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Published: Friday, 4/29/2011

Titans start work on new jewel

$1.5M track, synthetic turf field at St. John's to be used for 6 sports

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

St. John's Jesuit will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the school's future on-campus track and turf athletic field, a $1.5 million project which will be completed this fall and be utilized by athletes in six sports.

The project includes a synthetic turf playing surface surrounded by an eight-lane, 400-meter track, which will be constructed in the same area where the school's current track is located. The new field will be repositioned slightly, making it perpendicular to Airport Highway.

"A new athletic field and surrounding track will serve an important purpose for a great number of our students on the St. John's Jesuit campus," said Geoff Lyden, the school's board chair. "It is an investment in the future that allows us to continue to develop the finest student athletes in northwest Ohio and throughout the state."

In addition to use by the track and cross country teams, the new athletic field will also be utilized by the school's football, soccer, lacrosse, and rugby squads for practices and games.

Bleacher seating for approximately 500 spectators, which is currently positioned on an adjacent field used for soccer and lacrosse games, will be moved to the field.

The field, which will not include lighting, will be used for a few select varsity football day games for which large crowds are not expected, according to school communications director Kathy Rotte.

"The development of the St. John's Jesuit track and turf is long overdue," said board member Don Mewhort, who is a 1983 St. John's graduate and the father of ex-Titan and current Ohio State lineman Jack Mewhort.

"This is an important piece of our campus that required renovating and updating to benefit current and future athletes," Mewhort added. "When the project is complete, it will set St. John's apart from most other schools in Ohio.

Funding for the project has been raised exclusively through private donations.

"The project has involved input from a wide range of professionals," Mewhort said, "including St. John's alumni. We have been pleased with the wide range of financial support. As a graduate and a parent, it will be gratifying to watch the action on the field."

Ronai hired as AD

St. John's president, Father Joaquin Martinez, announced that Bob Ronai will be the school's next athletic director.

The start date is pending for Ronai, 58, who has been a teacher, counselor, and head boys basketball coach since 2003 at Middletown High School in southwest Ohio.

"I'm really excited," Ronai said. "St. John's has one of the top high school athletic programs in the state of Ohio. They're not just good in one or two sports, they're good in everything.

"The fact that they're going into a new conference made it more exciting. I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'm looking forward to working with the athletic staff. They have some great coaches."

Ronai will take over for the Titans' interim AD, John Brennan, who was installed after former AD Brian Miller resigned from the position in February.

His teams at Middletown went 78-33, including 50-16 the last three seasons.

"I had been contemplating [leaving Middletown] for the last two years," Ronai said. "We made a nice run at the end of the season. We beat [Cincinnati] Moeller, which was No. 1 in the state at the time, and the next game we beat Lakota East, which was No. 4.

"But I was a college AD for a while, and I missed that part of the job. I just felt the time was right. I enjoyed the kids at Middletown, and I wouldn't leave for just anything

"The last couple years I was looking to be associated with an athletic program like what St. John's has to offer, where they're very successful and want to continue to build on the success. My goal was to become an AD again, and not too many opportunities open up like this. It was too hard for me to pass up."

Prior to Middletown, Ronai served as basketball coach at London High School in Ohio and Cathedral Prep in Erie, Pa., was a coach and assistant athletic director at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and athletic director and men's basketball coach for 11 years at Urbana University in Ohio.

A native of Long Island, N.Y., he grew up in New Jersey, received a bachelor's degree from St. Francis (Ind.) University, and a master's degree from Ball State.

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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