Zeb George was a happy camper on April 25.
The second-year Lake track and field coach, an assistant under Dominic Kaple for three years prior, watched his boys’ team take first place at the 11-team Gibsonburg Golden Bear Invitational. It was the school’s first championship at an invitational in two years.
“It was pretty awesome,” George said. “We had taken third two years in a row. For me, I was unbelievably excited. I think it meant more to me than the kids because I’ve wanted it for the past five years and we finally got it. It was a weight off our shoulders that we finally got the meet.”
Lake’s boys and girls also took second at the Liberty Center Invitational on April 19, behind the host Tigers. The LC meet was comprised of eight boys teams and seven girls teams and included schools such as Bowsher, Maumee, Rossford and Delta.
George said Lake’s boys have been successful because of an influx of new runners and depth in most events.
“We have a couple new runners who haven’t run before and have come into the season and soaked it up like a sponge,” George said. “Brandyn Neal is a sophomore and this is his first year running track, and he’s running one of the best 400 times in the area. We have a very well-rounded team. We have top guys in every area.”
George said Scott Brittenham has been a strong leader while competing in the 800, 1600, 4x400 and 4x800. Brittenham and Neal have formed a good one-two punch.
“There have been multiple times where Scott and Brandon, every time they’ve run (well), the team has taken first,” George said. “It’s pretty exciting to see. We’ve been real lucky with some of the freshman runners. Brandon Knierim is one of them. He has excelled in the 200, 400, 4x200 and 4x400.”
Sprinters Marcel Bryan, a junior, and senior Storm Lutz have scored points in several areas. Lutz is Lake’s top thrower, and Bryan also competes in the long jump and sprint relays.
“Storm was behind some really good throwers the last couple years,” George said. “He’s having a really good season. He’s PR’d in the 100 and shot this year, and he’s part of a 4x100 team that’s had a lot of success. Marcel is having a good season. He runs on the 4x200 and I’m not sure we’ve lost in that relay other than against Eastwood, unless we’ve dropped the baton.”
Senior Orfrancis Ozuna is the Flyers’ top 3200 runner, and he is also on the 4x800 relay.
“He’s one of those kids where if you could do a five-mile race, he would win it every time,” George said. “He’s working his butt off to get his 800 time down and working on his speed. He gives you every ounce of energy every day.”
Senior team captain Tyler Rickman, a state cross country meet qualifier last fall, has excelled in the 400, 4x800 and 4x400.
“He’s the glue to our 4x400 team,” George said. “He has taken first and second in the mile and two-mile. Not too many kids can run those distances and have speed at the same time.”
Lake’s top hurdlers are juniors Nathan Herrera and Grant Blackburn.
On the girls’ side, the Flyers return two runners who helped the 4x100 relay qualify to the state meet last year in senior Nicole Pennington and junior Jordan Taylor.
“They’re both part of the 4x100 and 4x200 this year,” George said. “Nicole runs the open 100 and the 200, and Jordan does the 400 and long jump. It’s nice to have them back. When you have kids who have made it to the highest level in the sport, they have a lot of swagger on the track. They lead the pack, take charge and they know what to do.”
Senior Sara Dabney, who played softball up until this year, competes in the high jump, long jump, 400 and 4x400.
“She decided to run track and she’s leading the charge in the high jump,” George said. “She’s taken first, second or third at every meet.”
Another strong jumper has been sophomore Kaleigh Schroeder, who also runs on the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. Junior Katie Swartz specializes in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles and also runs on the 4x100 and 4x200.
“Katie has taken top three in every invitational we’ve gone to in the 100 hurdles,” George said. “She’s much stronger in the 100 hurdles and is an asset in the 4x100 and 4x200. She helps out a lot there. We have four strong runners in both those relays.”
George called freshman Alyx Fisher, the team’s second-best hurdler, his “utility player.” Fisher competes on the 4x400 relay and can also run any of the open sprints.
The Flyers’ top distance runner is freshman Abi Lovell, who runs the 4x800 and can also run the 800. Sophomore Marissa Boos runs the 800 and 1600 and is on the 4x800 relay.
“Marissa is one of those pieces on the 4x800 that keeps getting stronger,” George said. “It’s nice to have a couple girls who can score in distance. She’s been a real asset to our team.”
Sophomore thrower Lauren Ozuk broke the school record in the shot (35-6) earlier this season.
George said, “It’s always good to have a kid like that, who will take top three in the shot every time.”
Lake freshman runner Brandon Knieriem. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.smugmug.com)
Lake sophomore runner Brandyn Neal. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.smugmug.com)
Lake senior thrower Storm Lutz. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton/HEHphotos.smugmug.com)