Track and field season is just a few weeks away.
I started typing schedules this past week for the oval sport and something jumped out at me in the process.
The 36th annual Dick Dei Track and Field Classic at Wheeling Park High School is adding a girls' portion to the meet for the first time in the meet's more than 30-year history.
The decision, which we feel is a good one, has been a long time coming and the reasons are plentiful.
More and more schools have all-weather track facilities, meaning they don't need to travel as far to find meets, a lot of schools' athletic departments are dealing with a budget crunch and don't want teams traveling as far and, along those same lines, a lot of schools don't want to separate teams because fewer and fewer schools have two different coaches for track and field.
All of those factors played into the decision, which was made by a collection of people at Wheeling Park, including head track coach Chris Daugherty.
"We really didn't have anyone complain that it was boys only, but when we called some of the schools that have been coming to the Dick Dei for a long time, they seemed happy that we're offering girls," Daugherty said. "Plus, we're hoping to get more local teams to decide to be a part of this meet."
Daugherty said the hope is to land between eight and 12 schools for the meet, but have pushed those invited to bring both the boys' and girls' teams.
"We're going to offer a boys' champion, a girls' champion and a combined champion when you add the scores together," Daugherty said. "We feel that opening up and having girls will give us a chance to maintain the four to five loyal schools we've had and hope to add maybe five or six new schools."
The Dick Dei Classic will be held on Saturday, April 13. That's a jam-packed weekend of track and field. The third annual Porterfield Classic at Red Devil Stadium is on that Friday evening and the annual Bellaire Girls Invitational will also be held on April 13.
DUKE WINS GLIAC TITLE
River High product D.J. Duke has returned to indoor track and field competition in a big way. A junior at the University of Ashland, Duke claimed the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title with a put of 59-ft-10 1/2.
The GLIAC Championship meet was held last weekend at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
Duke has qualified for the NCAA Division II Indoor National Meet, which will be held in Birmingham next weekend. The two-time Ohio Division III state champion leads the list of qualifiers with his mark from the conference championship.
We'll have more on Duke's pursuit of the national title next week.
Former Martins Ferry all-Ohioan Anthony Phillips is continuing his track and field success at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa.
Phillips, a 2011 Purple Rider product, was named West Virginia Conference Male Track and Field Athlete of the Week.
A hurdling standout, Phillips shined at the Bucknell Winter Classic last weekend. He tied the indoor school record in the 60M high hurdles with a 8.37. Currently, he's leading the conference in that event.
Phillips has been dabbling in many events this winter and is preparing to compete in the decathlon during the outdoor season.
Former Steubenville High state high hurdle champion Josh Thompson, who qualified for the NCAA Division I Outdoor championships in the 110 highs last spring for Pittsburgh, has transferred to LSU.
Thompson is currently competing for the Tigers and finished fifth in the Southeast Conference Championship meet with a time of 8.01 for the 60-meter event. Thompson posted a 7.89 in the qualifying round.
OFF TO THE APPLE
The handful of members of the Martins Ferry Indoor track team departs for New York City on Thursday to take part in the New Balance Indoor Nationals at the famed Armory in Manhattan.
The Purple Riders' will be led by senior shot putter Sean McGee, who has qualified to take part in the championship division. He qualified based on his mark of 55-feet during last outdoor season.
Also slated to make the trip and compete in the 'Emerging Elite' division is a girls' medley relay team. The foursome is comprised of Sarah Applegarth, Jamie Truchan, Taylr Jenkins and Sunshine Wrenn.
St. Clairsville senior Alyssa Robinson, who recently signed with Penn State University, will also compete in the meet. She won the Ohio Division II state championship last spring and just, last month, set a new meet record at Youngstown State during an indoor competition.
Robinson will head to NYC riding momentum. She competed at an indoor meet in Columbus on Saturday and launched the iron ball to a personal-best mark of 45-ft-1.
A lot of couples have been through what feel like a marathon in their relationships.
However, Diane and Wayne McCracken went through a literal marathon together earlier this month in Jacksonville.
The Buckeye Local track and cross country coaches ran in The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
Diane posted an impressive time of 3 hours, 54 minutes and 6 seconds to win the 55-59 age group, which included 47 participants. Along with the title, her time qualified her for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Wayne, meanwhile, finished 12th in the 50-54 age group, which included 70 participants. He posted a time of 3 hours, 50 minutes and 24 seconds.
Jade Riebold, who is the daughter of Class of 1980 Martins Ferry graduates Rick and Vicki (Winters) Riebold, was named Ohio Valley Conference Female Athlete of the Year for indoor track and field last month.
Riebold, who won the OVC championship last week for Eastern Illinois University, recently cleared a personal indoor record of 14-feet. Her previous high had been 13-ft-11, which was ranked eighth in the nation in Division I.
Next up, Riebold, who is a graduate of Olentangy Liberty in suburban Columbus and an all-conference academic performer, will compete in the NCAA Division I Indoor Nationals later this month.
We wrote about Riebold in July when she was dealt a tough break by the USATF during the Olympic Trials.
UNION LOCAL MEET
The annual Gloria Dawes Memorial Track Meet held at Union Local High School is changing dates for this season. The meet was traditionally held the first weekend that Ohio schools were allowed to compete. That's the weekend of March 30 this year, but the meet has been pushed back to April 6.
While the West Virginia schools actually got their seasons started last Monday with practice, the Ohio schools aren't permitted to begin pre-season outdoor workouts until March 4 with the first competition date set for March 30.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com