As the calendar turned from December to January and from 2017 to 2018, The Madison Press sports staff takes a look back at the biggest local sports stories from the past 12 months. Instead of trying to put them in a numerical order and placing one accomplishment above another, the staff will let the athletic achievements and stories stand on their own. This is part one of a two part story.
Alder’s Aziza Ayoub repeats as 800-meter state champ
Aziza Ayoub didn’t really have a peer when it came to running the 800-meter. At least that was the case when competing in Division II at the state track and field meet at Ohio State University in June.
The Jonathan Alder standout entered the 800-meter final as the defending state champion, but as she saw it the only real competition was racing against the clock and the fact that her high school career would officially come to an end the moment she crossed the finish line.
Ayoub, who is currently a freshman at OSU, finished the season and her high school career in impressive fashion by winning her second straight state championship, doing so in a personal best time of 2:09.11. The time however was just shy of the state meet record (2:08.91) and much slower than the 2:05 she was aiming for.
“In my mind, there was no way I was losing this,” Ayoub said afterward. “After winning it last year, to come here and not win wasn’t an option.
“I really didn’t get my time goal. Running against some of the boys in practice I’ve been able to be on that pace for 650 meters or so, but when you’re running alone, it’s really difficult to keep that pace up. I tried, but you know in the end, a win is a win. I’m really happy for what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
London’s Kronk signs with Army
One of the state’s best place kickers and one of London’s best young adults, signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at The United States Military Academy at West Point last month.
Kronk was a four-year letterwinner with the Red Raiders football team, he also earned varsity letters with soccer (two) and track (one). He owns the school record for longest field goals (51). He was a first team All-Mid-State League and All-Central District selection (2016, 2017), an All-Ohio special mention as a junior (2016) and this season he earned first team Division IV All-Ohio honors. He’s also a three-time Academic All-MSL.
The decision to look at the military academies as a college option wasn’t always at the front of Kronk’s mind, but during the last year he really did his research and made the decision.
“This is the beginning of the rest of my life, this chapter is coming to an end and I’m really looking forward to the future,” Kronk said. “It hasn’t always been what I’ve been striving for but this past year I did a lot of research on schools and definitely I thought it was the pinnacle of all academic institutions. Athletics, leadership it was everything I ever wanted all in one.”
The support from the London community is something Kronk greatly appreciates.
“London has really been a big part of my development,” he said. “It’s a humble town, it’s helped shape me into the person I am today. Especially the football team, those are my teammates and my brothers. They’ve been through it all.”
WJ Cheer wins fourth straight state crown
Without question it’s Madison County’s premier athletic program.
The state powerhouse program that West Jefferson High School cheerleading coach Melissa Jester has built isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact if anything the Roughriders competition cheer squad is getting better and better.
The team claimed the school’s fourth straight OASSA Division IV Mount state championship during a competition held at Ohio State University in March.
The team has committed to working hard and getting stronger and the results are definitely showing.
The ladies in the Roughriders program are doing things that most wouldn’t associate with cheerleading. There is a off-season conditioning program and a weightlifting regime. Both of which are contributing to creating stronger, more confident athletes capable of pushing themselves.
“Our season is 10-months,” Jester said. “We hold tryouts in the spring for the following year. In June we begin conditioning which is 2-3 days a week, typically at 6 a.m. in the morning. We run a mile each practice and then head to the weight room for strength training. This is such an important aspect of our program, and something that we continue throughout the school year.
“In addition to the increased strength and stamina, we are seeing better flexibility and a reduction in the number of overall injuries. I am also convinced that it benefits the mental toughness of our cheerleaders. The stronger the athlete, the more confident she is. You can tell the girls that take the strength training seriously. They are the ones that are improving in every aspect of our sport. Their jumps are higher, they are adding new tumbling skills throughout the year, and taking the lead on our stunts.”
London moving to CBC
For the past few years the London High School athletic department watched as the world around it continued to change.
Three of the other high school programs in Madison County announced they were moving to new athletic leagues, but the Red Raiders insisted on staying where they were.
However that changed in July when the London School Board approved a move to the Central Buckeye Conference. London has competed in the Mid-State League Ohio Division for four years but will begin the move to the new league in the fall of 2018. All sports except football will make the switch in the fall with football following in the fall of 2019.
The idea of jumping leagues was spurred by the changes that have occurred in the last couple years with conferences realigning and expanding. London High School director of athletics Jim Wolverton who said a year ago his school was happy with where it was, but started to explore other options last winter.
“We sent out a survey to our coaches to get feedback back in late-January to early-February,” London High School director of athletics Jim Wolverton said. “We wanted to start a discussion of what was the best fit for our school and our community.
“I informed our league commissioner that we would be looking around and trying to find what was the best place for our student-athletes. We liked what we saw in the CBC but we couldn’t make the move without a second school joining us.”
North Union turned out to be the dance partner London needed and both squads were accepted into the new league.
“The CBC is a great conference, it gives us a chance to compete against schools like us,” Wolverton said. “It also gives us a chance to build new rivalries. It’s kind of hard to do that with some of the MSL teams. Those schools for some reason or another don’t travel well to our place.
“The CBC is a quality league, we won’t be going there to dominate. But in our current league it’s really hard for us to be competitive in some of the more affluent sports.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.