Boys Track & Field: Hilliard Darby Panthers counting on 'heavy hitters'

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior Cameron McNeil is expected to be a top contributor for Darby after he finished fifth in the shot put in the Division I state indoor meet in March.

The Hilliard Darby boys track and field team features three “heavy hitters” who are expected to provide the Panthers’ scoring punch throughout the season.

Senior distance runner Sean Carney and senior thrower Cameron McNeil are coming off all-state performances in the Division I state indoor meet March 5 and 6 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, while junior Alex Smith is a standout in the high jump, long jump and the 400 meters.

Carney finished second in the 1,600 (4 minutes, 16.32 seconds) and fourth in the 3,200 (9:18.95) in the indoor state meet. He also placed 12th in the Division I state cross country meet last fall.

McNeil placed fifth in the shot put (52 feet, 7 1/4 inches) and second in the weight throw (58-4), which is not an event in outdoor meets.

“We have three heavy hitters in Sean, Cam and Alex,” eighth-year coach Matt Fox said. “Sean and Sam did well in the state indoor meet, and Alex really has had a great five weeks of training in preparation for the season.”

Senior Nate Jamison and junior Jackson Carey are sprinting veterans who will have help from sophomore Ian Chapman and freshmen Kaleb Dotson and Corey White. Smith will be joined in the high jump by seniors Braden Bower and Avery Lyle, and he also competes in the long jump with Carey.

Carney will have help in distance and middle-distance events from juniors Justin Fleischman and Jake Long and sophomore Collins Applegate.

McNeil is joined in the throws by senior Jackson Gunn, who Fox said has the talent to contend for a state berth in the discus.

“We have 15 seniors and around 60 kids, which is a good number during COVID,” Fox said. “We have a lot of new faces, but we have great leadership from our seniors.

“We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen, so building depth is one of our biggest focuses this spring. We have 70 percent of our team that has never run in a varsity race before this season. I think building that depth and getting the kids to understand the race experience will be big for us.”

INSIDE THE PANTHERS

Coach: Matt Fox, eighth season 

Next meet: April 16 at Centerville Elk Relays

Key athletes: Jackson Carey, Shawn Carney, Ian Chapman, Jackson Gunn, Nate Jamison, Jake Long, Avery Lyle, Cameron McNeil and Alex Smith

Wildcats, coach 

have high hopes 

Second-year Davidson coach Ryan Aleshire likes the nucleus of his team. 

“After having no track last year and being able to be out here, getting through fall and winter sports and transitioning into springtime, it’s nice to be outside and nice to just be on the track,” Aleshire said. 

The Wildcats have a solid distance group, led by seniors Nate Gilbert and R.J. Sagrilla, juniors Alex Hudson, Nick Puhl and Brady Whiteside and sophomore Connor Ackley. 

Aleshire said junior Jack De Francesco is a versatile athlete who will contribute in the sprints, relays and pole vault. He won the indoor state title in the pole vault this winter by clearing 15-6. 

Seniors Richard Conatser and D.J. Thornton, junior Leo Nixon and sophomore Jayden Phillips are other key sprinters. 

“We have a lot of younger kids that are coming out and they’re working hard,” Aleshire said. “They’re competing and getting better, so we’ll see. It’s a quick season.” 

Davidson is competing in the OCC-Central with Bradley, Dublin Coffman, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange and Upper Arlington. 

“The league is a little bit different, but we’re just trying to go out and get better each race,” Aleshire said. “Just let our kids see where they are after a year off. Some have grown a lot, some have not come back, but we’re just trying to have a good season.” 

INSIDE THE WILDCATS 

Coach: Ryan Aleshire, second season 

Next meet: April 17 at Dublin Coffman Joe Lenge Classic 

Key athletes: Connor Ackley, Jack De Francesco, Nate Gilbert, Leo Nixon, Jayden Phillips, Nick Puhl and D.J. Thornton

—Frank DiRenna

Jaguars talented

despite small roster

Eighth-year Bradley coach Ben Gadfield has fewer athletes on his roster than normal, but he expects to have enough talent to make up for the lack of depth.

“We have a bunch of youngsters, and this is one of the smaller rosters that we have had here,” said Gadfield, who also coaches boys cross country. “Our roster has only around 50 kids when it’s usually around 60 or more. We were also down in cross country last fall. Despite the numbers, we have a good core group of athletes.”

The Jaguars have top talent scattered throughout the events. Senior Kenyon Richardson competes in the sprints and the long jump, and senior David Lamb stands out in the 200 and 400.

Seniors Caden Burkhart, Joshua George and Gabe Paynter and junior Evan Corea excel in distance and middle distance, and seniors Yasir Awale and Chance Roberts lead the throwers.

“Kenyon Richardson and David Lamb are our top sprinters, and we have some freshmen that are showing promise,” Gadfield said. “We are pretty young in the jumps, but Kenyon helps us there.

“We have good distance depth, but may be lacking depth in other areas. David Lamb will score well, and so will Kenyon. We also should score well in distance.”

Gadfield is excited to see how his team performs.

“We have some young guys that we need to develop,” he said. “What I like about our freshmen and sophomores is that they come to work every day, and they are very coachable. Just like any sport, they need time to develop, but I’m excited to look ahead when they will be juniors and seniors.”

INSIDE THE JAGUARS

Coach: Ben Gadfield, eighth season 

Next meet: April 17 at Dublin Coffman Joe Lenge Classic 

Key athletes: Yasir Awale, Caden Burkhart, Evan Corea, Joshua George, David Lamb, Gabe Paynter, Kenyon Richardson and Chance Roberts

—Scott Hennen

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