By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — The Troy girls track and field team enters every spring season with lofty aspirations — and arguably, this year may have been the program’s biggest yet.
Which made last week’s news of the official cancellation of the 2020 spring season particularly hard on the Trojans.
With three-time state champion Lenea Browder aiming to put an exclamation point on her high school legacy with two more potential titles in the throws, a young, deep and talented group of sprinters and a host of other solid athletes, Troy’s girls were looking to crack the top five at this year’s Division I state track and field meet — a meet that will no longer happen after the Ohio High School Athletic Association was forced to cancel the entire spring season due to the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19.
“Last week was hard, for sure,” Troy girls track and field coach Kurt Snyder said. “But really, I’m not disappointed because of the success the girls will miss out on, but because of the experiences — especially for the seniors. That’s what you remember later on. You don’t look back on the medals or trophies. It’s the time you get to spend with your classmates and teammates.”
When it comes to medals, though, no one has been able to collect them the way Browder has.
Browder entered her senior year as Troy’s only multiple state champion in history. She won the state title in the discus as a sophomore, and then she swept the discus and shot put in 2019 as a junior. And after officially signing in the offseason to throw for Ohio State University in the fall, Browder had her sights set on leaving Troy as a five-time state champion.
Now, though, one of the greatest athletes in Troy history won’t even get a senior season.
“It’s especially rare in the throws. Usually the throws are dominated by upperclassmen each year, so for her to have three state titles before her senior year, that’s really something special,” Snyder said. “She was really looking forward to defending her titles this year. It hurts, but hopefully she’s got bigger and better things ahead of her in the future.”
But Browder wasn’t the Trojans’ only state prospect, either.
With Katie Lord, Brennah Hutchinson, Kiersten Franklin and Hannah Falknor — all state qualifiers last year — all returning in the sprints, along with freshman Leah Harnish and a host of others joining the mix, Troy had an opportunity to climb the ladder in the team standings, as well.
Last year, the Trojans were seventh with 23 points, with Browder accounting for 20 of them. Had Browder won both throws again, the Trojans had the potential to push into the 30s.
“Usually, 30 gets you in contention for first or second. This year, though, it’d probably be mid-40s because Lakota East and Mentor (who were first and second last year) were both loaded with people coming back,” Snyder said. “It would have been realistic for us to be top five, maybe third at best.
“With the depth we have at the sprints, we could have had all three sprint relays get on the podium, which would have helped a lot. Add in scoring points in some open sprints or other events, and we had a good shot at third.”
But it wasn’t just the potential state qualifiers that the pandemic hurt.
“Our kids are invested in our process, and they enjoy what we do as a program. We had some seniors this year that have waited for three years to get their shot to be leaders and were looking forward to scoring points for us this year,” Snyder said. “I feel bad for them.
“Fourteen of our 15 seniors won’t be doing track in college, so this was to be their last go-around as high school athletes. I look at Laura Borchers. This would have been her third year in track, and she usually does soccer in the spring, too. I was really looking forward to seeing what she could do having a year focused just on track.”
The team’s seniors were Tala Barnes, Browder, Borchers, Adrianna Burghardt, Olivia Dietz, Shelsy Echevarria, Frida Hoening, Makayla Kindell, Sarah Kraynek, Lord, Samantha Mascarella, Sydney Paul, Jillian Peltier, Breann Stith and Maggie Welker.
In the end, Snyder sent a letter to the members of the team, both to help them and also to help himself cope with the loss of the season, closing with, “whether this was your first year or fourth year of being a part of the program, I hope you enjoyed the time we had together. … I hope that all of you know that you are a part of my family, and if you ever need anything, especially during this difficult time, please reach out and I will help any way I can.”
“I wanted to address the team, so I sent them a letter with just my thoughts,” he said. “I wanted to let them know that I care about them.”
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected].
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