There are high expectations for the Covington Buccaneers this spring as all four programs field the talent and experience to compete well in the newly formed Three Rivers Conference and in the post-season tournaments.
The Covington baseball team returns a nucleus of five seniors in 2022, Jensen Wagoner, Kody Nelson, Jake Dilley, Carter Maxson and Ayden Rench. Four of the seniors contributed to a 9-17 record a year ago where Covington graduated seven seniors.
Wagoner, Dilley and Maxson have experience on the hill, while Nelson has played several positions – primarily at second and in the outfield. Dilley has been a mainstay at third, while Maxson has been a key figure in the outfield. Wagoner is a do-it-all type of player who has played various position in the infield and in the outfield when not on the mound.
“Our team chemistry has been great so far this year,” said Covington coach Andy Johnson, who has led the program over the past five seasons. “The seniors have done a fantastic job leading and supporting the underclassmen.”
Also returning is sophomore Trey Schmelzer, who split time between varsity and reserve a year ago. The remaining of the Buccaneer roster, which totals 22 kids, is fielded by young talent.
“The younger players have come into practice and competed for playing time since the first day,” Johnson explained. “They all want to be successful, but they want to be successful together.”
Covington will compete in the newly formed Three Rivers Conference consisting of former CCC rivals Bethel and Miami East, along with Lehman Catholic, Milton-Union, Northridge, Riverside and Troy Christian.
“Our goals are to continually improve throughout the season, and be competitive in our new league,’ Johnson said.
And the stiff competition within the new league will hopefully be a springboard for future success.
Dan Cain returns for his third season in his second tenure at Covington and he looks to build on last season’s 17-12 record where he fielded a very young team.
Gone are four graduated seniors, Haylie Jackson, Bethany Weldy, Rai’shell Reed and Alli Garman.
Covington is still relatively young with just two seniors on the roster, Kierra Hinnegan and Parker Metz, but the majority of the roster has significant experience from a year ago.
Leading the way are juniors Erika Gostomsky, Mara Newhouse, Reagan Lemp, Nigella Reck and Meg Rogers, plus sophomores Karyanne Turner and Kamryn Barnes.
“We return seven starters and we will start a freshman at third, short and second base with a sophomore at first,” said Covington coach Dan Cain.
The freshmen who will contribute in the infield are Taylor Kirker, Alexa Hitchcock and Maggie Anderson, while sophomore Kamryan Barnes holds the glove at first.
The outfield for Covington is extremely strong with sophomore Karyanne Turner and juniors Nigella Reck and Erika Gostomsky.
“Karyanne can fly and she has a strong arm,” Cain said. “Nigella’s versatility will be a big help. She will play outfield, some shortstop, pitch and possibly play some third base. She has a strong arm and can really track a ball.”
Covington has three pitchers it can rely on in the circle, Meg Rogers, Erika Gostomsky and Nigella Reck.
“Meg will be one of the top pitchers in the league, plus she is our lead-off hitter,” said Cain.
Mara Newhouse returns behind the plate with a dependable arm to keep runners in check.
Newhouse and Reck are also the meat of the battling order for Covington.
“Nigella and Mara combined to drive in 110 runs last year,” Cain said. “They will be two of the best hitters in the league.”
Covington takes part in the newly formed Three Rivers Conference, a league that should be extremely competitive from top to bottom.
“This is our first year in our new league,” said Cain. “Miami East, Milton-Union, Riverside, along with ourselves should battle it out for the top spot. Bethel has a new coach and could slip in there as well.”
In the new league, Covington will play each league opponent twice – once at home and the other game on the road.
“Playing a home and away format will be nice, but a challenge,” explained Cain. “If we can stay healthy, we would do well in the league and make a nice run in the tournament.”
So far, Cain is pleased with how his team has gelled together before playing its first game.
“We have a great team attitude and team chemistry,” he said.
For a young team like Covington, team chemistry is the foundation for success.
