By Rick Palsgrove
Spring is here and that means it’s time for Groveport Madison Cruiser High School athletes to break out the bats, balls, gloves, and racquets, and also to hit the track running.
The Cruiser varsity baseball team is looking to have a strong season.
“The strength that I’ve seen on this year’s team is our pitchers,” said Cruiser head baseball coach Tommy Snyder. “In the past we have counted on one or two guys. This year we have six guys who can start on the mound for us, which will allow our guys a break.”
Snyder mentioned shortstop/pitcher Kyle Jennings, leftfielder Keller Weston, rightfielder/pitcher Price Cooper, and centerfielder/pitcher Ryan Pettay as some of the team’s top players this season.
“Our offense has to come together,” said Snyder. “We have to be able to score runs. Our hitting needs to improve for us to stay in the games.”
Snyder said every team dreams of winning the Ohio Capital Conference Buckeye Division title.
“We are no different,” said Snyder. “The Buckeye Division is loaded with talented teams. I know Lancaster and Newark will give us some trouble.”
“The strength of this year’s boys track team is how deep we are in the sprints, jumps, and throws,” Cruiser head boys track coach Ryan Alton. “After scraping by in 2021 (coming off the lost 2020 season) with a roster of only 28 boys, we have more than doubled that with a majority of our competitors coming over from the football team. These boys are fast, strong, and explosive, which should help a great deal in the aforementioned events. It will be such a luxury to be able to spread the talent out so that we don’t run guys into the ground just to field a team or live in that fear of where to turn if someone goes down with an injury.”
Alton said some of the team’s top performers include returning sprinters senior Markell Holmes and sophomore Elijah Simmons, along with hurdlers seniors Jordan Lisath and Nevin Montgomery.
“These will be the guys I lean on the most to lead the new participants,” said Alton. “Our distance team will be led by juniors Ibsa Liben and Clayton Perez. I am excited to see newcomers junior Thomas Andrews and sophomores Lucas Reed, Jace Nincehelser, Marcus Davis and Raishad King. Young throwers freshman Jaylen Joyce and sophomore Lane Hanes have the potential to follow in the footsteps of last year’s state qualifier JaShaun McGraw in the shot put.”
Alton said the OCC Buckeye Division is loaded with talent.
“It’s hard to say which school will provide the most competition to us without it feeling like a slight on the other teams,” said Alton. “Pickerington Central and Lancaster are historically deep and strong across the board. I feel Reynoldsburg typically mirrors us in the way their strength comes from their sprints and jumps. As far as winning a division title, we really have our work cut out for us, but that is always the goal. We’re at a good place with our numbers where we have the guys to do it. It’s on us as coaches to get them ready to compete and peak in mid-May when the title is on the line.”
He said the biggest challenge is going to be taking the team’s new, raw talent and shaping it into what the team could be.
“We are fairly young and inexperienced,” said Alton. “In looking at the underclassmen and down the line at the middle schoolers coming up, the future of Groveport Madison track has never been brighter. For the 2022 season, our challenge is going to be teaching and getting these guys up to speed so we can be legitimate OCC contenders right now.”
Cruiser girls track head coach Jason Brooks is in his 13th year as a head coach, but his first as a girl’s head coach.
“So this year has been a big change,” said Brooks. “The girls have been so much fun to work with and we are extremely young. We have one senior on the team, Kalista Miln, who is my senior captain and will be one of my best athletes. She can do almost anything. She holds our pole vault record and will continue to smash that this year. She is also a 5 foot high jumper, a 100 foot discus thrower and can be in multiple running events as well.”
Brooks said the team’s strength this year is in sprints, relays, and jumping events.
“With Kalista’s leadership leading the way in jumps, my star sprinter is Aniyjah Bryant,” said Brooks. “She is a junior and a returning letterman who struggled with injuries last year but has crazy potential. Running 26.21 at districts hurt in the 200 she can possibly be one of the favorites this year in this region. Joining Aniyjah will be Braylan James, junior long jumper and sprinter, and Nijah Montgomery, junior sprinter and long jumper.”
He said other notable runners include junior captain and distance runner Alexiz Golden and sophomore Eva Walton who Brooks described as “awesome leaders who work extremely hard.”
Brooks said the team is young and consists of mostly underclassmen who will be facing competition in the OCC Buckeye Division, which is “incredibly tough”
“So this year we will have some individual success and some team success, but we are not ready to win our division,” said Brooks. “My biggest challenge this year is to get our athletes in the best position for success. To get the runners in events that they have the best potential for success. We have to grow as a team. This is always the toughest challenge for any coach.”
Cruiser head softball coach Chris Downing said having Kendyll Cahill back on the pitcher’s mound this season is a big plus.
“She had 331 strikeouts last year and earned second team All-State honors,” said Downing. “Also, with Addison Cothern returning as the everyday catcher is huge. Tai Resendes as the leadoff and as centerfielder is another big plus.”
As far as the Cruisers’ toughest competition this season in the OCC Buckeye Division, Downing said, “Lancaster and Pickerington Central are always tough, but Newark has a group of juniors back who have been playing together since their ninth freshman year.”
He said the Cruisers’ biggest challenge this year is scoring enough runs and staying healthy.
“We do not have a lot of depth if we want to compete at the varsity and junior varsity level,” said Downing.
No reply was received from the boys’ tennis coach.