Young Twinsburg boys track team brings strong mind to the race

Steve Batko
Corresopondent
Twinsburg Tigers

=A new mindset will spring the Twinsburg boys track and field squad back into action with all kinds of optimism.

Twinsburg has a solid mix of talent when the club opens the spring slate Wednesday at Nordonia at 4 p.m.

Second-year head coach Anthony Byrd is entering his seventh overall season as a coach for Twinsburg.

With the program’s great youth movement, Byrd is excited to get to work after losing last year’s season.

“We want to continue to grow the program, developing our student athletes by challenging them academically and athletically,” said Byrd, whose club does have some experience.

Out of 64 Tiger athletes, 37 are freshmen or sophomore.

“There is a lot of teaching especially since we have two classes (2023 and 2024) that have never competed at the high school varsity level,” pointed out Byrd. “Our student athletes must learn to compete not only on the track, but in the classroom as well.”

With more practices and work this pre-season, Byrd is seeing improvement.

“We will be young, but after our intra-squad meet on Wednesday, the coaching staff came away feeling more confident we have a lot of young talent that will help us this year,” expressed Byrd.

Safety protocols are in place and the program is prepared if there are any schedule changes.

“The school district has implemented protocols to ensure that our athletes and coaches have a safe and complete season, but the biggest emphasis is on wearing a mask when not actively competing and also, social distancing,” said Byrd. “The coaching staff and I feel that the student athletes have done a great job in embracing these changes and understand the importance of them so we can have a season since we lost last season.”

In 2019, Twinsburg was a Division I regional runner-up and finished 14th in Ohio.

There are a few gifted athletes back and Twinsburg will continue to have talent and some depth in the sprinting events, among many other events.

Some of the top returnees include senior Alex Branch (100, 200 and 400-meter dashes), senior Antoine Brown (200, 400), senior Chris Wilson (100, 200), junior Cameron Griffin (100, 200), junior Aiden Cain (800 and 3,200-meter races), junior Josh Mikulka (hurdles races), and junior Tyson Jacobs (shot put and discus).

Branch, who has committed to play football at Kent State University, is an elite sprinter who will also make an impact on the sprint relays.

Brown, Wilson, and Griffin will also make huge contributions to the sprint relays as well.

Cain was a regional qualifier in 2019 on the Tiger’s 3,200-meter relay team and can help in other relays and open races.

In fact, Twinsburg should be competitive in all the running relays.

Mikulka will lead in the hurdles and Jacobs is strong in the throws.

“We will need the leadership of our senior and junior class athletes to carry the team in the first few meets and invitationals this season,” disclosed Byrd, who is also a veteran football coach and bowling coach.

“Alex Branch, Antoine Brown, and Aiden Cain have been great role models as we started practices at the beginning of March,” added Byrd. “They come to practice and demonstrate how a varsity athlete competes daily and deals with the changes due to COVID.”

Some of the Tiger’s bright young prospects will make immediate contributions.

These athletes include sophomore Dalton Allen (100, 200), freshman Samuel Wales-McGrath (800, 1600), sophomore Aiden Bennage (800), junior Porter McConoughey (shot put and discus), and freshman Dom Genova (shot put and discus).

The Tiger’s meet at Nordonia will also open up league play in the packed Suburban League National Conference.

“We want our athletes to set goals and work towards achieving their goals,” he said. “Come to practice every day with the mindset to work hard to improve from the day before.

Byrd has plenty of help to shoulder that workload.

Twinsburg’s veteran coaching staff includes Sarah Kmet (girls head coach, distance), Derek McKinley (sprints, long jump), Danee Pinckney (sprints, long jump), Chuck Glover (sprints, high jump), Gus Crichton (distance, throws), and Roger Buell (pole vault). Byrd instructs the club’s throwers.