KINGWOOD — If Preston track were a car, senior Ward Ries would be the engine.
The Edinboro commit has led the charge when it comes to running at PHS for the last three years, with no intention of slowing down. At the 2017 Class AAA state championships, Ries earned a pair of sixth-place finishes, in the 3,200 meter run and as part of the 4×800 relay.
He returned strong his senior year with a fifth-place finish at the 2017 Class AAA cross-country championship and is looking to carry the momentum over to track and field this spring.
“As an individual, it’s my last year, and I want to put it all out there and see if I can get down to the state championships,” he said.
In chasing that goal, Ries looks to lead an improved Knights squad with a new coaching staff to a level of success that has been lacking for the school’s program as of late.
“We’ve had a great few weeks of winter training coming in, and we’ve got a new coach that I think is really helping our consistency,” he said. “We’ve just been upping our mileage and trying to get stronger.”
Coach Hillary McConnel Bright expects nothing less than success for Ries and the team.
“I hope to get more people qualified for states. I think there is a lot of potential there, it’s just a matter of finding the right events for people,” Bright said. “The overall goal is to be more successful as a team, and also to qualify more people for the state championship.”
Ries will be joined by sophomores Cole Friend, who nabbed eighth at the state cross-country meet, and Trey Smith-Tatham, who aided Ries on the 4×800 relay last spring.
According to Bright, the Knights may also excel in an unexpected race.
“We have some developing talent in the hurdles, which is an area Preston has been lacking in for a while,” she said. “I expect we’ll have some success there.”
On the girls’ side, the Knights will be led by senior Kirsten Brown, who tallied top-10 finishes in the shot put and long jump at the 2017 state meet.
The Knights opened the season with a decent showing at the Bridgeport CVB Invite last weekend, where Ries took the top finish in the 1600 and runner-up honors in the 800.
As the season progresses, he expects to see his squad take strides toward competing at its highest level in recent memory; fine-tuning the engine, if you will.
“We’re going to get into more detailed workouts now that we have some good race times to base them on. We’re going to get stronger, and I definitely see a lot of Preston jerseys at states this year,” he said.
The car metaphor is apt in more ways than one, though. A car is useless if you don’t get into the driver’s seat and hit the gas pedal. You have to drive it for it to be worthwhile. And, according to Ries, “drive” is what will fuel PHS track on a run for greatness.
“We’ve got a new drive to do better,” he said.