TROY — For more than a decade, the Troy girls track and field team has rolled on like an endless winning machine, seemingly unaffected by the loss of talented graduating senior classes.
As the Trojans gear up for a run at a 12th-straight league title, however, that ability to replenish and reload will be tested more than it ever has been before.
“We graduated the biggest senior class we’ve ever had,” said Troy girls coach Kurt Snyder, who has led the Trojans to 11-straight titles during the Trojans’ time in the Greater Western Ohio Conference and Miami Valley League. “We lost a lot of leadership and a lot of points scored.
“The other thing you have to remember is this year’s senior class didn’t have a freshman season due to COVID, so they didn’t get that normal start to their career that every other class has gotten here. But we still have a lot of depth; we’ll be strong in every event. We just need to find a few jumpers and we’ll be OK.”
One area the Trojans won’t have to worry about lack of experience or lack of returning points is in the sprints. Troy will be led by senior Leah Harnish, who boasts a resume as strong as any Troy athlete in recent history. Harnish, who has signed a letter of intent to compete for Wright State University next year, placed seventh in the state in the 400 last season, and is the school record holder in the 100 and 400.
“She’s looked really good in winter workouts,” Snyder said. “She’s looked good in speed training and has worked hard in the weightroom. Having her back for us this year is huge. It’s also a big help when your best kid is your hardest worker. That sets the tone for the entire team.”
Junior Ava McCoy had a breakout season for the Trojans last year. Seniors Trinity Hurd and Makenzi Metz also return with plenty of varsity experience. Juniors Lily Anderson and Leah Reddick also should figure heavily into the varsity mix.
“Ava McCoy came out of nowhere and had a huge year for us,” Snyder said. “She was a huge part of our relays and open sprints; it’s great to have her back. Makenzi Metz and Trinity Hurd have both gotten a lot of varsity experience since their freshman year. Leah Reddick and Lily Anderson are pretty much interchangeable; they can both do a lot of different things for us.”
A number of underclassmen should contribute to the Trojan sprinters, as well. Sophomore Loriann Hagar and freshmen Davonna Harris, Danielle Duff, Aubrey Jones and Ruth Perry all will have plenty of opportunities to run for the Trojans.
“It’s always good to have those younger kids to push the upperclassmen,” Snyder said. “Aubrey Jones, Davonna Harris and Danielle Harris were three of the four runners who broke the Troy Junior High School school record in the 4×100 last year.”
Troy returns a wealth of talent in the hurdles, as well. Leading the way will be juniors Hannah Steggeman, Alyssa Kern and Lynnette McKibbin, as well as sophomore Deanna Rohlfs. The Trojans also will be bolstered by the return of senior Maddy Manson, who ran varsity as a sophomore, but missed her entire junior year with an injury.
“It’s great to have all we have back in the hurdles; we have a lot of experience coming back,” Snyder said. “Getting Maddy Manson back will make us even better. She’s back and she’s healthy. She’s looked good so far.”
Leading the way in the distance events will be senior Millie Peltier, who finished second at the MVL cross country meet in the fall. She’ll be a four-year letterwinner and holds the school record in the steeplechase. Juniors Ashley Kyle and Kiley Kitta, as well as sophomore Lily Zimmerman, should all be top distance runners for the Trojans.
Senior Hannah Brooks, juniors Ashley Kyle and Allison Unger, sophomore Isabel Westerheide and freshman Fiona Battle all will provide depth in the distance events.
“We expect Millie Peltier to have a really big year for us,” Snyder said. “Peltier and Ashley Kyle should be our top two distance runners. After that, we have a lot of depth with our distance runners.”
The pole vault will have a drastically different look with two mainstays gone, but will return plenty of talent, as well.
After more than 50 years as a head coach and pole vault coach, Trojan Hall of Famer Herb Hartman has retired. He’s left along with Sophie Fong, who graduated last year after setting the school record and placing second (indoor) and fourth (outdoor) at state. She’s currently vaulting at Ohio State University.
Taking over as full-time vaulting coach is Roger Bowen, a familiar face as a longtime area vaulting guru who worked extensively alongside Hartman for more than 20 years.
Leading the way for the vaulters is senior Hannah Duff, who was a regional placer last year and a state qualifier this indoor season. She’ll be joined by fellow senior Ally Wolfe, Kern and freshmen Lauren Brooks, a junior high state qualifier, and Landry Niles.
“We have a lot of depth in the pole vault,” Snyder said. “Hannah Duff had a great indoor season, and will be looking to carry that over to outdoor season. Wolfe and Kern both have a lot of experience in varsity meets.”
As has become tradition under throwing coach Aaron Gibbons, the Trojans are loaded in the shot put and discus. Troy lost two regional qualifiers to graduation, but returns two regional qualifiers in juniors Kiyah Baker (shot put) and Lena Walker (discus). Junior Josie Kleinhenz is a versatile athlete who was a regional qualifier in the discus as a freshman, and a regional qualifier last year in the high jump last year.
Also throwing for the Trojans will be juniors Alexis Caplinger, Day’onna Harris, Amaya McCoy and Allison Ray, as well as sophomore Tatyana Green.
“We are crazy deep in the throws,” Snyder said. “Going against that tough competition every day in practice just makes everyone better. In the shot put, we’ve got six girls who have thrown 30 feet or better, which puts them in the top group of throwers in school history. We lost two regional qualifiers, but get two back in Baker and Walker. And Josie Kleinhenz would have been a regional qualifier had we been allowed to take three. Alexis Caplinger had a great indoor season; she barely missed going to state. Coach Gibbons has done a great job building up our throwing program, and it shows.”
If she can work her way back to 100 percent after an offseason injury, Kleinhenz could lead the Trojans in both the long jump and high jump. Senior Elle Freisthler and sophomore Jacy King will compete in the high jump, while Anderson, Jones and Niles could all compete in the long jump. Sophomore Kylee Snider also should figure into the jumps mix.
“The jumps are probably the one place where we are lacking a lot of experience,” Snyder said. “We’ve got some new kids who are trying some new things for the first time. Those are the main areas where we’ll need some kids to step up.”
All told, even with the losses to graduation, Snyder likes his team’s chances.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve had over the years is the trickle-down effect,” he said. “Our kids have seen how things should be done to succeed, and when their turn comes to lead, they’ve stepped into that role.”