University next season. Timko will also run mid-distance while Garan continues to twirl the discus.
Sophomores Abby Nickerson and Makayla Virden are two athletic girls that Kolanko feels he can fit into just about any event and will both most likely be on the 4X800 quartet. Nickerson will also be a hurdler.
A group of five freshmen will include Madison Costello, Carly Dowiak, Francesca Fulciniti, Kali Krynicki and Kennedy Martin.
“This freshman class has the potential to really be something special,” Kolanko said. “They are young, athletic and energetic, a combination that I hope will spell future success for us.”
Krynicki will be a fine addition to the distance events as well as the high and long jumps; Costello is a long jumper and mid-distance runner while Fulciniti has been impressive in the 800 and 1,600. Martin is a rare combination of a distance runner along with throwing the shot put and discus.
Like the Blue Don girls, Coach Marva Jeter’s boys’ squad is a smaller group with plenty of potential and a rare kind of athlete to build around.
That athlete is senior standout Tavon Jeter, who as a junior finished third in the 110-high hurdles, second in the long jump and third in the 200-meter dash. It was the Jeter’s first time taking part in the hurdles.
Juniors Max Fido and Joey Garan both run the 800 and 1,600 and Coach Jeter hopes they might both pick up another event this season. Sophomore Donovan Kirby is looking to concentrate on the throwing events, but has the ability to participate on the track as well.
New to the squad are sophomores Landon Hollis (sprints) and Jacob McCombs (sprints) while junior Jacob Todd will run the 800. Sophomores Robby Valenti (weights) and James Todd (sprints) will be joined by promising freshman Angelo Harvey (distance).
“We are a small group this year, but we will be concentrating on putting individuals in more events,” Marva Jeter added. “And while we may be small, I feel we are also mighty, and I am expecting great things from this group.”
The Bishops of Coach Nicole Leach may not have big numbers entering the season, but they definitely have big hopes and aspirations. Donahue has returning Captains in Trent Kalcum-Snyder on the boys’ side and Tessa Bauer for the girls, however, they are two of only 11 athletes combined.
Kalcum-Snyder will participate mainly in the 200 and 400 while Bauer will lend her skills to the 100 and 100-meter high hurdles and relays.
The only other senior on the roster is on the girls’ team in Victoria Potts, who will once again compete in the shot put and discus. Juniors Alyssa Ehni (100, 100 hurdles) and Kenzie Bauer (discus) are back while Sophia Gretchen (200, 400, discus, relays) is new to the squad, but could be a huge addition.
Ally Berletch (400, relays) and Naila Thomsen (100, 200) are the only sophomores on the girls’ squad while the boys will have Vinny Mangino (field events). Riley Crow (mid-distance, distance) and Josh Young (mid-distance, distance) are freshmen.
“We have a lot of things going on around us this season, but I think that has brought the kids out even more geared up and ready to go,” Leach said. “And while we may be a small team of just 11 athletes, you are not going to find any more heart on any other team.
“The kids are doing their best on and off the track to show we have our faith to keep us focused on where we need to be. If this happens to be our last season together as a family, we are sure going to make it the best.”
Katie Wallace takes over the girls’ program for the Cadets with former Head Coach Carrie Ochap moving over to cross country. Wallace inherits a young team, but as always there are no lack of athletes for Linsly.
A pair of junior sprinters lead the way, both returning for their third seasons, in Manny Raymond (100, 200) and Clare Miller (100, 200, 400). Raymond took second in 3A in both events last year while Miller is the team Captain and will join her in the shorter relays.
The Cadets have four seniors on the roster with Daniella Truong in her fourth campaign, Ka-Kevia Neely (100, 200), Mackenzie Manukin (100, 200, hurdles) and first-year participant Lolita Thompson. The only other junior is Shay Theaker (hurdles).
