HARTVILLE The Lake Center Christian track team is once again a small group setting out to take on a challenging track and field season.
This season, the Tigers are young and have just 20 total athletes on the roster, so the reality is that winning dual meets and contending for invitational meet titles is something they don’t have the roster size for. Head coach Wayne Schultz, his staff and athletes know that the numbers aren’t in their favor, but they’re still looking forward to each chance to compete.
“We are a very young team and small in numbers with a total roster of 20 kids and although (we’re) small, I’m very confident we will do well and am looking forward to our season,” Schultz said. “Each year this team will get better and better as these kids develop to their full potential.”
Last season was the program’s debut in the Portage Trail Conference and due to a similarly small roster, the Tigers finished last in the league. Their challenges were compounded by injuries to some of their top competitors, but those injuries could pay dividends this season because the underclassmen who stepped in to fill the void are more experienced and confident.
For the boys team, the top returnees are senior Ben Humphrey, juniors James Mungo, Dennis Galbreath and Joel Meyer and sophomore Aiden Graham. They’ll get a boost from freshman Kenny Roberts, who joins a team in need of new talent and energy. Add in newcomer Joshua Klatt and Jessie McMurty and Schultz believes he has athletes who can compete well and make progress as the year wears on.
The girls have a solid distance performer in sophomore Eliz Slabaugh, who made her mark as a freshman in cross country in the fall of 2015 and has continued to deliver solid results since.
She and juniors Madison Estel and Rose Wojton are three of the competitors the Tigers will lean on as they welcome newcomers Leah Kadlecek and Grace Lawson to the fold.
“In the future I see our strengths being in the women’s distance events spearheaded by Eliz Slabaugh,” Schultz said. “Our sprinters are led by James Mungo and Aiden Graham and shot and disc by Dennis Galbreath.”
Galbreath had an interesting preseason highlighted by a top-five result for his age group at the Arnold Classic weightlifting event in Columbus. That strength gives him a good base in the throwing events and if he can channel that into a strong season, LCC will get consistent points in the field events.
Small teams that know they won’t be able to fill every event at a meet with enough competitors to win as a team can get discouraged, but the Tigers are trying to take a different view.
“Our goals this season are to improve ourselves as athletes, to set our sights on realistic goals and try to meet those goals and challenges, to develop a bond with our team mates and to develop friendships with all our competitors, to share the love of Jesus Christ through our daily walk and actions on and off the field and to accept victory and defeat with honor and humility,” Schultz said.
That mindset, which the veteran coach traces back to the Bible verse Philippians 4:13, is the starting point for where LCC hopes to see its season go. The program has said goodbye to some of its top senior performers the past two seasons and that has created openings for newcomers to step up and prove themselves.
“This year is no different,” Schultz said. “I’m already seeing much improvement with all these young up and coming athletes.”
The Stark County championship, Optimist Meet, PTC championships and OHSAA postseason are all top entries on the schedule for the Tigers. The postseason is more favorable for smaller teams because schools are limited to two entries per event, so even teams such as LCC have a better chance to make an impact in their best events.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB