Generals’ coach Doug Bennett had 53 boys on his team, but it is one that is decidedly youth friendly with 20 freshmen and 14 sophomores on the squad. There are only 11 juniors and eight seniors out, which means this team will be “a work in progress,” according to Bennett.
“We have some pockets of experience,” said Bennett. “The cupboard isn’t bare. We have to develop areas where we’re deficient right now to compete at the highest levels and compete for the title. It will be challenging for us, but there are a lot of positives that can be taken from a team that is trying to get better. I’m not chasing them out of the bathrooms when it is time to run. It seems to be a team that is together from that standpoint.”
Bennett will be looking to the team’s throwing and distance groups to provide the leadership since that is where many of the team’s veterans can be found. Senior Andrei Leabu was a regional qualifier in the shot put last season, while senior Cody Neidig (800) and junior Zach Humrichouser (3200) qualified for the regional meet in those distance races. Leabu broke 50 feet in the shot put last year with his season best coming at districts (50-3), while he won OCC in the discus with a throw of 153-5.
Neidig was the high-points scorer last season with 178 points while running the 800, 1600 and both the 4x800 and 4x400 relays. He was a double winner at OCC, winning the 800 and 1600, posting bests of 1:58.42 at districts and a 4:27 at OCCs, respectively. Humrichouser qualified for regionals as a sophomore, posting a career-best 10:01 at districts and finishing second in that race at OCCs.
They will be joined by senior Brock Berlin, another member of the 4x800 relay who will also run the 1600 and 3200, while Michael Styer will also return from the 4x400 relay and will run the open 400 and 800 as well. Drew Wigham returns from the OCC champion 4x8 team and will also run the 1600.
Styer, who turned in a 51.4 clocking at Kiwanis, will be augmented by sophomore Cooper Orr, who recorded a 54.29 FAT as a freshman at districts and could be a factor in the 300 hurdles, high jump or sprint relays as well, while Bryan Dilyard will be expected to factor into both the 400 and 800.
Junior Mason Tomblin will be one of the team’s top sprinters, running in the open 100 and 200 as well as the sprint relays, while Stefan Fraga and Kyle Noel will be counted on in the relays as well. Sophomore Bryan Parker is the team’s top returning hurdler, while Grant Stokes and D’Quan Marsh will be expected to buoy the throwing events. Athan Nicolozakes recently cleared 12-0 in the pole vault, which promises to deliver points for the blue and gold in that event.
Promising newcomers are distance runners Kevin White and Paul Wood, who will help augment the Generals’ distance corps.
“We lost some notable people in the Creamer twins, Michael and Jordan – Michael, who ran the 4x4, the 4x8 and Jordan, who was a regional qualifier in the 300 hurdles; Austin Carstensen in the high jump; Brett Breneman, who was a regional qualifier in the pole vault, and Chris Graves, who was an all-around utility sprinter and high jumper,” said Bennett.
“I think our question marks are going to be in the high jump and long jump, along with the sprints,” he added. “We know what we have in the hurdles and we need to get better, which we will. We’ll find some surprises. I think we have a lot of strength in the throws and we have some events -- the middle distance, distance, quarter-mile and relays – where we are solid. The cupboard is not bare – we just have some growing to do.
“Obviously with Grant and Andrei – they’re veterans. We have a veteran throwing corps. Andrei will not take long before he’s throwing over 50 feet and Grant is mid-40s. Those kids will score points. Athan has cleared 12 feet in the pole vault, which is a positive.
“We have a week to fill out the field and get some relays together before our first meet.”
Wooster opens its season March 27 at Norwayne against the Bobcats and Buckeye High School.
Published: March 21, 2012