COVINGTON GIRLS TRACK:
Dave Tobias has built a tradition of success over his 23 years as girls track coach at Covington. That’s evident by the number of state qualifiers, state placers and the 7 state champions – Jackie Siefring (twice), Breanna Kimmel, Rayna Horner, Paige Boehringer, Morgan Lowe and Lauren Christian – Tobias has had in his tenure.
But last year was a rarity as Covington failed to qualify an individual to state for the first time since 2003.
Still, Tobias and his Lady Buccs had a solid season – finishing 4th in their last year in the Cross County Conference and qualifying several individuals to the Regional meet in Troy.
Sophomore Carli Besecker returns after winning league titles a year ago in the 400 and the Long Jump. Also returning are distance runners Jo Welborn, Teylor Meyer, and Eve Welborn; Hurdlers Brianna Baker, league placer, and Bryanna Kenworthy and Whitney Welch; Sprint/Sprint relay runners include Summer Anderson, Lauren York, Jenna Belmaggio, Shelby Petry, and Maddy Supinger. Throwers returning include Belmaggio, Ali Gostomsky, Whitney Welch, and Megan Rose, who will again perform in pole vault.
In all, 17 Lady Buccs return this year after lettering last year, including the lone senior, Yelena Weaver, who is a sprinter in her fourth year of track. Weaver looks to set new personal records this season.
Plus, Covington ads significant talent from the freshman class, which includes Elyza Long (a state qualifier in Cross Country), Hannah Alexander, Gabrielle Harwig, Kylie Brown, Allison Burns, and Makayla Vanderhorst.
“We need to utilize the group of young talent coming in off the junior high girls team from last year,” Tobias said. “Collaborating with the juniors and sophomores makes up 28 of our 29 on the roster this year.”
With the young talent Tobias is blessed to develop, the future looks extremely bright for the Lady Bucc Tracksters.
“Things are looking up for the future,” said Tobias. “It will be interesting to see how competitive we can be in the new TRC (Three Rivers Conference) league. I predict that we will be competitive in the top three teams and even win several league championships in events, while again qualifying several Lady Buccs to State.”
State. That’s a stage where the athletes Tobias develops are accustom to performing.
COVINGTON BOYS TRACK:
Covington coach Josh Long is extremely excited about the key returning lettermen and young talent he and his coaching staff have on this year’s roster.
“We are looking forward to having fun competing and getting better each week,” said Long.
In field events, Covington has a strong group of throwers back from last year’s team who will be looking to make an even bigger impact this year. The junior tandem of Ryan Rohr and Ryan Remley will look to lead the Buccs in shot put and discus. Joining the Ryan’s will be senior Adam Brewer, junior Ayden Reynolds, sophomores Garrett Hobbs, Hayden Barker, Grayson Wills, Talon Johnson, freshmen Gunner Francis, and Zeb Woodward-Roeth. Senior Landon LaPoint, juniors Hunter Ray, Jaeden Cole and freshmen Preston King will be competing in the long and high jump events for the team.
In the distance events, Covington is deep and talented. After winning a league title and qualifying several individuals for regionals in cross country, the distance crew will be looking to build on their fall success. Leading the way will be returning runners: senior Devin Brummitt, junior Mic Barhorst, and sophomore Asher Long. Joining these returning runners are a talented group of freshmen: Chris Deaton, Calub Hembree, Noah Chaney, Wyatt Parker, Beck Wilson, Matt Dieperink, and Preston King.
The sprinters consists of seniors Landon LaPoint and Owen Rawson, junior Hunter Ray, and sophomore Derrick Meyer – all are returning from last year’s team. Junior Jaeden Cole, freshmen Rowen Isaacs, Christian Jarvis, and Jack Blumenstock will also be looking to make a significant contribution to this year’s team.
After being in the Cross County Conference since 1991, Covington will compete in the newly formed Three Rivers Conference.
“Our new league will be really competitive,” Long said. “We hope to be competing to the best of our abilities when that time of the season comes.”