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Coming off back-to-back Division II state boys track and field championships would seem to be enough reason to keep Eastwood on the state-wide radar again this season.
But 34 of the 38 points the Eagles scored at the state meet in Columbus last year came from two superb athletes who are now competing in college.
Justin Welch, now one of the nation’s top hammer throwers at the University of Georgia, won his third straight state discus title last season, and added a shot put crown as well.
Cody Seifert, a member of the Kent State track team, placed second in the 100-meter dash (just .06 from first), and took third in the 200 meters.
The only state point-scorer who has returned for Eastwood is senior Nick Twining, who picked up the other four points by placing fifth in the 800.
“It’s a lot different not having them here,” Twining said of Welch and Seifert. “It’s a possibility [competing well at state], but we have to take it meet by meet and see what we can do. It’s kind of a whole team thing, and that’s what will put us where we need to be.”
Eagles coach Gary White, in his 22nd year, isn’t selling his team short. Especially with a pair of junior pole vaulters Kyle Schlumbohm and Kyle Dierker, who have cleared 14 feet this spring, and with one of his deepest ever sprint groups.
“We were really dominated by individuals last year,” White said. “I think our team this year has about 15 or 20 guys who are really similar [to each other] in talent, and we’re going to compete really well in the relays.”
On the girls’ side, Eastwood has two returning state qualifiers in senior long jumper Whitney Hoodlebrink and junior discus thrower Jena Jacoby, who was a regional champion at 123 feet, 8 inches.
On the individual front, 31st-year Napoleon boys coach Tim Downey has high hopes for junior distance specialist Steve Weaver.
Around Napoleon, the name Weaver has long been linked with football success.
Steve’s father, Tom Weaver, was a top running back and played at the University of Toledo. Tom’s oldest son, Brad, was Division III All-Ohio second team at that position in 2005. John, his middle son, was all-district second team as a linebacker in 2009.
Steve Weaver played football through his freshman year when he discovered his true calling was distance running.
He placed seventh (1:57.57) at the Division II state meet in the 800 in 2009, and anchored the Wildcats’ state runner-up 3200 relay team, which ran a time of 7:58.36, just 1.12 seconds behind state champion Defiance.
The next fall Weaver took up cross country. In his first season, he placed 25th overall in the D-II state meet, and this past fall placing second at 15:21.9, breaking the previous D-II state-meet record (15:22). The winner was new record holder Michael Brajdic (15:01.9).
“It was a difficult decision and my family has supported me the entire way,” Weaver said of replacing football with cross country. “After that freshman year of track and doing so well at the state meet, it kind of opened my eyes. I knew cross country would benefit me more in the end than football.
“I’ve always had the attitude to put my best into everything and, once I started running, that kind of became my thing. I did so well that I couldn’t stop, and I started falling in love with it.”
Between his two All-Ohio state cross country finishes, Weaver placed fourth in the 2010 state track meet in the 1600 (4:21.45).
“He rededicated himself and his whole yearly program has a new focus,” Downey said of Weaver, who logs 70 miles each week in training, and has goals of setting school records in the 400, 800, 1600 and 3200.
Weaver told Downey his aim this season is qualifying for state in the 800, 1600 and 3200 — an almost unheard of triple at that level — then decide which one or two to run in Columbus.
“Steve is the most dedicated runner with talent that we’ve ever had,” Downey said. “We’ve had some really high-mileage guys, but they didn’t have his focus and his aspirations.
“He has a very businesslike approach. He sees this as his ticket to college, and he wants to get in the best school he can. He’s very determined.”
This season, Weaver has the fastest 3200 time in Ohio at 9:29.9 and the sixth best in the 1600 at 4:24.78. Both efforts came April 9 at Bowling Green, times especially impressive considering Weaver still sees the 800 is his best race.
Christy’s time to shine
At Wauseon, senior thrower Todd Christy has mixed feelings as he progresses through his final season before joining the Clemson University track team next year.
On the positive side, he can step out of the shadows cast by the best trio of throwers in northwest Ohio history.
Eastwood’s Welch is now competing in college at Georgia, St. John’s Jesuit’s Cody Riffle, the 2010 Division I state discus champion, is at Michigan, and Sandusky Perkins’ Matthew Hoty, the 2009 D-II state shot put champion and second to Welch in the shot and discus last year, is at Tennessee.
Christy, who placed fifth in both the discus and shot put at state last year, has the best D-II discus throw (eighth best overall) in Ohio this year at 165-5, and the 13th best overall shot put distance at 55-1/4.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling,” Christy said, “because it was usually Welch or Hoty or somebody else winning. It’s weird being at the top at meets.
“I miss those guys. It was always fun to talk to them during a meet, watch them throw, and then get to compete against them. It’s a lot harder [getting inspired] this year.
“Obviously I’d love to win state. I spent all winter lifting, I did a little bit of indoor [throwing], and I worked with a personal trainer who helped me out.”
Christy’s weight training added 35 pounds to what is now a 6-foot-3, 275-pound frame.
“Todd really worked on his technique in the off-season, and he is throwing really far,” Wauseon coach Joe Allen said. “He’s stepping up, and it’s going to be his time to shine.
“Last year, those other throwers were excellent. This year he feels it’s his chance to step up.”
Christy’s greatest challenge, at least in the area, may come from Genoa senior Brad Szypka, who has the second best shot put effort in the state this year at 59-7, and the 12th best discus throw at 162-11.
Another returning state qualifier from Wauseon is senior Michael Becker, who reached Columbus in the 3200.
Two other area girls placed in last year’s D-II state meet — Bryan junior Alyssa McBride, who was fourth in the pole vault at 11-9, and Port Clinton senior Allie Reynolds, who was eighth in the discus at 117-4.
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