SETTING AND CLEARING THE BAR: Brownstown senior pole vaulter is athlete of the year

Colton Ritz’s coach considers him not only the best pole vaulter in school history, but one of the top athletes to ever represent Brownstown Central.

In Ritz’s senior season, boys track and field head coach Derrick Koch needed his pole vaulter to step up in more than one way.

With the school’s track under construction for most of the season and without a home meet on the schedule, the Braves faced a tough task ahead of them.

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Instead of working inside the track, Ritz and crew used a makeshift setup on the practice football field to prepare for each meet.

Ritz saw that as an opportunity to make a positive impact on his teammates.

“I knew that this team would need a leader in the start,” he said. “We had adversity right off the bat not having a track. They needed someone to step up, and one of my goals was to fill that for the team. I hope I did that.”

Ritz, a vocal leader, made good on his goal to also lead the team outside of practices.

Individually, he almost doubled the points scored by the rest of the team. He totaled 135 points across multiple events this year.

Ritz worked in a handful of events for the Braves, including the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 1,600-meter relay and long jump on top of the pole vault.

For Koch, the challenge was to find where Ritz could score the most points.

“Early on, my goal was to have him in all of the events that he can score the most points,” Koch said. “I wanted to play around and see what he would be best in. In the long run, I knew that when it came down to sectional, regional and state, his focus would be pole vault.

“The hard thing about being a small school is we don’t have as many athletes to go around. It’s pretty hard figuring out where he can score the best. At the end, he was doing really well at the 200. In the sectional, in the 1,600 relay, he was posting great times. It was really hard to figure out where to put him.”

Before the season even starred, Ritz made his name known throughout the state in pole vault.

On March 24 at the Hoosier Relays, which is widely considered the state meet for indoor track, Ritz won the small school division by clearing 14-3.

He’s the only Brownstown athlete to ever win an event at the relays.

Ritz demolished his record April 12 by clearing 15 feet at a meet hosted by Columbus East.

When it came to the postseason, Ritz shook off a tough start to finish strong.

After having a rough first-go at state in 2017, finishing 20th, Ritz expected big things at Indiana University the second time around.

Ritz shook off a substandard performance at the Bedford North Lawrence Sectional, finishing third, by winning the Bloomington North Regional.

At the state meet, Ritz was a part of one of the greatest pole vaulting competitions in state history.

His vault of 14-9 landed sixth overall, while the No. 4 and No. 5 spots both cleared 15 feet and third cleared 15-6.

Second place hit 17 feet, and first place broke the state record at 17-6¼.

By finishing sixth, Ritz scored four points, placing the Braves tied for 50th of 70 schools that scored.

Standing on the podium at state, Ritz filled with pride.

“It’s a blessing to me,” he said. “A lot of people have helped me on my road to get to (the podium). A lot of things had to go right. The Lord has blessed me with a lot of opportunities. To see it all come together in my final meet of my senior year means a lot to me.”

Ritz will now take his talents to Indiana Wesleyan University.

“He has an outstanding work ethic. That’s what I like about Colton,” Koch said. “I knew he would put in the time and effort. When he goes to Indiana Wesleyan, I know they’re going to get that. I like that he’s going there because it’s a good school as far as spiritually, too. He will make a great impact there.”

Koch said the program will miss Ritz.

“He’s our best pole vaulter and one of the best athletes that has ever walked out of Borwnstown Central High School,” he said. “He’s so athletic that I could see him doing a decathlon one day in track. We’re definitely going to miss him.”

Ritz said he will miss a lot about BCHS.

“I’m going to miss the people,” he said. “I was with some awesome people here at Brownstown and competed against some awesome competition. We get after it here. I love the parents and support we get here at Brownstown. It’s all just awesome.”

For all of his accomplishments this season, The Tribune has named Ritz the Jackson County Boys Track and Field Athlete of The Year.

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2018 Jackson County Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year

Colton Ritz, Brownstown Central, senior

Accomplishments: Placed sixth at state track and field meet, Bloomington North Regional champion, Mid-Southern Conference champion in the pole vault; set the pole vault school record at 15 feet

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Lance Roark, Seymour, sophomore, long jump and sprints

Accomplishments: Undefeated regular season, eighth at state track and field meet, Bloomington North Regional champion, Bedford North Lawrence Sectional champion, Hoosier Hills Conference champion, season-best 22-8¾, regional qualifier in four events (long jump, high jump, 200, 4×100 relay), SHS MVP.

Trent Hohenstreiter, Seymour, senior, distance

Accomplishments: Academic All-State, sixth at Regional in 800-meter run (career-best 2:01), ran 1,600-meter run (4:41), 3,200-meter run relay and 1,600-meter relay, SHS mental attitude award.

Luke Plummer, Seymour, sophomore, distance

Accomplishments: Sectional runner-up in 1,600-meter run and seventh at regional (4:41.33), ran 3,200-meter run (season-best 10:25) and 3,200-meter relay.

Josh Pennington, Seymour, freshman, sprints and hurdles

Accomplishments: Finished third in sectional for 110-meter hurdles (16.46), ran on 400-meter relay team that placed sixth at regional, ran 300-meter hurdles and 1,600-meter relay.

Max Otte, Seymour, senior, sprints and jumps

Accomplishments: Regional qualifier in 200-meter dash (23.45) and 400-meter relay, high jumped and ran on 1,600-meter relay

Haden Mettert, Seymour, junior, throws

Accomplishments: Sectional runner-up in shot put (44-3¾), 14th at regional.

A.J. Goecker, Trinity Lutheran, junior, distance

Accomplishments: School record in 800-meter run (2:03), regional qualifier 800, 14th at regional

Reid Kruse, Trinity Lutheran, freshman, sprints

Accomplishments: School record in 100-meter dash (11.23), fourth at sectional.

Lendon Underwood, Brownstown Central, senior

Accomplishments: All-MSC (discus), All-MSC honorable mention (shot put), regional qualifier (shot put), fourth (discus) and third (shot put) at sectional, season-bests 128-4 (discus) and 42-5 (shot put).

Caleb Bollinger, Brownstown Central, junior, pole vault

Accomplishments: Pole vault sectional champion (13-0), third at regional, tied for 22nd at state, All-MSC honorable mention

Noah Hoskins, Crothersville, senior, throws and sprints

Accomplishments: CHS most valuable field events, season-best 127-6 in discus, All-SAC honorable mention (shot put).

Dillon Maschino, Crothersville, sophomore, sprints

Accomplishments: CHS most valuable runner, All-SAC honorable mention, season-best 11.3 in 100-meter dash.

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Lane Wienhorst, Crothersville, junior

Reece Covert, Brownstown Central, senior

Brandon Wilson, Brownstown Central, sophomore

Grant Stuckwisch, Brownstown Central, freshman

Noah Reynolds, Brownstown Central, senior

Chandler Drummond, Seymour, freshman

Jacob Voss, Seymour, senior

Cooper Morrow, Seymour, senior