BEREA, Ohio – With a balance between veteran leaders and eager young talent, the Baldwin Wallace University men's track and field teams will look to race to the top of the Ohio Athletic Conference in 2019.
Head coach Jordan Hill '09, who is in her first season at the helm in Berea, returns 20 letterwinners, three All-Ohio Athletic Conference performers and two national qualifiers from last year's team that finished seventh at the 2018 OAC Indoor Championships and sixth at the 2018 OAC Outdoor Championships. Hill also welcomes nine new faces to the track this season.
In the preseason United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rankings, the BW men's team came in at No. 15.
"We have some strong leaders with championship experience as well as some eager young talent," Hill said. "We have the guys in place to not only accomplish our goals this season but also set the tone for the future of the program. We are definitely heading in the right direction."
The two returning national qualifiers in senior All-OAC thrower Zak Dysert (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) and junior All-OAC thrower Ted Achladis (Avon Lake/Elyria Catholic) will set the bar for the Yellow Jackets this season. Dysert's season- and career-best mark of 60 feet, 2 inches in the weight throw earned him an OAC title and his first bid to the NCAA Indoor Championships where he placed 12th. Meanwhile, Achladis took home three separate All-OAC honors during his sophomore campaign and qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in both the discus (ninth) and the shot put (16th).
After transitioning from jumps two seasons ago, senior Academic All-OAC thrower Milton Woods (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) will look to score big in the throwing events in his first full season back from injury. Freshman Matthew Staley (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) will span two separate field event groups between throws and jumps.
Sophomore Alex Dempsey (Madison) and freshman Garrett Fess (North Olmsted) will also prove to be versatile for the Yellow Jackets, spreading their talents across multiple events. Both Dempsey and Fess will hope to contribute and add points in jumps and relays.
Turning to the track, sophomore All-OAC distance runner Josh Hickmott (Clay, N.Y./Liverpool) and junior Academic All-OAC distance runner Isaac Wilson (Tylersburg, Pa./North Clarion) will lead the way in distance events. Hickmott earned two-separate All-OAC honors in the outdoor season when he won the 3,000-meter steeplechase and was the runner-up in the 5,000-meter run. Wilson, on the other hand, is coming off of a strong cross country season where he earned his first All-OAC honor by placing 17th at the OAC Championships.
After gaining some collegiate racing experience during the cross country season, a trio of freshmen will look to gain some ground in the mid-distance races between Nate Matthews (Marietta), David Prather (Hardin, Mont.) and Joe Juda (Strongsville) this winter and spring.
Senior Spencer Mahon (North Royalton), senior Academic All-OAC selection Phil Spronz (Strongsville), sophomore Andrew Krupp (Ottawa Hills), sophomore Jose Reynoso (Painesville/Harvey), sophomore Spencer Roberts (Buffalo, N.Y./West Seneca West) and sophomore Larry Salerno (Mentor) will bring also bring years of experience to the distance races as they hope to improve on last season's times. Rounding out the distance crew are freshmen Jeremy Coad (Dublin/Jerome), John Komaromy-Hiller (Edgewood, Ky./Villa Madonna Academy) and Zach Riggins (Wexford, Pa./Pine-Richland).
Returning to lead the sprints group are senior All-American Jordan Leverette (Cleveland/John Adams) and senior Academic All-OAC selection Brandon Cole (Vermillion). A four-time school record holder, Leverette twice broke the 200-meter dash record in 2018 in addition to breaking the OAC Indoor Championship Meet record. He seeks a return to the NCAA Championships and a second All-American honor in his final season as a Yellow Jacket. Cole set career bests in all of his events during last year's indoor campaign and also looks to leave a lasting impact on the track in his senior season.
Picking up some valuable tips from their experienced teammates, freshman sprinter Drew Kopchak (Port Clinton), Dempsey and Fess will provide some stiff competition in the dashes and relays.
In the final event group, junior Robby Becker (South Amherst/Firelands) will focus on the hurdles while Cole and Fess will also hope to hurdle their way through to some additional points.
BW kicks off the 2019 indoor season on Saturday, Jan. 19, when the Yellow Jackets compete in the Dave Lehman Open, hosted by Otterbein University inside the Clements Recreation Center. The Yellow Jackets will host the Dr. Taraschke Team Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 26, and the Mid-February Meet on Friday, Feb. 8, during the indoor season and the 50th Sparky Adams Invitational on Saturday, April 20, and the Harrison Dillard Twilight on Friday, May 10, during the outdoor season.
The OAC Indoor Championships will be hosted by Ohio Northern University Feb. 22-23 inside the ONU Sports Center while Otterbein hosts the OAC Outdoor Championships April 26-27 inside Memorial Stadium.