John Peters is trying to solve a puzzle in his first season as coach of the Johnstown-Monroe High School boys and girls track and field teams.
Small rosters give the Johnnies limited depth, so Peters is trying to match performers with the events that best fit the athlete and the team.
"I keep telling our distance people that they need to work on their speed and our sprinters that they need to work on their endurance," said Peters, whose program has 20 boys and 18 girls. "We have a lot of talented kids who have a lot of fun. We are just looking for the events that help both them and the team."
The Johnnies opened March 29 in the Icebreaker Invitational at Watkins Memorial, which was stopped after seven events because of the bad weather. The girls team finished seventh (16 points) of 10 teams behind champion Watkins Memorial (74) and the boys were last (4) of 11 teams behind champion Watkins Memorial (81.5).
The Johnnies also competed in the Dick Houston Relays on April 3 at Licking Valley with the girls finishing ninth (20.5) of 13 teams behind champion Watkins Memorial (89). The boys team was 12th (12) of 13 teams behind champion Watkins Memorial (103).
Johnstown returns several Division II regional qualifiers. The girls have seniors McCalah Mast and Taylor Thomas and sophomore Grace Mast from a 3,200-meter relay that did not compete at regional because the team bus arrived late for the meet at Lexington.
Junior Elizabeth Blenk competed in the 300-meter hurdles, finishing 14th (50.98 seconds), and the long jump, placing ninth (15 feet, 6 inches).
The girls 800 relay (11th, 1:49.7) included senior Tanner Jakeway, junior Kylie Workman and Blenk. Workman did not return to the team to concentrate on soccer.
"The girls distance runners are definitely a strength for us," said Peters, who replaced one-year coach Jerry Tackett. "McCalah and Grace Mast are strong, and we have Taylor Thomas and Tanner Jakeway who can do a lot of things for us. They will be able to score points in big meets for us this year."
For the boys team, senior Alex Workman and sophomore Josiah Annis qualified for regional last year in the pole vault. Workman did not clear his initial height of 13-6 and Annis did not compete because of a leg injury.
"Alex Workman does the pole vault, but he could be a regional qualifier in the 800 because he has natural speed and endurance," said Peters, a Marion Harding graduate who is an intervention specialist and science teacher at Johnstown.
The boys roster also includes seniors Nathaneal Ashbrook, Charles Benton, Thomas Benton and Perry Hatcher, juniors Matt Hollis, Tommy McCullough, Marcus Nogaj, Cody Thompson and Matt Walton, sophomore Marcus Funderwhite and freshmen Josh Ashbrook, Josh Bentley, David Dennis, Paul Lang, Jeff Nogaj, Brenden Peloquin, Lane Sidner and Mason Work.
"Marcus Nogaj is powerful, Charles Benton is strong in the 400 and Thomas Benton is a great leader and strong in the shot (put) and in distance events," Peters said. "Matt Walton has looked great, as has Nathaneal Ashbrook, and freshman Brenden Peloquin has a chance to be a college hurdler."
Also on the girls team are juniors Alexis Hercenberg, Olivia McGee and Kassie Thomas, sophomores Anna Benton, Becca Kozel, Abi LaRoche, Alaina Morrison, Noel Offenburger, Lauren Thomas and Kylee Villwock and freshmen Erica Cox, Laura Cox and Abby Holderby.
Lacrosse team resumes play
The boys lacrosse program has returned after a two-year hiatus thanks to first-year coach Stephanie Alley.
Alley moved to Johnstown from New Albany and learned the Johnnies did not have a program, so she approached the school board to start the process of resuming the sport.
"I had to write a proposal to get lacrosse as a school-sanctioned sport, and they approved it in October," said Alley, whose team opens Monday, April 7, at home against the Westerville South j.v. team. "My son (freshman attacker Hunter Alley) has played since he was in the second grade and he wanted to continue playing the sport."
Despite the layoff, the Johnnies have two returnees in senior attackers Dylan Mullen and Garrett Wright. Both played as freshmen in 2011 when the Johnnies finished 0-11.
Other seniors on the 13-player roster are midfielder Paxton Cheng, defender Aaron Davis, defender Gary Harper and midfielder Loren Queen. Hunter Alley, Harper and Queen are captains.
"Fundamentals are the most important thing right now," coach Alley said. "We're working on throwing and catching the ball, getting to groundballs ... much of the practice revolves around that. We are doing the same drills over and over every day because we need to learn these fundamentals, but they are picking things up quickly because of their athleticism."
Rounding out the roster are juniors Kaleb Matoszia (midfielder), Paul Michel (attacker) and Steven Thiel (midfielder), sophomore goalkeeper A.J. Napier and freshmen Isaia Jacob (midfielder) and Jeff Nogaj (defender).
Softball team wins first two games
The softball team was 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the LCL before playing Utica on April 4.
The Johnnies defeated league-foe Northridge 7-4 in their opener March 31, taking a 7-0 lead after four innings.
Maddi Lusk pitched a complete game, striking out 10 with five walks. She also had a two-run home run.
Erin McConnell had a triple, two doubles and scored twice, and Natalie Carpenter tripled and scored twice.
"We came out hitting the ball and we were ready to play," said coach Steve Smith, whose team played Centennial on April 5 in a doubleheader.
Sydney Stefanick pitched a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 9-0 win over Sparta Highland on April 1.
Baseball team defeats Northridge
The baseball team was 1-0 overall and in the LCL before playing Utica on April 4. Its league game with Newark Catholic on April 3 was postponed because of bad weather.
The Johnnies held off Northridge 4-3 on March 31. Josh Kirkpatrick went six innings, striking out three with two walks, and did not allow an earned run. Clayton Bullard earned the save.
"I was mostly hitting my spots and I had confidence in my stuff," said Kirkpatrick, whose team played a doubleheader against Centennial on April 5. "Baseball is a mental game, so I can't worry if I give up a hit or a walk because the next play is always the most important of the game."
Zach LaRue had an RBI double and Kirkpatrick had a run-scoring single.