Young girls runners focused on success
New coach Patrick Helgerman has inherited a Johnstown-Monroe High School girls cross country team that lost two state-meet competitors to graduation.
But the Johnnies have four returning runners from last season as they work to return to state.
"We're both young and experienced at the same time," said Helgerman, who replaced four-year coach Eric Hamner. "I don't know if we're ready to go to state this year, but we'll go out and run and not back down from anyone."
Johnstown had competed in three consecutive state meets before finishing fifth (152) in last year's 16-team Division II district meet at Watkins Memorial behind regional-qualifiers Granville (61), Bexley (111), Caledonia River Valley (120) and Ready (143).
Stephanie Loshbough, a 2012 graduate who is running at Ohio University, finished ninth (18 minutes, 29.75 seconds) in the state meet at National Trail Raceway. Meghan Schulze, a 2012 graduate who is running at Ohio Wesleyan, looked to be finishing in the top 15 at state when she collapsed about 20 yards from the finish line and ended up 33rd (19:39).
In the district meet at Watkins Memorial, four returning juniors competed in Jessica Turner (33rd, 22:03.97), McCalah Mast (36th, 22:07.2), Taylor Tackett (92nd, 25:31.26) and Madison Blair (105th, 26:40.14).
Rounding out the girls roster are freshmen Melissa Krumel, Grace Mast and Jennifer Miller.
"I like that they are willing to work and do the things we ask them," said Helgerman, who was an assistant the past six seasons at Licking Heights. "You can tell them to go out and run seven or eight miles on their day off and they do that. There are no worries about how hard they work. They want to be here."
Last year in the MBC meet at the Hartford Fairgrounds, Johnstown finished second (38) behind Centerburg (36) and ahead of Fredericktown (50) and Loudonville (98).
The boys team has three runners in returning sophomores Stephen Harper and Kaleb Walker as well as newcomer Kaleb Matoszkia, also a sophomore.
In the 11-team district 1 meet last year at Watkins Memorial, the Johnnies finished seventh (187) as Granville (21), Bexley, (89), Jonathan Alder (113) and London (132) advanced to regional. Walker (50th, 20:10.82) and Harper (65th, 21:17.87) competed.
In the MBC race, the Johnnies finished third (98) behind Fredericktown (49) and Centerburg (57) and ahead of Utica (107), Loudonville (111), Northridge (122) and East Knox (163).
The Johnnies opened Aug. 25 in the Newark Catholic Invitational.
"We have two guys and maybe two or three girls who will be running in the opener," Helgerman said before the meet. "We have a rule that they have to put in 100 miles before they compete, but everyone should be ready for the second meet (Sept. 1) at Granville."
Boys soccer team opens with loss
The boys soccer team began the season with a 6-2 loss to Liberty Union on Aug. 21.
The Johnnies have a new coach in Chris Turner, who replaced Josh Stranges after his five seasons leading the program. The team does not have any seniors.
Junior midfielder Charles Benton is the leading scorer back for Johnstown. He had two goals and one assist last season, when the Johnnies finished 7-7-3 overall with a 1-0 loss at home to Gahanna Christian in the opening round of the Division III district tournament.
Junior goalkeeper Jesse Bowman returns after having 56 saves. Other juniors are Caleb Bentley (forward/midfielder), Thomas Benton (defender), Blake Burton (defender), Gary Harper (midfielder), Perry Hatcher (midfielder/defender) and Joey Mitchell (midfielder).
Also on the team are sophomores Travis Higgins (center midfielder), Josh Jennings (defender), Trevor McGee (midfielder) and Trey Rowe (forward) and freshmen Chase Bell (defender), Ross Harrison (defender), Jordan Miller (defender/midfielder), Collin Peterson (center midfielder) and Brady Valentine (left midfielder).
"Joey Mitchell, Gary Harper and Charles Benton work well in the midfield and Travis Higgins works well with them and Collin Peterson," Turner said. "Thomas Benton will anchor our defense with Josh Jennings and Blake Burton, who is one of our bravest players."
Last season, the Johnnies finished fifth (1-2-2) in the now-defunct North Central Soccer League behind Fairbanks (5-0), River Valley (2-2-1), Village Academy (1-0-4) and Marion Pleasant (1-1-3) and ahead of Buckeye Valley (0-5).
"We have 17 kids out this fall and won't have a j.v. team," Turner said. "We have a good mix of returning players and new players who work well together and will be getting better."
Football team preparing for Heath
The football team opened Aug. 24 against Granville and plays a second non-league game Friday, Aug. 31, at Heath.
The Johnnies beat Heath 34-19 last season, but the Bulldogs hold a 4-2 advantage since the teams started playing in the second week in 2006. Heath won three consecutive meetings before last season: 21-15 in 2010, 50-20 in 2009 and 28-14 in 2008.
Johnstown won 41-14 in 2007 and Heath won 34-28 in 2006.
The teams will play in the Licking County League beginning next fall. The Johnnies currently are in the MBC and Heath plays in the MSL-Ohio Division.