Coventry track led by strong middle distance group

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

COVENTRY TWP.  – More than than in most other sports, roster size makes a large difference in a team's ability to compete and win.

Having enough athletes to fill out all of the events in a meet with a smaller roster presents challenges and places more demand on athletes, so the Coventry boys track team definitely has itself a sizable hurdle to clear as the new season unfolds.

With just 35 athletes on the roster, the Comets are counting on every member of the team to contribute and to be willing to pitch in wherever they're needed on a given day. Veteran head coach Danny Savage believes that despite a smaller roster, there are strong points for his squad.

"Our biggest area of strength this year is our middle distance squad. We return three members of our 4x8 relay and top 800 and 1,600 runners," Savage said. "Throws will also be a strength with Kyler Barnett returning. Sprints, jumps, and hurdles are our big question marks this year as we only have one returning letterwinner in (junior Brady Watson)."

Watson is joined by senior distance runner Drew Dimeff, senior middle distance runner Cam Ray, senior thrower Kyler Barnett and senior middle distance runner Dennis Charnes in the group of veterans leading the way for the Comets.

They and their younger teammates not only face the task of coming back after a missed season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also filling a void left by the last senior class to graduate from the program.

"We graduated numerous state and regional qualifiers in those events so we definitely are in a rebuilding process with the sprints, jumps and hurdles," Savage noted.

Despite that challenge and even with having to adhere to health and safety protocols due to the pandemic, Savage says the atmosphere has largely been positive. Athletes are used to the protocols from the other sports they played in the fall and winter, so wearing masks, socially distancing and sanitizing their hands regularly are simply the norm.

As they've gotten back to competing, the focus is on making the most of every day, but for the coaches and athletes who return after missing last season, there is also the lingering emotion of seeing last season's senior class miss out on its final chance to compete at the high school level.

It's a pain that coaches, athletes and administrators from not only the area and not only the state, but the entire country can appreciate. For Savage, it's a feeling that won't soon fade.

"It has been awesome to get back out on the track after missing last season. My heart still hurts for the seniors who didn't have a season last year, especially because we had kids that were poised to be on the podium in Columbus," he noted. "It's weird this year because it's almost like starting from scratch with a lot of kids because they didn't have that learning experience last year. The kids we have this year are learning fast what it takes to continue our success as a track program."

Seeing up-and-coming competitors get their chance to shine and capitalize on it has been one of the highlights for the Comets so far this season. The early efforts of athletes such as sophomore Tyson Denison in the distance races, freshman Mike White in the sprints, sophomore Matt Skaggs in the long and high jumps and senior Dylan Howley in the 400 are encouraging, as is the addition of basketball players Kamden McAfee, Lorenzo King and Anthony Madonio. Those three juniors have made the transition from the hardwood to the track well and have added athleticism to a team in need of new faces,

While a lot has changed both in the world and in high school sports over the past year, the primary goals for the team remain similar to any other season, according to Savage.

"Our goals this year are to compete each and every meet and get better every day," Savage said. "The kids are working really hard at practice and the amount of PR's that we've had already is outstanding. Once we get all our pieces in place, the kids are going to really start to see success."

It's the sort of positivity that's needed in an unusual season and knowing that more challenges will arise as the year unfolds, the Comets are determined to continue making the most of the chances in front of them.