MARTINS FERRY - Winter sports are in full swing, but at Martins Ferry, several athletes are already thinking about spring.
The Purple Riders' indoor track team - which includes 11 boys and 20 girls - begins its season today at Kent State University.
The indoor track program has really blossomed under head coach Rich Materkoski and features a schedule that includes seven meets, including another trip to New York City to run in the New Balance Indoor Nationals.
"Our indoor track team has been growing and growing since we put it in here," Materkoski said.
While indoor track isn't formally recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the sport must be approved by the school board and the OHSAA must be notified the sport is being offered.
As the numbers for the sport continue to grow across the Buckeye State, there could come a day when the OHSAA adds it formally. There is a state meet, but it's sponsored by the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches. It'll be held on March 8 at the University of Akron.
"The sport has become huge throughout the state of Ohio," Materkoski said. "We're one of the few schools around here that offer it, and I think it's helped us tremendously."
The Riders' squad features only athletes who aren't involved in another winter sport.
So, rather than the athletes sitting around all winter until late March when outdoor season begins, the indoor track season speeds up their learning and workout curve.
"We are able to get some kids out that haven't participated in track before and allow them to get some exposure to the sport before the outdoor season begins," Materoski said. "We have a great group of kids that aren't in a winter sport and they are working their tails off on the track, and in the weight room, to make themselves better."
Included on the Riders' roster are six athletes who took part in last year's OHSAA Outdoor State Track and Field Championship.
Those are Brian Styles, Jack Fitch, Hunter Hill and Andrew Watts on the boys' side. They comprised the Riders' sprint relay teams last season. On the girls' side, Sarah Applegarth and Talyr Jenkins are back out after earning all-Ohio in Division III on the 4x2 team.
"Our teams have enjoyed some success over the past couple years and I think being able to have indoor track has been a huge benefit," Materkoski said. The balance of the Riders' boys roster includes: Ben Wharton, Raven Schrader, Shawon Manns, Jacob Bishop, Terrell Tuttle, Jeffrey Lucas and Gavyn Wukeson.
The remainder of the girls' squad includes: Rikki Allen, Nikki Allen, Ashley Griffith, Destiny Davis, Bethany Bishop, Carly McKeegan, Samaira Jones, Peightyn Bumbico, Megan Edwards, Kaitlen Hood, Destiny Miller, Taylor Saus, Kiasia Griffin, Victoria Jenkins, Madison Lyle, Jamie Truchan, Rebecca Petersen and Bri Webb.