TROY — For much of the past decade, the Troy girls track and field team has leaned heavily upon a seemingly endless streak of highly decorated, experienced returning letterwinners to help the Trojans stack up conference and district titles.
That won’t be the case this year, however. The Trojans were hit hard by graduation as seniors who were expected to accomplish big things saw their final season ripped away by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
In Troy girls track and field coach Kurt Snyder’s eyes, however, that does create opportunity and excitement as the Trojans return to the track this year.
“Honestly, it feels like I’m a first-year coach again,” said Snyder, who has guided the Trojans to nine-consecutive league titles and five-straight Division I district championships. “But that makes it that much more exciting for the kids. Our goals are still to win a conference title and get as many kids through to state as possible.”
The Trojans do have a pair of state placers returning in senior Brennah Hutchinson and junior Hannah Falknor, who both were a part of the 4×100 relay team that reached the podium in Columbus. Both also were part of the 4×200 relay team that qualified for state. Troy also returns a regional placer in junior pole vaulter Sophie Fong.
“We do have some experienced kids returning,” Snyder said. “We are going to need some of the other kids to step up and fill in at some of the other spots. This is their opportunity and we want them to take advantage of it.”
Hutchinson and Falknor lead a talented group of sprinters that will also include sophomore Leah Harnish, who was a junior high state champion, sophomore Catie O’Neill, a junior high state placer, senior Kaila Jones, junior Ansley Spence, sophomore Kara Steinke and freshman Lily Anderson. Running the longer sprints and middle distances will be senior Ella Curcio, sophomore Maddy Manson and sophomore Kiera Thomas.
“It’s a pretty young group, but there’s talent there,” Snyder said.
The versatile Falknor may also run hurdles this season. She’ll be joined by freshman Alyssa Kern, junior Anna Boezi, freshman Hannah Steggeman and freshman Lynette McKibbin.
“We had six senior hurdlers who graduated last year,” Snyder said. “It’s definitely one of our most inexperienced events. We don’t have a single girl who has ever run the 100 hurdles in high school.”
Senior Dinah Gigandet, a regional qualifier and future Ohio State runner, will pace the Trojans in the distance events. Juniors Emma Kennett and Renee Kovacs also were a part of the 4×800 relay team that qualified for regionals two years ago. Sophomore Millie Peltier, senior Hannah Markeson, senior Atlantis Smith and sophomore Ashley Kyle also will be running distance events.
In the shot put and discus, the Trojans lose Lenea Browder, the most-decorated athlete in school history. Browder, who is now competing at Ohio State, was a two-time state champion in the discus, a state champion in the shot put and a state runner-up in the shot put. The Trojans do return junior Madison Harkins in the shot put. Sophomore Brynn Siler was a junior high state placer in the discus and a junior high state qualifier in the shot put.
Freshman Kiyah Baker, freshman Allison Ray, freshman Lena Walker and junior Ken’Naya Starr-Lewis also will be competing in the throws.
“(Throws coach Aaron) Gibbons is excited about the young group of throwers we have,” Snyder said.
In addition to Fong, also competing in the pole vault for Troy will be Kern, junior Maddy Dixon and sophomores Hannah Duff and Ally Wolfe. Dixon saw some varsity time for the Trojans as a freshman, while Duff was a junior high state placer.
In the high jump, the Trojans will be without senior Hallie Westmeyer, a regional placer two years ago, who suffered a knee injury during the offseason that will cause her to miss the season. The Trojans do return senior Bailey Brogan, who was a regional qualifier as a freshman. She’ll be joined by sophomore Aubrey GIllespie and junior Kaylee Ludy.
In the long jump, Troy will have Boezi, Hutchinson, Duff, Ludy, Brogan, sophomore Alaina Buerger and freshman Josie Kleinhenz.
All told, Snyder is excited about his team’s chances, even with the lack of experience.
“I think we are going to have a lot of girls competing for varsity time, which is a good thing,” he said. “We have 75 girls on the team, but only two can compete in each event. I think that makes practice a lot more competitive and hopefully makes the team a lot better.”