Ohio Track And Field Breaks The Ice At Youngstown State Friday

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The Ohio track and field team comes into this season with experience at the top.

It starts with the distance runners. The Bobcats will welcome back veteran Mid-American Conference champions Melissa Thompson and Juli Accurso as they look to further their success within the conference. Supporting the veterans will be sophomores Kayla Scott and Caroline Hildebrand.

"These two [Scott and Hildebrand] really came on strong during the cross country season," runners coach Clay Calkins said. "They really stepped up their running and we’re expecting them to help us with some points in the MAC championships."

Local senior Kara Jackson is expected to have a much improved campaign as well. The former Gallia Academy Blue Devil star has dealt with injuries in previous years, but Calkins said he believes she can do big things in the 400-meter dash.

Calkins has another local talent that will make big contributions this year. Former Federal Hocking Lancer Chanda Cuckler comes into this year’s campaign having placed in the MAC a year ago.

"She fills a lot of gaps for us," Calkins said. "She can cover a lot of events and is someone we are looking strong to for points."

On the throwing side, coach Nick Pero said he believes his returnees will be in good shape when the season begins Friday.

"Our strength and fitness level is very high right now," Pero said. "Our team has been very close-knit and has shown great chemistry.”

Donnyelle Brown and Janiece Rose are the two juniors that stand out. Both have had successful careers and will try to transition to leadership roles as their junior year begins.

Although the Ohio throwers have had success, they do lack experience, as most returnees have more eligibility to come after this season. One senior who is expected to have a great season is Lauren McCullough. McCullough is coming off an injury, but Pero said he believes she will have a "dynamite" senior go-around.

The freshmen are expected to contribute this season as well. Throwers Emma Ryan and Ashley Billhimer are expected to play large roles this year. On the jumping side, the Smith freshmen are expected to have solid seasons. Tajah and Taylor Smith (no relation) have shown glimpse of what they can contribute through their high school days. Taylor Smith is the reigning indoor state champion out of high school and Tajah had a successful four years as well.

The Ohio track and field team should have many pieces to compete this year. With the outdoor championships coming to Athens this season, the Bobcats are working to be in prime form to perform well on their home turf.

The team begins the indoor season Friday with the Youngstown State University College Icebreaker. The meet begins at 3:30 p.m.