These are certainly good times to be affiliated with the Martins Ferry track program.
The girls have been one of the area's premier teams for going on three seasons now and the boys are continuing to climb the ladder with an underclass-laced roster.
Veterans all over the track - and field - have head coach Rich Materkoski, who is entering his sixth season at the helm, very excited about what could lie ahead this spring.
PICTURED ARE the key returnees for the Martins Ferry girls’ track team. Sitting, from left, are Madison Rice, Talyr Jenkins, Rikki Allen, Kayce Neely, Sarah Applegarth, Lindsay Cunningham and Rebecca Peterson. Second row, from left, are Bri Webb, Jamie Truchan, Lauren Bennett, Nikki Allen, Destiny Davis, Ashley Griffith and Tyesha Allen.
PICTURED ARE the key returnees for the Martins Ferry boys’ track team. Kneeling, from left, are Brian Styles, Andrew Watts, Hunter Hill and Jack Fitch. Standing, from left, are Nick Bain, Brian Sadosky, Ben Wharton and Theo Zoumpoulidis.
THE LADY RIDERS are coming off yet another highly productive campaign and bring back many of the faces that have been excelling since 2012.
"We've been fortunate to have some success over the past couple of years and we want to continue that tradition," Materkoski said. "We have many girls back and they're hungry to finish off this year season in much of the same fashion."
The Lady Riders claimed the OVAC 4A title, Division III district championship and Buckeye 8 hardware last season.
Along with talented personnel, the Lady Riders are deep, too.
"We have athletes in all areas," Materkoski said. "I think that will bode well for us when it comes to team scoring. We're going to get scoring from a ton of young kids"
Senior Talyr Jenkins, who has signed with Wheeling Jesuit, returns to lead the way in the sprints. She was a part of the Lady Riders' 4x2 team that placed seventh in the Division III state meet.
Classmate Sarah Applegarth will be one of the top 400 meter dashers in the area. She, too, was on the sprint relay last season. She'll also be entered in the long jump.
Junior Ashley Griffith is back in the sprints. A solid relay member, she was an all-Ohioan on the 4x2 team. She can also be utilized in the hurdles.
Versatility rings true for the Lady Riders. Sophomore Tyesha Allen is coming off a brilliant rookie campaign in which she narrowly missed the state meet in the hurdles.
Allen will be joined in the hurdles by Nikki Allen, Rikki Allen and Griffith. The Allens can also be used in the sprints.
Other sprinters and hurdlers to watch include: Destiny Davis, Megan Edwards, Daleitha Johnson, Vanessa Ray and Malyah Coleman.
Distance running took a hit with the graduation of the versatile Sunshine Wrenn in the 800.
However, the likes of Jamie Truchan, Madison Lyle, Lindsay Cunningham, Madison Reis, Lauren Bennett and Rebecca Petersen will be looking to pick up the slack.
Field events - especially in the jumps - will be a strength.
Three pole vaulters will be counted upon. Rikki Allen, who is signed to attend Wheeling Jesuit, Bennett and Kaitlin Hood will be there. Allen and Kayce Neely will join Applegarth in the long jump.
Davis, Bekkah French and Coleman will see time in the high jump.
In the throwing events, Bri Webb leads the way. She'll be joined by Taylor Saus, Lacey Stewart and Destiny Miller.
"Our kids are battle tested, so we're really looking forward to our seniors finishing off their careers the right way," Materkoski said. "They've been working hard."
Other sophomores looking to get into the mix are Holly Davis, Cassie Berisford, Allie Goscik, Mady Krob, Maddie Kwiatkowski, Areonna Martin and Maria Tracey.
The balance of the freshman contingent consists of Hayley Sutton, Chloe Sutton, Sophia Koucoumaris, Candace Kendzierski, Bethany Bishop, Peightyn Bumbico, Kiasia Griffen, Carly McKeegan, Samaira Jones, Megan Ritts, Victoria Jenkins, Jessica Beck, Jacinda Underhill and Lauren McIlvane.
The Riders lost Wrenn, Brenna Becca and Courtney Crolley to graduation.
THE PURPLE RIDER boys were highly competitive each time out last season, but came up just short several times, finishing runnerup in the OVAC and Buckeye 8.
"Our boys are finally in the situation our girls have been over the last couple of years and that is having a team with some depth," Materkoski said. "We have a nice corp of sprinters and hurdlers and we've really developed a more well-rounded team because our distance guys are coming around."
The Riders' sprints and sprint relays will certainly be a strength. The Riders took both their 4x1 and 4x2 teams to the state meet last season and all are back.
The quartet of Brian Styles, Jack Fitch, Hunter Hill and Andrew Watts were the premier relay foursome in the area last season. They've all enjoyed strong indoor campaigns.
Other sprinters in the mix are Jake Barritt, Lucas Agnew, Arjay Burress and Izzy Phillips.
Fitch and Javon Garriel will be the top Rider hurdling entrants.
The Purple have not scored well in the distance events in the past several years, but Materkoski expects that to change with the likes of Theo Zoumpoulidis, Jacob Bishop, Kevin Simpson, Terrell Tuttle, Jeffrey Lucas, Ben Wharton and Raven Schrader in the mix.
In the field, the Riders will have to replace all-Ohio thrower Sean McGee in both the discus and shot put, but Brian Sadosky, Nick Bain and Jerry Jarman are expected to fill the void.
In the jumping events, Styles, Watts and Hill will compete in the long jump. Shawon Manns is in the high jump, while Gavyn Wukeson and John McCracken are the vaulters.
Other juniors looking to get into the mix are Alex Costello and Josiah Burress. Ferry's deep freshman class also includes Darrell Price, Jared Straub, Malik Hill, Sam Russell, Dom Bell, Derek Craig, Thomas Singhaus, Keegan Hupp, Jackson Lybarger, Richard Lechner, Dakota Phillips and Bobby Shreve.
Along with McGee, Ferry also lost quality scoring of Cody Schau to graduation.
Materkoski's coaching staff returns intact with Dirk Fitch, Paul Matuska and Greg Steele.
The complete Purple Riders' schedule includes:
March 29 - at Meadowbrook with Buckeye Trail, Shenandoah and Caldwell; April 1 - Wheeling Central, Union Local, Bellaire; April 3 - Steubenville; April 5 - at Bellaire Early Bird; April 8 - Martins Ferry Relays; April 11 - at St. Clairsville Porterfield Invite; April 15 - at Oak Glen with Beaver Local; April 17 - at Bellaire with Bridgeport; April 19 - at Shadyside Relays; April 22 - Steubenville, Steubenville Central, St. John; April 26 - at Bellaire Relays; April 29 - Buckeye 8 at Martins Ferry; May 6 and 8 - OVAC Qualifying at St. Clairsville; May 10 - OVAC Championship at St. C; May 15 - Toronto.