A trio of Division II state-meet veterans are leading a Beechcroft High School girls track and field team that is flourishing.
In addition to juniors Makiya Montgomery and Zha'Mia Vick and sophomore Larissa Bronte-Agbor, who were members of the fifth-place 400-meter relay (49.53 seconds) at state last year, participation numbers have improved overall for the Cougars, according to seventh-year coach Mike Moncrief.
"Our numbers are up this year, which is a great thing because we're starting to add depth," Moncrief said. "Injuries always occur in track. My state returnees worked in the offseason and got into the weight room."
Montgomery was the state champion in the 100 as a freshman and placed second at state last season in 11.93. Also last season, she earned a second consecutive state runner-up finish in the 200 (24.42).
Another top returning sprinter is sophomore Amarra Allen.
Patricia Cornejo (distance), Dach'e Edwards (hurdles) and Dajai Thomas (middle distance, hurdles) are among the top seniors, while junior Gabrielle Page (shot put, discus) and freshmen sprinters Nayobi Whitfield and Sydney Stewart also should make an impact.
"We're excited," Moncrief said. "We have some areas of opportunity. Our field events are coming and we continue to get better in the hurdles."
Beechcroft finished third (81 points) in the City League meet last season, behind Northland (101) and Whetstone (85) and ahead of Centennial (68.5), Eastmoor Academy (64), East (45), Africentric (43), Walnut Ridge (36), Briggs (28), South (25), Mifflin (20), Independence (11), Linden-McKinley (5) and Marion-Franklin (3.5).
Back to lead Northland are senior Michole Martinez and sophomores Isabella Alberto and Tyra Thomas, who were members of the 3,200 relay that won the City title in 10:31 last season.
On April 3, the Vikings scored 119 points to win the 10-team Sixer Relays at Independence. Beechcroft was runner-up (80).
"We lost four really good (2018 graduates) in (Charlea) Henley, (Oajah) Alcorn, (Jeana) Weatherspoon and (Jordan) Saffold," 16th-year Northland coach Tom Fast said. "What we're kind of banking on is our success on the girls cross country team, which was the City champion. We're building our team around our distance (runners). The fact that we have such strong distance (runners) really gives us a chance to be a strong track team. (Cross country coach) Maureen (Kennedy) did a good job and that's carried over to the track."
Martinez also placed third in the 3,200 (13:48.24) and fourth in both the 800 (2:35.34) and 1,600 (6:05.93) at last year's City meet.
Senior Kaniya Webb (distance), junior Shaniya Samuel (sprints, hurdles), sophomore Nasia Bailey (middle distance) and freshman twin sisters Nahjae Alcorn (sprints) and Nahdia Alcorn (sprints) also are among the team's top runners.
Freshman Rain McGregory competes in the long jump and freshman Andrasia Wilson is competing in the high jump and hurdles.
"We're really young and have got some really young throwers," Fast said. "They're getting better. I'm excited about our young hurdlers. I think it'll just be a typical Northland team, where we nickel and dime it. We're young, but with the safety net of the girls cross country team. Right now, we've got to work on being a little tougher."
In last year's boys City meet, Northland was runner-up with 118 points as Eastmoor (160) won its eighth consecutive title. Walnut Ridge (65) was third, followed by Mifflin (55), Whetstone (53), Centennial (41), East (38), Africentric (36), Marion-Franklin (25), Linden (12), Briggs (5), Beechcroft (4), South (2), Independence (1) and West (1).
It was Northland's best showing in the City meet since finishing as runner-up in 2005.
Junior Kalil Branham, who was City champion in both the 400 (48.7) and 110 hurdles (15.41), is part of a sprint corps that also is led by seniors N'Keeley Elmore and Mark Lee and junior Eugene Boahen.
Senior Jesse Prewitt III competes in the high jump and long jump and sophomore Franklin Hines is competing in the high jump.
Senior John Branham Jr. is defending City champion in the shot put (45 feet, 11 inches) and placed fourth in the City in the discus (110-8) last season.
"You just always want to do better than you did the previous year, and last year we did really well when we had a runner-up finish in the City," fourth-year Northland coach Gerald Baker said. "If we're able to keep a good work ethic and grind, we can do some special things."
Seniors Nielle Simmons (sprints) and Elijah Hairston (high jump, sprints) and junior Jaime Cornejo (distance) are among Beechcroft's top competitors.
At the Sixer Relays, Walnut Ridge finished first (102) of nine teams. Northland was fourth (72) and Beechcroft was sixth (50).
"I have a lot of football players who came back this year, but we're almost starting fresh," sixth-year Cougars coach Duane Gosa said.
Nubians boys track team enthusiastic
The Africentric boys track and field team is led by one of the state's top high jumpers in senior Anthony Bowman.
Last season at the Division III state meet, Bowman cleared a program-record 6-8 to place second despite being in his first year competing in the sport.
A Tiffin University commit, Bowman also competes in the long jump and 400.
"He didn't do the long jump last year due to still playing (AAU) basketball, and he's also going to run a little bit more than he did last year," coach Marcus Vaughn said.
Senior Anthony Tyler also is a top returnee after placing 14th at state in the 300 hurdles (40.95) last season. He also will compete in the 110 hurdles.
Another senior expected to make an impact is Isaiah Saunders, who competes in the 400, 800 and 1,600.
Others looking to contribute include juniors Sha-mon Payton (sprints) and Cali'jawon Davis (distance) and sophomore Justin Fudge (sprints).
"We hope to do well in the (800, 1,600 and 3,200) relays," Vaughn said. "Our main focus is building on the foundation of last year, get four to five guys to state and maybe a relay or two."
Snyder named football coach at Beechcroft
Although the Beechcroft football team will have its fourth coach in as many seasons next fall, there is a sense of continuity building throughout the program.
Lee Snyder has been named coach, replacing Charles Gibson after serving as the Cougars' defensive coordinator last fall.
Gibson served in the Army for 23 years and has a military obligation this summer that will keep him from continuing as head coach, but he will remain as an assistant coach under Snyder, according to athletics director Brian Lowery.
The rest of the coaching staff is expected to remain the same next fall for the Cougars, who went 6-4 last season.
"Charles is going to stay on, everyone else is coming back and we're going to add some more (coaches), so there's not as much turnover as it may seem," Snyder said.
Snyder, an Akron native, began his coaching career as a volunteer with Reynoldsburg's freshman team in 2012. He then was defensive coordinator for Reynoldsburg's eighth-grade team in 2013 and its seventh-grade coach in 2014.
After serving as an assistant at Harvest Prep in 2015 and '16, Snyder did not coach in 2017 but returned the sidelines last fall under Gibson.
Beechcroft, which went 10-2 in 2016 under Trevor White and 5-4 in 2017 under B.J. Queen, finished 5-2 in the City League-North Division last fall. The Cougars gave up just 56 points in league play, posting three shutouts.
"We have a lot of seniors coming back, a lot of good players, and there's more of a buzz," Snyder said. "Last year, coach Gibson was able to bring back some of the culture (from the program's successful past). Last year, we averaged 30 to 35 kids a game and we're pushing to have 50 to 60 kids every game. We're trying to get back to that culture and do more community outreach."