One year ago Kent State University at Tuscarawas wasn’t even entertaining the thought of anyone running track and field for the school, but on Thursday, May 4 at Hiland High School, head track and field coach Mark Albaugh was signing a trio of Hawks to help bolster the Flashes’ first full-squad team for next season.
“We started out cross country this year with five kids, and now we have 22 for next year, and we have 12 kids participating in track this spring, but next year we will be in the 30s.”
The Kent State Tuscarawas sports programs have been growing in leaps and bounds in recent months, making it a much more enticing draw for students who want to remain close to home to go to school. Not only that, but the Kent State Tuscarawas athletic department has been drawing athletes from farther regions too as the athletic programs gain some traction.
The three Hiland seniors who will jump on board next season include Melissa Hostetler and Alijah Chupp, who will run both cross country and track and field next year for the Golden Flashes, and Isaiah Yoder, a pure sprinter with All-Ohio speed.
“We are excited to be getting three great young people who are good athletes and are willing to work hard to make themselves and our program better,” Albaugh said.
Albaugh went on to say he and assistant coach Harry Anderegg have been excited to travel throughout the area and watch some of the local talent, and he said the best part of watching these student-athletes compete against one another is that those who are opting to compete for the Golden Flashes next season will be doing so as teammates.
“It’s neat to see and hear these kids talking to each other at meets about how they are going to be teammates next year,” Albaugh said. “They are laughing and talking together and having a great time. This is going to be really great for our community.”
Yoder, a blazer who has his sights set on securing a spot at state at the end of the year, has been carving his time and hopes to dive under 23 seconds in the 200, a time that should put him in relatively good company at districts and regionals.
He said Kent State Tuscarawas was a perfect fit for a couple of reasons.
“I love going to other schools and talking to other people. I think it is going to be a real blast being teammates,” Yoder said.
He also said the police program at Kent State Tuscarawas is exactly what he is looking for in a career.
Chupp said the signing night to attend college is a nice way to cap off what has been a four-year time of learning at Hiland. He noted that having seen himself improve has been encouraging, but what he holds in highest esteem is that he was tabbed as captain on this year’s Hiland team.
He said he came in as a wide-eyed freshman, has learned and grown in many ways, and now as a captain has gained leadership, something he feels will only make his experience in college better.
And much as was the case when he came on board to run for Mark Fowler at Hiland as the Hawks built a brand-new program during his freshman year, he gets to carry that experience over to Kent State Tuscarawas, where he can help generate interest in yet another program.
“It’s a lot like Hiland, and I feel like I fit in really well there,” Chupp said. “I like that I can stay close to home and work while I go to school.”
Hostetler, who excelled in cross country this fall, was a key part of Hiland’s state championship run in Div. IV basketball this winter and has performed well in the 300-hurdles and 1600 this spring.
She spoke about Senior Night and her growth throughout high school. “Senior Night always gets me teared up,” she said after Hiland celebrated its seniors’ final home meet. “It’s neat to see how I’ve grown.”
Hostetler said she has met with the Golden Flashes coaching staff several times as well as some of the current team members and feels very comfortable making the step to compete there next year.
A self-proclaimed competitor who doesn’t like to lose, Hostetler said she is excited to test her skills at the next level next year.
“My family is really competitive, and I like winning,” she said. “I like the sense of accomplishment, especially if it’s a big meet and you place.”
Fowler said getting to see his athletes compete at the next level and being so close to home is exciting for the community and for the Hiland program, and he noted that Kent State Tuscarawas will provide another quality option for local athletes wanting to continue their careers.