BELPRE - Belpre's big home track meet of the year, today's 37th annual Belpre Shrine Invitational, sports a field of 12 primarily Ohio Division II and III teams, including Waterford, South Gallia, Newcomerstown, New Boston Glenwood, Crooksville, Parkersburg Catholic, Morgan, Miller, Trimble and Shenandoah.
The field events kick off the meet at 10 a.m., with running events beginning at 11 a.m. inside Ralph Holder Stadium.
The Golden Eagle track teams have usually fared quite well in their own Shrine meet, last year winning both the girls and boys divisions with Waterford finishing second in each.
"We had a great showing from both our boys and girls last year, so we hope to do well again on Saturday," said Belpre head boys coach Chris Palmer.
He singled out some of his athletes who he is looking forward to performing well today.
Junior sprinter Sam Petty "has really come along this year, with some really great times that we didn't expect this early in the season," said Palmer. Petty competes in the 100, 200 (22.9), long jump and 4 by 200 relay.
Sophomore Matt Colvin "has been working hard and his times have impressed," said Palmer. Colvin will be running in the 400 (52 seconds) and the 4 by 400, 4 by 200 and 4 by 100 relays.
Palmer is also hoping today for "a strong showing from a new kid to the track team in" in senior D.J. Leftwich, "who'll help us in some of our relays."
Sophomore Cray Sistrunk is one of Belpre's prime-time performers in the 1600, 800, 4 by 400 and 4 by 800, and senior Devin Daniell "has been stepping up too in the 4 by 200 and 4 by 400, and had some great early-season times in the 300 hurdles and long jump as well," said Palmer.
"Our boys distance group has been really strong as well with (junior) Kyle Windland in the 3200 and 1600, and (senior) Matt Davis helping us out in the 4 by 400, 1600 and 800," noted Palmer.
On the girls' side, Palmer said that senior "Taryn (Carr) has been doing a wonderful job anchoring our 4 by 200 (relay team), and had some good times in the 400, and the 300 and 100 hurdles," and that another 12th-grader in Katie Hall is "a strong runner in the 400."
Besides junior Sierra Barker back with Carr from last year's state-qualifying 4 by 200 relay team and Barker's freshman sister Cheyenne Barker running this spring, Palmer said Belpre also has freshman Lindsay Stanley and senior Lacey Green "as we're just kind of trying to find where we can mesh, and put kids where they need to be successful right now."
In the field events, junior Jackie Cunningham in the shot put and discus "has already thrown farther than she has in previous years," said Palmer.
Jim Cunningham, the Belpre head girls coach who mentors the Golden Eagle distance runners, said that Sistrunk's "back has been bothering him, but he's getting stronger each day," running a 4:41 mile last Saturday at the Rocky Brands Invitational in Nelsonville. "He has expectations to better than that Saturday as his personal best (PB) is 4:30," said Jim Cunningham.
"Windland also runs a sub-five minute mile and has been training hard, so expects to do well Saturday."
For the girls, junior Cheyenne Henderson will anchor the 4 by 800 relay team and run the 800, in which she's chasing the school record of 2:32. "She is just about three or four seconds off of that," said Jim Cunningham.
"Jackie (Cunningham) has PRed in every meet this year, so she is just continuing to get better," said Belpre throwers (shot put and discus) coach Kara Robinson
"The distances that she's reaching (93-5 in the discus and 34-9 3/4 in the shot put) put her in a pretty good place She's doing awesome; she's rising to the occasion."
Other throwers in senior Hayden Lowe is also "doing well, having placed," said Robinson, while freshman Logan Racy "is PRing as well every time, so he's getting a lot better," said Robinson.
"If they keep going like they are, a couple of these kids are going to be in really good positions come tournament time."