Elmwood's hard work pays off (03-28-14)
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor
Friday, 28 March 2014 10:12
JERRY CITY - Elmwood's hard work on and off the track is paying off.
|Elmwood's Aaron Arnold competes in the long jump during OHSAA State Track and Field Championships last season. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
The Royals are emerging as one of the best boys track teams in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
They've finished second or third in the NBC the last two seasons, and they're goal is to challenge for one of the top spots again this season.
Elmwood returns eight lettermen from last season when it scored 110 points in the NBC meet to finish second.
The Royals were third with 104 points in 2012 and second in the Suburban Lakes League with 105 points in 2011.
"We've had success and that's really helped us grow, and we talk to our friends about coming out for the team," said Elmwood senior Aaron Arnold, a Division III state qualifier in the long jump, and the 400 and 1,600 relays last season.
The success the last three seasons came after Elmwood scored just 48.5 points in the SLL meet in 2010 and 70.5 points in 2009.
"We want to challenge for the top of the league," said Elmwood senior Sebastian Baxter, who throws the shot put and the discus. "In the past, people have focused on other sports instead of track. Now, everyone is excited it's track season and everyone can't wait to get out there.
"The change is where everyone is looking forward to (running) now. It's not something they have to do. It's something they want to do and something they want to be a part of."
The Royals have almost 40 athletes this season, the result of growing numbers on their middle school team.
Elmwood has a combined total of about 70 boys and girls on its middle school team.
The Royal varsity includes 15 freshmen, the most in Poffenbaugh's tenure.
Elmwood also has been helped by the addition of an all-weather track that was installed last season.
"The middle school is where it starts," said Elmwood coach Eric Poffenbaugh, who is in his fifth season. "We're just trying to reach out to the younger kids and they see the success we've had in recent years. They want to be a part of it."
Elmwood's varsity athletes also assist with the middle school meets.
"The younger kids have the communication with the older guys and they look up to them, and they want to fill that role on our team once they get older," Poffenbaugh said. "And just the success we've had of getting kids to state has helped get our numbers to up."
Elmwood is hoping to close the gap on Eastwood. The Eagles have won 13 straight SLL and NBC titles, winning the NBC last season with 167 points. Eastwood has one of Ohio's top Division II programs.
"Eastwood will be tough again and they have a heck of a program," Poffenbaugh said "Hopefully, we'll be closer to them than we were last year. We do have a young team, but that will be a good thing by the end of the season. They're a real hungry group and they want to be a big part of it."
Poffenbaugh said the team worked hard in the weight room during the offseason and had an an increased number of athletes compete in indoor track during the winter. He also praised the team's veterans for their leadership.
"All of that shows the dedication people have towards track," Poffenbaugh said. "It'll be fun to see up much our kids grow and improve from the start of the season to the end. We're way ahead at this point compared to last year."
Arnold and Baxter are the team's senior lettermen, to go along with five junior lettermen.
"The few upperclassmen we have are very good and their leadership has trickled down through to the younger guys," Poffenbaugh said.
Elmwood qualified three individuals and two relay teams for state last season.
The returnees are Arnold in the long jump; juniors Josh Mathias and Andrew Jasso in the 3,200 relay; and Arnold and junior Austin Jasso in the 1,600 relay.
Austin Jasso and Arnold return in the 800 relay where Elmwood won the NBC title last season.