WHEELING - Drew Biehl has a simple theory heading into his first season as the boys' track coach at Wheeling Park.
"Try not to mess it up too much," Biehl said, laughing.
He was referring to the success enjoyed by the Patriots program. Before last year, when it finished second, Park, under coach Chris Daugherty, had won 11 straight Ohio Valley Athletic Conference titles.
Daugherty resigned to spend more time with the football program.
"Obviously he had a real successful run," said Biehl, who is a quarterbacks coach with the football team under Daugherty. "I want to keep it headed in the same direction, continue to be a contender in the OVAC."
He said he was approached by Daugherty with the idea.
"He knew I was going to be around anyway," said Biehl, whose son is an up-and-coming runner at Park. "I've talked to him quite a bit to get ready for this season. I also teach first grade at Madison (Elementary) with Russ (Hutchins, the girls' track coach) and both have really helped prepare me for this first season. I am really looking forward to getting started."
He is well aware of the strengths he has, especially in the throwing events with football stars such as Geremy Paige, Theo Blackston and Eric McCave back in the fold.
He also returns a successful and experienced distance man in Albert Schrimp, who is expected to have a good year in both the 3,200- and 1,600-meter runs.
Nick Wolfe and Jake Pedlose will run hurdles and the team is also set in the high jump with Richard Cummings and Tommy Goldbaugh, whose brother Andy holds records in the hurdles at Park and was inducted into the school's athletics hall of fame last month.
Biehl is still looking to put together a group of sprinters. The team's top returning sprinter, Bryce Ingram, is still feeling the effects of a football injury and Biehl isn't sure the senior speedster can return for his final season.
"We're looking to maintain all the good things Doc did here," Biehl said.
On the girls side, Hutchins returns a talented group of seniors who all qualified for the state meet.
"We are looking forward to an exciting season with high expectations," Hutchins said. "We always have high expectations and we have a good group of returning seniors who will lead the team."
Among the returning letterwinners are Lauren Dickerson and Bobbi Leigh Fahey (shot and discus), Paige Durkin (high jump), Jazzlyn Hall, Kambria O'Neal and Rekedra Webb (hurdles and sprints).
Also, Makysha McGhee finished third in the state meet last year in the 100-meter dash and first-year runner Chloe Robb, also qualified in the 100. Cristin Dolan and Lizzy Sellers (pole vault and hurdles) also return with state meet experience.
Sophomores Rachel Bugaj (high jump), Tamara Bumgarner (long jump, sprints), Kayley Miller (hurdles), Liz Nickell (distance) and Natalie Weithe (sprints) will also have a major impact in their second year.
"With the quality of the kids we have returning and the class we have coming in, we should be very competitive this year," Hutchins said. "We have a lot of talent as you go around the team, and a lot of kids with tremendous upside."