Youth Movement: St. Marys Improves Thanks To Young Talent

St. Marys’ Brandon Bowers clears the 5-foot-10 bar in the boys high jump competition on Friday in day 2 of the Western Buckeye League Track and Field Championships.
Sports Editor

If the conclusion of the Western Buckeye League Track and Field Championships said anything about the St. Marys Roughriders team it’s that it has a strong nucleus of talent for a few years.

The Roughriders girls team placed seventh in the two-day event hosted by St. Marys and the boys placed sixth in team points — a much-improved finish from last season’s pair of last-place finishes.

“That makes me feel a little bit better about last season,” Roughriders Coach Rob Cisco said. “We have a lot of young talent and being on our track tonight, I had a lot of kids tell me that they are going to run track next year just because they see the excitement about how cool track is and when they see the facility — the stands and the lights — it definitely created a vibe for my program.

“With the youth movement of our track team, I am very excited.”

Defiance won the boys title — aided by its strong long-distance runners — and Van Wert claimed the girls title, with Defiance placing second. Friday also marked a day in history made by St. Marys as the first school to host a WBL meet where the three relays could be run with all 10 schools competing at the same time.

Of the 53 total points for St. Marys, however, 26 of them came from this year’s freshmen class.

Ellen Schloemer scored 10 of those 26 points, placing third in the 1600-meter run with a personal-best time of 5:33.20 and she claimed fourth place in the two-mile run by shaving 7.12 for a new best time of 12:29.63.

“Ellen has been coming on strong this whole season,” Cisco said. “I knew that when she came up, she was going to be really good and she ran against some really good Defiance girls ... but she was impressive.”

The other freshmen who stood out were Jewel Niekamp, Megan Young and Brandon Bowers.

Cisco received points from Bowers, who met his season best with a leap of 5 feet, 10 inches for fifth in boys high jump. Niekamp broke her personal best in girls long jump Friday with a sixth-place leap of 15 feet, 1.25 inches. Teammate Cherissa Priddy qualified for the finals and placed seventh in girls long jump (14-10.25). Young placed fifth in girls pole vault with her vault matching her personal best of 8 feet, 6 inches.

And 20 of the team’s remaining 33 points came from newcomer to the program Ty Howell. 

The junior broke his season-best in the boys long jump of 20 feet, 5.50 inches with a leap of 20 feet, 11 inches on Wednesday. His jump beat out 2016 Division II state qualifier Dakota McVety’s jump of 20 feet, 10 inches at the WBL meet. McVety placed runner-up in the league meet that season.

Howell then won the 400-meter dash by breaking his season-best time of 53.15 with a time of 51.82. What was more impressive was how Howell won the event. He trailed both Shawnee’s Christian Ford and Elida’s Jaden Pullen going into the final 75 meters, but Howell turned on the jets and beat out both by a mere thousands of a second. He finished .04 ahead of Pullen and .01 ahead of Ford to win the event.

“When you win league in something, it is a huge deal because it is so difficult and for him to come back tonight and win the 400, words can’t explain how excited I was. I was exuberant,” Cisco said. “The 400 is a real tough race and he beat a couple of kids — Christian Ford is going to Youngstown, I think, to run Division I track — so it was really cool to see him do that and it is just a compliment to the kind of player he is. He is a rear breed.

“He kind of honestly ran the perfect race because he snuck up on Ford and that is the way you beat a kid like that. Ford asked him afterward, ‘where did you come from?’ For getting beat, Ford showed really good sportsmanship at the end.” 

Before Howell’s top finish, the last Roughrider to have the best spot in that event was Logan Maze, who placed fourth in the 2016 WBL meet. 

Howell — who has had a tightened hamstring had it tweak on him during the Eaton Invitational a few weeks back and Cisco said since then, the coaching staff has been limiting him on what events he can do.

“It is hard to get a kid healthy throughout an entire track season, especially for a sprinter,” Cisco said. “And we have asked a lot out of Ty. He has run the 4x400, the 400, the 200 and he is long jumping and he we asking him to carry us all season.”

Another strong finisher on Friday was senior Morgan Henschen, who ran her final WBL race with a third-place finish and a season-best time of 12:26.19. Her seeded time coming in was 12:38.94.

“To finish her year at the WBL meet in third says a lot about her mental fortitude,” Cisco said. “Morgan has ran for me for six years and I was really proud with how she finished her senior year. She went on a real high note.”

The Roughriders also earned points Friday from Allison Jacobs, who placed fifth in the 100 meter dash with a time of 13.48, John Rupert’s fifth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles with his time of 16.71 and a season-best time of 42.91 in the 300-meter hurdles to settle for sixth. Noah Tobin also beat his season-best time at 10:20.42 in the two-mile run to place fifth.

For the full story, see Saturday's print edition of The Evening Leader.