Aurora boys have balance between sprints, distances and field events

Eric Clutter
Correspondent
Junior Andy Ploskunak is a state cross country qualifier and will compete in the mile and 2-mile for the Aurora boys track & field team.

In track and field, there are basically three categories — sprints, distance running and field events. And many times the talent on any particular team can be tilted disproportionally toward one area or another. If a coach can strike a balance between all three, good things are bound to happen.

Aurora boys coach Chris Radtke believes he may have found that balance as he prepares the Greenmen for the 2021 season.

"We may have one of the most balanced teams we've seen in a while at AHS," said the fifth-year coach. "This season we have some top-level talent in each area that will be exciting to see develop. Like everyone, we have freshmen and sophomores who have never competed in a varsity meet. The coaches can't wait to see who is going to surprise us when competition season begins."

After last season's hiatus due to the pandemic along with a cold, snowy February that affected 2021 preseason practice, the coach and kids are ready to go.

"The weather provided a challenge to us as we were getting ready to get our conditioning underway," said Radtke. "It took a little longer than usual to knock off the rust from a lost season. But our team is working hard each and every day, overcoming the conditions, overcoming the difficulties associated with this pandemic and are ready to make up for the lost season of a year ago."

If Radtke's prediction holds true and a deep roster develops, that will come in very handy in the ultra-talented Suburban League American Division.

"This division is always tough," he said. "While it seems we all chase Highland and Copley, the league is strong from top to bottom and you really can't take a week off at a dual meet and expect to win." 

Radtke separates his sprinters into two groups — juniors and seniors who have real-meet experience and 9th- and 10th-graders, the latter having their freshman season canceled by COVID-19.

A number of juniors will headline the sprint crew this spring, notably Aidan Henderson, who will also participate in the high jump. On the track, Radtke says that Henderson has gotten faster and stronger since two years ago and will be counted on in the long sprints — the 200 meters and 400 meters.

Ryan Kotora, a hard-driven junior, is also penciled in at the 200 and 400, while classmate Jacob Matousek will be relied on in the short sprints.

"Jacob may be the most positive and enthusiastic member of this squad," said Radtke. "I don't think he ever has a bad day."

Matt Studer is in his third year at Aurora but had his freshman campaign curtailed by injuries. Now healthy in 2021, his coach believes he is ready to make an impact on the track.

Devon Salgado will be one of the squad's top hurdlers, an area of strength in recent times.

"Devon is carrying on the tradition of some pretty solid hurdlers over the last few seasons," said Radtke of the junior. "He knew how hard they worked and how technically proficient they were and has that same work ethic."

Sophomores Tyler Ertle and Zane Martin round out the sprinters. Like Henderson, Ertle will also compete in the high jump. Martin, meanwhile, is a short sprinter who is one of the team's fastest in the 100 and 200.

In terms of the sprint relays, with a deep pool of talent to choose from, Radtke says he is looking forward to putting together some formidable foursomes.

Experience will show itself in the distance category, an area lacking until this season.

"Noah Harrison, Max Manderbach and Justin Hartland are a trio of senior leaders that provide a depth in the distance squad that we haven't had recently," said Radtke. "There will be quite the competition this year with these three and others vying for spots on what could be an outstanding 4x800-meter relay team."

Matt Singleton may be Aurora's most versatile long-distance talent. The junior and former cross country state qualifier is capable of running the 800, 1600 or 3200 and can also handle the 4x800 when called upon. Radtke believes a breakthrough track season could be on the horizon this spring.

Junior Andy Ploskunak is another past state cross country qualifier and will compete in the mile and 2-mile to give the Greenmen a solid 1-2 punch.

"Andy has the talent and ability to push other runners like Matt each practice and each just makes the other stronger," said Radtke.

A pair of freshmen and sophomores fill out the distance roster for Aurora.

Tommy Ploskunak and Robbie Will are both ninth-graders who "have already demonstrated great ability through all the distances. It is going to be an exciting four years to watch them develop even more," said Radtke.

Ryan Kerchinski and Micah Snitzer are sophomores who saw last spring's regular season canceled. However, they did have a couple weeks of preseason practice and Radtke is looking forward to what the combo can do in the 1600 and 3200.

Junior Kevin Paul did not participate in the sport as a freshman, but the offensive lineman decided to give shot put a try in 2020. Following the season that wasn't, he is giving it another go this time around.

"Last year was Kevin's first year out for track; unfortunately, the season lasted only a few weeks of training," said Radtke. "He's using the strength he's developed as an outstanding offensive lineman on the football team and putting it to good use in the shot put circle."

Senior Donovan Crawford will throw the discus and looks to have a promising season.

"Donovan's quiet nature is deceiving; he's a beast in the discus circle and has the strength and form to accomplish great things this year," said Radtke.

Senior Donovan Crawford will throw the discus and looks to have a promising season for the Aurora boys track & field team.

AURORA BOYS AND GIRLS VARSITY TRACK SCHEDULE

April 6 — vs. Tallmadge, 4 p.m. at Aurora

April 9 — at Kenston Invitational, 4 p.m. at Kenston High School

April 13 — vs. Kent Roosevelt, 4 p.m. at Aurora

April 20 — vs. Barberton 4 p.m., at Aurora

April 27 — vs. Highland, 4 p.m. at Aurora

April 30 — at Orange Relays, 4 p.m. at Orange High Schools

May 5 — at Revere, 4 p.m.

May 7 — at Rocky River Invitational, 3 p.m. at Rocky River High School

May 10 — at Suburban League Meet (Field Events Only), 4 p.m. at Tallmadge High School

May 11 — at Suburban League Meet (Running Events), 4 p.m. at Tallmadge High School