Sophomores are Emma Campsey (800, 1600), Kenzie Courtney (800, 1600), Gabby Grant, Cailey Dahlquist, Abby Wilson, Maddie Courtney and Sarah Munoru. Five of those seven are out for the first time. The freshman group includes Maddie Campsey (400, 800), Kylie Pell (100, 200), Olivia Swords, Athena Marlano (800, 1600, 3200), Hunter Smith, Tara Theaker and Faith Paull (100, 200).
“After graduating a lot of our distance runners last year, we are looking for our sprinters to be the strength and lead our team this year,” Wallace said. “We have a lot of talented runners who are new to Linsly track, and we are looking forward to a great season.”
Due to a coaching change and Linsly’s extended Spring break, no information was available for the Cadets’ boys’ team.
The Blue Eagles girls are coming off a huge 2016 season in which they captured the W.Va. Class A state championship while Head Coach Mike Harwick picked up the girls’ track coach of the year award.
And while there are shoes to fill, mainly those of Bri Ritz, who was the fifth highest scorer in the state meet, there are plenty of returning standouts as well. Also gone from last year are Mandi Theodoro, the school record holder in the pole vault, Rachel Arbogast, Sofia Herrick and Cedar Sands.
There is plenty of senior leadership also with Jordan Delaney and Bailey Estep leading the way, and hoping to help Magnolia make some more noise in 2017. Delaney won the 3,200 last year in Charleston and is the two-time defending state champion in 1,600 as well. She finished third in the final individual scoring last year.
Estep, meanwhile, will run sprints and also continue to compete in her specialties, the long jump and high jump, where she is the school record-holder in both events.
The remainder of the senior roster has Kristen Massey (sprints, hurdles, pole vault), Anna Zills (throws), Alayna Cline (long jump, high jump, sprints), Autumn Cecil (throws), Zoa Duke (throws, high jump, long jump) and Kelsi Chapman (sprints).
Megan Cunningham (throws) is the only junior on the team with Bre Barbera (distance, mid-distance), Olivia Mensore (high jump, long jump, sprints), Kennedy Parsons (sprints, long jump, high jump) and Gabby Cecil (sprints, mid-distance) making up the sophomore class.
Freshmen are Sierra Walker (sprints, hurdles), Kyndra Pilant (throws), Liza Clegg (sprints, long jump, high jump), Karina Patel (distance, mid-distance), Abby Wise (throws), Taylor Martie (sprints, long jump, high jump), Riley Klug (sprints) and Aubrey Hall (distance, mid-distance).
Coach Travis Emch’s Big Blue boys will again be strong in the relays with three legs of the 4X100 and 4X200, that both placed second in Charleston, return while there are two back in the shuttle squad that was fifth.
Leading the way on relays will be senior Riley Nice (sprints, hurdles, relays) and juniors Brooks Parsons (sprints, high jump, relays), who took sixth in the 400, and Jack Booth (sprints, hurdles, long jump, relays). Booth and Nice are also the two returning members of the shuttle hurdle relay team.
Seniors include Peau Halahangano (sprints, long jump), Justin Rice (throws), Trenton Robinson (distance) and Chase Street (sprints) while juniors are James Moore (sprints), Zach Ware (throws) and Hunter Partridge (sprints). Sophomores are Jacob Myers (sprints), Spencer Shepherd (distance), Jay Eller (throws), Ethan Herrick (distance), Austin Pyles (distance), Tyler White (throws), Josh Arrick (throws) and Damon Witschey (throws).
The freshman class has Caleb Wilkinson (sprints), Jared Barrows (throws) and Jakob Barrows (throws).
The Silver Knight boys have a full roster of 27 athletes, including 17 returners and 10 that competed in last year’s state meet.
“These kids came to practice ready to compete,” Coach Jill LeMasters said. “And with all these athletes it is going to be nice to fill most, if not all, of the track events.”
Trent Shepherd and Tyler Anderson will lead the etam in sprints, relays and long jump. Both were members of the Silver Knights’ state championship 4X100-meter sprint relay team. Shepherd is also looking to go under 11 seconds in the 100 while Anderson set a school record in the long jump (21-4.5) and he is looking for a state record this year (22-1.75)
Levi Morgan and Jarrett LeMasters are both back in the pole vault and will look to be top contenders in Charleston again, where they finished second and third, respectively, last year.
