PREBLE COUNTY — Sports news in Preble County in 2015 saw a wide range of athletes from the five area high schools take on a variety of post-season accomplishments. Among the highlights were the following:
Deaton wins state
Aaron Deaton, an all-around exceptional athlete from Twin Valley South, took home a gold medal in the spring. He won the boys’ Division III shot put at the state meet in June, scoring the first gold for a thrower in South’s history. It was also the first title for the Panthers since 2004.
He broke his record twice during the historic day in Columbus, tossing his first throw of 55 feet, two and one-half inches before measuring his third (and winning) throw at 56 feet, nine inches. He beat his next closest opponent by seven and a half inches.
It was Deaton’s second time at state and he will go into his senior campaign looking for a repeat performance.
It was a banner year for the Eaton volleyball program, which captured an SWBL Southwestern title, a sectional championship and a district championship before the team bowed out in the regional semi-finalsagainst Athens High School.
The SWBL Co-Championship marked the first for the program since 2003. The Eagles defeated fellow SWBL Southwestern Co-Champion Bellbrook to claim the program’s first sectional title in more than a decade. They followed up the sectional championship with a win in the district finals against Cincinnati’s Archbishop McNicholas for the program’s first district title since 2000.
The Eagles also saw junior setter Emma McKinney win SWBL Southwestern Player of the Year and earn third team All-Ohio Honors. McKinney was one of six Eagles who received All-Conference honors and All-District honors. Three members played in the District 15 Senior All-Star game and six Eagles were named to the District 15 All-Academic All-star team.
“They know it was a special run, and I told them afterwards this this was still a spectacular season and they should hold their heads up high and be proud of what they accomplished this year,” Eaton head coach Parker Fields said after his team’s loss to Athens, adding, ”They’ve set a standard here at Eaton moving forward.”
Eaton girls basketball
The Eaton girls basketball team has been an absolute wrecking ball in the Southwestern Buckeye League over the last two years.
In February, they secured their second straight SWBL title after beating Bellbrook for their 31st straight conference victory.
“I hate the term defending champs. We aren’t defending champs. We pursued another championship. Last year’s isn’t going anywhere,” said head coach Dave Honhart. “The second straight is a nice accomplishment. We faced some outstanding competition. When you’ve won the league the year before, you get everyone’s best shot.”
The team’s streak came to an end at the start of this season when they lost 47-35 to Franklin during their third game of the year. They are currently 8-5 overall and 3-2 in the SWBL.
Retiring of Legends
Three Preble County Athletic legends stepped away from the game for the final time in 2015 with Eaton football coach Ron Neanen being joined by Twin Valley South softball coach Darcy Robinson and National Trail Athletic Director Mick Ditmer in retiring from their respective schools.
Neanen earned his place in the history of Eaton football after winning more than 190 games, claiming seven league championships and making the playoffs seven times in 27 years with the program. The best year for Neanen came in 2010 when the Eagles completed a perfect regular season before falling to Cincinnati McNicholas in the regional finals. They finished 12-1.
After 32 years with the program she started, Robinson said goodbye to Twin Valley South softball. Robinson never won a league title as the Panthers’ softball coach but she did win a title as the school’s varsity girls’ basketball coach in 1989. The best softball season for Robinson ended with a district title. In total she coached 57 seasons with the school, including time as the coach of softball, girls’ basketball, volleyball and most recently, golf.
Mick Ditmer wore many hats in the 35 years he spent with National Trail but most people know him from his time as a baseball coach or his final decade as athletic director. The list of accomplishments is long for Ditmer and includes a 46-game conference winning streak in baseball, a run that was nearly a half-decade long. His teams won eight conference titles and he was named coach of the year eight times in the conference. He was also athletic director when the National Trail football team qualified for the state playoffs for the first time ever in 2013.
South sweeps track districts
Twin Valley South’s boys’ and girls’ track teams swept the Division III district track meet held at Welcome Stadium in late May. It was the second year in a row that their girls’ squad took home the top spot in the district.
The girls won the meet rather handily, scoring 103.5 points – well in front of second place Miami Valley who scored 84 points.
The boys’ match was a little closer, edging out second place Dixie by one point. The Panthers used a third place finish in the 4X400 to end the meet and propelled themselves to the top of the podium.
Wrestlers go to state
Four Preble County wrestlers qualified for the OHSAA State Wrestling Tournament with National Trail’s Zach Sullivan and Ben Sullivan and Tri-County North’s Colton Booth and Reilly Lipinski making it to the final meet of the year.
