MANSFIELD – It’s been an even rougher start than usual to the track and field season because of inclement weekend weather and the cancellation of some local invitationals. But once we get to the point where we’re not talking about thawing out or drying out there’s a pretty good chance all of the boys cracking this Top 25 list will be in top form for the postseason push to Columbus.
Athletes from all of the Richland County schools, along with Ashland and Galion, were eligible for this ranking of the top prospects. Here you go, in ascending order:
25. Carter Newman, Lexington
Newman is that rare combination of sprinter/thrower for the Minutemen, scoring well in the 100 and 200 meters and discus last season as a freshman at the Ohio Cardinal Conference meet.
24. Grant Barrett, Lucas
Barrett was a regional qualifier and Mid-Buckeye Conference champion last year in the discus and also adds depth in the sprints for the Cubs.
23. Caiden Allen, Plymouth
Allen is already off to a fast start for the Big Red, winning the 100 and the high jump at this year’s Shelby Invitational. He was runner-up in both of those events in last year’s Firelands Conference meet.
22. Kyle Foust, Galion
Foust finished eighth in the high jump at the recent indoor state meet, which could bode well for him now that the competition has moved outdoors.
21. Phil Stupka, Madison
Stupka runs all of the sprints for the Rams and was a regional qualifier in the 400 last season.
20. Luca Will, Ashland
One of the leaders on the Arrows’ always dangerous distance crew, Will was a member of last year’s state-qualifying 4x800 relay as well as the Ohio Cardinal Conference champion 4x400 unit.
19. Colton Johnson, Ashland
Johnson won the 100 at last year’s Ohio Cardinal Conference meet as a sophomore and finished third in the 200, proving that not all of the best runners in the Arrows program are distance runners.
18. Xander Wilkins, Shelby
Wilkins swept the discus and shot put in last year’s Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference meet. He was a district runner-up in the shot put and was also a regional qualifier in the discus.
17. Keontz Bradley, Mansfield Senior
Bradley should be one of the top hurdlers in the area this spring after a strong sophomore showing last year. He’s also a key member of the Tygers’ sprint relay crews, including the 2021 Division I district champion 4x200.
16. Zach Keffalas, St. Peter’s
Keffalas is a big reason the Spartans are coming off the first Mid-Buckeye Conference championship in school history. He was named the Most Outstanding Runner in the meet after winning the 800 and 3,200. He also posted a personal-best 4:51.81 in the 1,600 for runner-up honors and was a regional qualifier in that race.
15. Luke Dininger, Shelby
Dininger showed his promise last year as a sophomore, competing on the regional-qualifying 4x800 relay after running the 90th-fastest cross country time in Division II of 17:22.3 at the state meet. He should figure heavily on what is always a strong distance crew for the Whippets.
14. Miles Meisse, Ontario
Meisse was a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference champ in the 800, 1,600 and 4x800 relay. He went on from there to be a district runner-up in the metric half-mile and a regional qualifier in the 4x800 relay.
13. Mason Hendrickson, Shelby
A member of an always strong distance crew, Hendrickson is coming off a cross country season during which he was the only Richland County male runner in Division II to take All-Ohio honors, placing 22nd at the state meet with a time of 16:17.6. Look for him to be a big factor in the 3,200.
12. Ethan Peebles, Lexington
Peebles was part of a 4x800 relay that won an Ohio Cardinal Conference title and runner-up honors at the district level. He also qualified for regionals in the 800. He surprised everyone in the fall by winning a Division II district title in cross country and went on to finish fourth at the regional level, qualifying for state.
11. Huck Finnegan, Shelby
Finnegan qualified for state last year in the 3,200 after winning district and Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference titles in his specialty. Last fall he placed third in the Division II district cross country meet and went on to finish 22nd at the regional level for a state-qualifying berth.
10. Amil Upchurch, Mansfield Senior
After spending his first three years of high school at three different schools, Upchurch appears poised to break out in his second season with the Tygers. He was a Division I district champ in the high jump after finishing second to teammate Maurice Ware in the Ohio Cardinal Conference meet, and he went on to qualify for the state meet in his specialty. He has cleared the bar at 6-6, and the potential is there to go even higher, especially since he will be pushed by Ware on a daily basis.
9. Gabe Smedley, Crestview
Another cog in the Cougars’ machine, Smedley ran on the state runner-up 4x800 relay that also won Firelands Conference, district and regional titles. He also ran on the regional champion 4x400.
8. Adison Reymer, Crestview
One of five returning All-Ohioans for the Cougars, Reymer was part of the eighth-place 4x200 relay at state. He just missed on being a two-event All-Ohioan as his 4x100 crew finished ninth. Both relays won district titles and the 4x100 was also a Firelands Conference champ.
7. Rashaun Barber, Crestview
Barber was part of Crestview’s state-medalist 4x200 relay last season. He was also a regional qualifier in the 200, winning a district title, and is a 20-foot long jumper, showing the kind of athleticism that should make the Cougars a force on the oval again this spring.
6. Tommy O’Neill, Crestview
One of the best distance runners in Richland County, O’Neill was part of Crestview’s state runner-up 4x800 last year as a junior. He also advanced to state in the 1,600 after winning Firelands Conference titles in the 1,600, 3,200 and 4x800 relay. Last fall he was the News Journal’s Male Cross Country Runner of the Year after placing 14th in his fourth trip to the state meet. He was a district champ and took third at regionals to set up his career-best finish. Now he has a chance to finish his track career with an exclamation point after helping the Cougars to a fifth-place finish in the Division III standings last year.
5. Connor Henkel, Shelby
A 21-foot long jumper, Henkel was a district champ in the event and qualified for state, leaping 20-7¾. More recently he finished fourth at the indoor state meet and looks to feed off that momentum this spring. He’s also a key member of the Whippets’ sprint crew.
4. Maurice Ware, Mansfield Senior
The sky seems to be the limit for Ware, who showed he has the kind of spring in his legs needed to compete for a state title in the high jump last spring when he cleared 6-6 during the season and beat out teammate Amil Upchurch for the title in the Ohio Cardinal Conference meet. Also a sprinter and valuable member of the Tygers’ relay rotation, perhaps the only question is whether “Mo” has enough left in those legs after soaring for seven dunks and MVP honors in this year’s News Journal All-Star Basketball Classic.
3. Tanner Moore, Crestview
Moore is arguably the best sprinter in the area. He showed his potential last April at the Mehock Relays, winning the 100, along with the high jump. By the end of the season, he found himself on the state podium a couple of times, with his eighth-place time of 11.49 in the 100 and as part of the eighth-place 4x200 relay. The Cougars finished fifth in the Division III standings and Moore just missed being a three-event All-Ohioan when he was part of the ninth-place 4x100. He was a triple champ at districts, setting the stage for a great finish to his season.
2. Ethan Staley, Clear Fork
Staley was the News Journal’s Male Field Athlete of the Year in 2021 after placing fourth in the Division II pole vault by clearing 14-6 on his final attempt at the state meet. It was the second time he’s earned All-Ohio honors in his specialty, having placed eighth two years earlier as a freshman.
1. Isaac Brooks, Madison
Brooks is the top returning state placer from Richland County with a third-place finish in the Division I 300 hurdles with a time of 38.32. He just missed placing in the 110 highs, with a ninth-place showing in 14.74, after winning regional titles in both. He would have been an Ohio Cardinal Conference champ in his two specialties if not for Mount Vernon’s Erich Rhodebeck, who went on to win a state title in the 300s and finish second in the 110s. Rhodebeck has graduated, so it certainly looks like this could be Brooks’ year.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Your Top 25 boys track and field athletes returning in 2022