The hurdling events will be handled by Hunter Wells, Nathan Barker and Jarett LeMasters, who teamed with graduated senior Josh Peck for sixth in the shuttles. Gavin Corley, Destry Nelson, Brandon Bonar, Josh Frum and Dan Miller will be the distance runners.
Returning members who will compete in multiple events include Aaron Warner, Nick Gorby and Try Pittman. A couple of big holes will need to be filled in the weight events where Hogan Wells (West Liberty University) and Devon Harris (Glenville State College), have both moved on. Trying to fill their shoes will be Dylan Glover, Jesse Doak, Sebastian Hooks and River DiBell.
Newcomers to the team, who should help in relays and short and mid-distance, are P.J. Wright, Riley Leasure, Zack Placer, Mark Rucker and Jonathan Miller. Distance runners and relays could include Trey Keys, Garrett Littell and Brandon Wise while Jason Sharp and Littell will also throw.
“There are kids still fighting for spots and events, and we are trying to fit them into the best situations,” LeMasters said. “But it is very exciting to have all these kids. Most of our returners have set goals and it will be nice to see some of those accomplished.”
Chad Gruber’s girls’ team is also well stocked with 20 competitors set to begin the campaign. A total of 10 of those girls are back, with five having taken part in last year’s state meet.
Back from last year are sophomore Emily Lancaster, an eighth place finisher in the pole vault who hopes to better that mark this year, as well as juniors Asia Keller and Jahnvi Duncan. They are the two returning members of the state-qualifying 4X800 unit.
Seniors Tessa Boyd and Isis Moore both have competed in Charleston with Moore running in the 4X200 two seasons ago before being hit with injuries last year, while Boyd barely missed a return trip in the 1,600.
Joining Duncan in the distance events will be freshmen Sarah Hashman and Emma Paden, both of whom could be the missing pieces to fill in the 4X800. Experienced juniors include Demery Nelson and Rosana Smith along with sophomores Lindsay Streets, Abby Kemp, Lily Billiter and Sierra Wright. Kemp and Wright will be the throwers while the others will concentrate on sprints and field events.
New to the squad are sophomore Katie Pratt (sprints, mid-distance), Rachel Thomas, Racchal Hashman, Kirshana Smith, Alex Mongold, Melissa Chapman and Katie Miller. Gruber points out that group is still working to see what events suits them best and could end up almost anywhere.
“We have 20 girls out with 14 of them underclassmen,” Gruber said. “Unfortunately, we had some seniors decide not to return this year, but it’s going to give our younger runners a chance to get a lot more experience and growth this season. There are still a lot of decisions to be made on individual events, but Coach Brenna Hagerty and myself are optimistic and looking forward to the start of the season. We are very happy with the group of girls that we do have out.”
Coach Kim Huffman feels like the Wildcats will be strong in the relay events, especially the shuttles, heading into the 2017 campaign. A total of 10 athletes dot the Paden City roster, seven of which are returning.
Wildcat seniors are Jake Pierce, Cade Myers, Wesley Smith and Cade Crislip while juniors returning include Landon Smith, Seth Bohrer and Richie Bertozzi. New to the squad are junior Tavian Shafer and freshmen Damien Britton and Paxton Pierce.
“We should have a good season in the relay events and I believe our freshmen will contribute to the distance events,” Huffman said. “Some of them ran cross country for me in the fall.”
First-year coach Tiffany Heintzman has even less to work with as only three girls are on the Wildcats roster. Breiona Henthorn is a junior and will be used on the track and in field events as will freshman Brianne Goddard. Freshman Destiny Harrison will be the team’s sprinter as well as compete in the long jump and hurdles.
“The numbers are down for our girls’ team,” Heintzman said. “But reinforcements are on the way next season with a large and athletic middle school track team.”