By Rick Palsgrove
(Editor’s note: I decided to proceed with this preview story about the Cruiser track program so the community could read about the team. However, with the ongoing coronavirus crisis the status of the season and the schedule remains uncertain at this time.)
The Groveport Madison Cruiser boys and girls track teams are striving for Ohio Capital Conference championships this season.
Boys track coach Ryan Alton believes the team has a strong chance to win the OCC – Capital Division title this year.
“Probably the best chance we’ve had in a long time,” said Alton. “We really only lost three of our key runners from last year and we tend to find a few diamonds in the rough every season.”
He said the title chase is going to be a battle between the Cruisers, Canal Winchester and New Albany.
“Not to slight anyone else in our division, but I think we’re going to be fighting with those two squads to see who will come out on top when we host OCC’s in May,” said Alton. “The key will be staying healthy and finding the right guys to put our team over the top.”
He said the teams strength has always been the sprints and jumps and this year is no different.
“I expect us to be strong in the sprint relays and both jumping events,” said Alton. “Where the difference will be this year is that I think we will be a more balanced team all around. We have a solid core of distance runners and I expect to bring home big points in shot and disc, with some of the throwers we have coming out. If we can place in the top three in all of those events, we’ll be right where we want to be.”
As far as holes to fill on the team, Alton said the squad lost two runners from its 4×400 relay that went on to finish sixth in the state last spring.
“So we need to replace those guys, which won’t be easy,” said Alton. “And then I’m looking at the open sprint events and hurdles. I’m still working on getting a few guys to come out that will help us tremendously in those areas. Basically, having quality depth is what hurt us last year, but judging by the numbers so far, we should be in much better shape this season.”
Alton said seniors Rafael Soler and Tyrell Floyd are back from the 4×400 team.
“I also look for Soler to be our lead 800m runner, while Floyd is going to be strong in both the open 400m and 200m dashes,” said Alton. “Senior Illyaas Haji is going to be our distance captain. I expect big things from him in both the 1600m and 3200m races. Sophomore Harris Musungu is headed to indoor states in high jump and may be our top long jumper as well, along with junior John Motton. I expect junior Jashaun McGraw and seniors Jasiyah Robinson and Darrell Smoot to score a lot of points for us in the throws events this season.”
He said sprinters to keep an eye on include seniors Sam Hoyte and Keimare Burnett and juniors Marques Holmes and Jalil Underdown.
“This year’s team is bursting with young talent.” said girls track coach Zach Green. “I believe that we have an outside chance to win an OCC title this year if a few things can fall our way. A couple teams that’ll provide us with some problems include Gahanna and Pickerington North. Both teams are very well coached and well rounded teams.”
Green said the team’s strength this year lies in the sprints and field events.
“We have a good mix of youth and veterans and I think we can come together and have a very successful season,” said Green.
He said he’d like to see improvement in the distance and mid-distance events.
“There is potential there and we have a lot of new faces.,” said Green. “I believe we will have a few kids step up in those areas this year.”
Green said some girls track athletes to watch this season include shot put and discus thrower Madison Newsome, sprinter Atanna Gunnell, sprinter Chenise Smith, and jumper Isabella Burholt.
“All of these ladies are wonderful athletes and great kids. They are poised to have a great year,” said Green.