Zach Sullivan, a senior at National Trail, placed third in the 170 pound weight class. He became the first Blazer to ever place in the state tournament more than once in his career. He finished his career with 174 wins for the Blazers.
Sullivan was quickly joined by his brother Ben, a sophomore, now junior, wrestler for National Trail who placed third in the 220 weight class. He placed second as a freshman in the weight class. Sullivan continues to wrestle for the Blazers and is a favorite to return to the podium at the state tournament in 2016.
Booth wrestled his way to a fourth place finish in the OHSAA Division III tournament in the 195 pound weight class. He also broke the single season record for wins in a season for the program, picking up 52 on the season. He lost just four matches all year.
Despite suffering a leg injury in football and sitting out a large portion of the season, Lipinski qualified for the state tournament in the 285 pound weight class. For his senior season Lipinski finished 17-8.
Eaton golf star Cameron Willis played some – okay, a lot – of good golf over the summer months. He competed in the Columbus District Golf Association USGA Amateur, placing third overall and advancing to the U.S. Amateur held at Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois.
He was also busy playing in several other tournaments during the summer, with one of his highlight being a round of 68 that qualified him for the American Junior Golf Association tournament at Old Silo Golf Course in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. He tied for second in the qualifying, shooting a 35 on the front nine and a 33 on the back nine.
Aside from his summer play, he was also named Golfer of the Year in the SWBL and was the medalist at the sectional tournament this season.
State Cross Country Qualifiers
Seth Gard and Madison Wright represented Preble County at the 2015 OHSAA State Cross Country meet after both qualifying through Regional Races.
Gard, a junior from Eaton, placed 30th in the race hosted at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. Some 147 runners competed with Gard who finished with a time of 16:28. Gard improved his place for a year prior when he placed 42nd as a sophomore for the Eagles. He won the SWBL conference meet, placed third in District and placed fifth in the Regional Event.
Wright, a junior from Twin Valley South, finished 27th out of the 143 runners in the state meet with a time of 19:28 on National Trail Raceway course. Despite finishing 27th Wright only missed the podium by 14 seconds. The 27th place finish was the best for the school in nearly 30 years. For the season she broke a school record by breaking the 19 minute mark in a race, and placed third in the regional qualifying event.
Track state qualifiers
During track season, Preble County sent five athletes to the state level to compete in their respective areas. Most notably was Deaton, who took home the gold medal in shot put, but all-in-all there were several respectable performances that did the county schools proud.
Madison Wright from Twin Valley South, Hailey Thies and Austin Johnson from Tri-County North, and Seth Reynolds from Eaton all competed that weekend.
Wright ran in the 800-meter run, clocking a time of 2:25.48 and finishing 13th overall.
Thies – a freshman at the time – competed in the high jump and ended the day with a jump of five feet, tying for 14th on the day.
Johnson ran in the 300-meter hurdles, clocking a time of 40.81 and reaching the podium with an eighth place finish.
Reynolds competed in the 110-meter hurdles, also reaching the podium with a seventh place finish and breaking his PR with a time of 14.76.
2015 offered a fresh beginning for many of the sports programs throughout the county, as 20 new head coaches took over varsity programs.
Eaton saw coaching changes in two major sports as Brad Davis took over the football program from Ron Neanen and John Tollefson took over for Denny Sheppard as head coach of the boys’ basketball program. Matt Money took over for the boys soccer program and Maggie Neanen entered her first year as head coach of the softball program.
National Trail also hired a new football coach as Randy Kerns returned to coach the school he once played for. Joy Yeazel returned to sidelines to take over the reins of the volleyball program after having a previous stint as head coach. She also coached track for the first time in the spring. Lisa McCloskey was also a first year coach for the girls’ soccer team and Kurt Bachman entered his first year as the schools golf coach. Dusty Thompson took over for the baseball team in his first year as head coach.
Preble Shawnee saw the fewest amount of turnover of any district in the county with only two new faces joining the coaching ranks. Mason Kuykendoll took over the boys’ soccer program and Jake Follick took control of the school’s wrestling teams.
At Tri-County North several new faces joined the school, including first year head varsity basketball coach Dale Spitler Jr., a 2006 graduate of Twin Valley South. Justin Tucker took over the baseball program after a successful run from Larry Gray ended with a title in 2014. Brian Stupp took over for the softball program, Sarah Collins took over the volleyball program and Tyler Jewell took over the golf program.
At Twin Valley South Jeff Case took over from Glenn Mabry for the girls’ basketball program. Darcy Robinson took over the newly revived golf program for the school and Jim Wagers took over for the wrestling program.