COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio State cross country and men’s track and field head coach Robert Gary announced his 2009 recruiting class Thursday, a gifted, diverse group that includes some of the Midwest’s top young talent.
The Buckeyes made their presence known outside the Ohio border, raiding Indiana and Missouri for two of country’s top prospects, while at the same time securing commitments from Ohio’s top athletes.
Derek Blevins is a multi-event talent out of Raytown, Mo., who chose the Buckeyes over Kansas State, Arizona and Nebraska. Blevins was the 2008 Missouri State Champion in the long jump, triple jump and 4x100m relay. His specialty is the long jump, where he is one of the Top 5 prospects in the country according to www.dyestat.com.
“Derek brings a tremendous amount of raw talent to the jumping events in the Big Ten,” Gary said. “He has demonstrated his ability to perform under pressure and has his sights set on being one of the fastest jumpers in the country.”
Blevins will be relied upon immediately upon arrival to Columbus, as he will compete in the long jump alongside Steve MacDonald, who placed fifth at the 2009 Big Ten Indoor Championships. He will also help jump start Ohio State’s triple jump, an event the Scarlet and Gray rarely competed in during the indoor campaign.
Joining Blevins from out-of-state is Matt Terrell of Indianapolis, Ind., one of the Top 10 high school seniors in the 200m dash, as stated by Dyestat.com. Terrell was the 2008 Indiana State Champion in the 200m and will make the Buckeyes even deeper in the sprints. With the upcoming graduation of Matt Comer the second place finisher in the Big Ten in the 200m Terrell should get an opportunity to compete right away.
“Matt is one of the hardest working sprinters in the Midwest. He will bring added depth and ability to our solid sprint crew,” Gary said. “He is committed to helping the team and being an instant factor in the Big Ten Conference.
“Going outside the state is something we have started to do to address needs. In Blevins, we landed a kid with experience with the triple jump and Terrell has sprint times that speak for themselves.”
The Scarlet and Gray once again secured letters of intent from the best in the Buckeye state, something Gary has made a priority since becoming head coach at Ohio State.
“The State of Ohio has been my biggest focus, whether as cross country coach or now head track and field coach,” he said. “To not utilize this great state and all of its traditions would be taking away one of our great advantages. I want an Ohio State student-athlete to know what it means to be a Buckeye and to be part of something as grand as The Ohio State University.”
Leading a strong group of signees from the state of Ohio is Donny Roys, the 2007 Ohio Gatorade Athlete of the Year and Ohio State Cross Country champion. Roys, out of Medina, Ohio, placed third at the 2008 Nike Outdoor Nationals in the 2000m steeplechase with a time of 6:00 and set a personal best cross country time of 15:12 at his conference finals in 2008. He has placed in the Top 15 at the state finals the past four years.
“The combination of Donny’s XC success and experience with the steeple made him a great prospect,” Coach Gary said of Roys. “We have a very young group of steeplechasers and I believe he can score in our conference as a true freshman I expect him to be an All-American before he leaves and to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the steeple.”
Julian Meyer from Richfield, Ohio, had an undefeated senior campaign in 2008, winning 10 races while setting seven meet records in the process. Meyer finished third at the 2009 Nike Indoor Championships in the 5000m and was the fifth-place finisher at the 2009 USA Junior Cross Country Championships. Having competed in soccer as a freshman and sophomore, Meyer is only two seasons in to his track career, something that Gary is encouraged with:
“Julian progressed a ton before his senior season. Being so new to the sport makes him an exciting prospect, and the fact that he went undefeated in the fall is impressive. He has embraced the 5000m this indoor season and I look for him to be an immediate scorer for us in cross country next fall.”
Making the short drive up US-23 will be Curt Smith of Chillicothe. Smith is the Division II state record holder in the shot put, a record he set with an astounding throw of 19.22m. He was the 2008 state runner-up in the shot and a regional, district and conference champion. Gary is excited about adding Smith to the roster:
“Curt will be looked upon to keep up the long Buckeye tradition of excellence in the throws,” Gary added. “His remarkable state record is an example of his great potential.”
Adding depth to the infield for the Buckeyes will be Korbin Smith out of Delta, Ohio. The 2008 state champ in the long jump is currently ranked No. 1 in the state at 6.78m. He was the fourth-place finisher in the 400m at the state competition with a time of 49.13. The Buckeye coaching staff will be look to make to decathlete out of Korbin:
“Korbin’s amazing jumping abilities and speed on the track make him the perfect candidate for the decathlon,” Gary said. “He should make an immediate impact in the multi-event areas for our team.”
Another key addition to the field for the Buckeyes will be Cody Westbrook from Marietta, Ohio. One of the Top 10 high school seniors in the high jump, Westbrook chose Ohio State over Texas and Cincinnati. His leadership abilities are what attracted the attention of Gary and the Buckeye coaching staff:
“Cody is a proven leader on and off the track and an untapped talent in the high jump,” Gary said. “He brings great excitement and energy to the team.”
Vinny Balzano, a Columbus product out of St. Francis DeSales, is one of the top Division I runners in the 800m.
“Vinny will provide even more depth in the middle distance to go along with Daniel White and Cory Leslie,” Gary added. “His goal is to break 1:50 as a senior, which would provide him great momentum heading to Ohio State.”