Temperatures were pushing 70 in the heart of winter. It’s been cold again as the season turns to spring.

Such is life in the Midwest.

Regardless of what Mother Nature is throwing at us, the high school sports calendar moves on. Chilly or not — temperatures are projected to climb from a low of 22 tonight to a high approaching 70 Friday — baseball, softball, track, tennis and golf get started as March shifts into April.

Next week, sports editor Chris Schanz will take a look at all of the spring teams in his preview special section. Today, let’s discuss some of the athletes who are primed for big seasons.

Erika Kunkler

A Jay County High School senior, Kunkler turned in a solid cross country season in the fall. But track’s middle distances suit her skills better.

She proved as much last year when she won the Patriots’ only sectional championship in the meet at Delta. Locked in a dogfight with Brittany Kent of Burris, she did just enough to take the title with a victory by just two hundredths of a second in the 800-meter run. She also helped Jay County to runner-up finishes in both the 4x800 and 4x400 relays.

Kunkler was one of just two Patriots to score at the regional meet at Ben Davis last season, finishing eighth in the 800-meter run and earning one of Jay County’s five points.

She’s now primed to be one of the leaders of a team that hopes to reclaim the sectional title after falling short in each of the last two years.

Katelin Augsburger

Returning to Berne after spending a year playing for the Parkway Panthers of Rockford, Ohio, Augsburger was key to the South Adams High School softball team’s tremendous run last season.

A great pitcher makes a huge difference in softball, with every strikeout taking a little bit more pressure off the defense. It’s a lot easier to win a game when the defense only has to worry about 11 or 12 outs instead of a full 21.

Augsburger, who has committed to play for University of Saint Francis, lightened the load for her teammates to the tune of 222 strikeouts in 155 1/3 innings as she earned All-Allen County Athletic Conference first-team honors. She set a school record with 18 victories in the circle as the Starfires racked up 23 wins in addition to sectional and regional titles.

There’s no reason to believe the senior will be anything less than stellar again this year, giving the Starfires another chance at a deep tournament run.

Ryan Schlechty

It’s never easy to fill a starting role as a freshman. Doing it, unexpectedly, at perhaps the most important position on the diamond is even more difficult

Schlechty, now a Jay County High School sophomore, was going to start for the Patriots last season regardless of circumstances. But an early-season foot injury to Cole Stigleman limited him to just a handful of games and put the shortstop duties on Schlechty’s young shoulders.

All he did was deliver the second-best batting average on the team as he hit .329. He was also among the leaders of the squad in hits, runs and RBIs while playing solid defense up the middle.

Schlechty’s contributions were key to the Patriots’ winning season and upset of Guerin Catholic in the sectional semifinal. With a year of experience under his belt, he’ll be one of the leaders on what projects to be a strong JCHS team this season.

FR sophomores

As impressive as Schlechty’s season was, it was Robby LeFevre and Cassy Martin, also freshmen, who shined the brightest last spring.

Martin opened the tournament with a district championship by more than 1.5 seconds in the 400-meter dash. She wasn’t done there, going on to earn a trip to Columbus in the event and finishing 13th in the state.

LeFevre got better as the tournament went along. After finishing second in the 200 dash and third in the 100 dash in the district meet at Spencerville, he won the 100 dash regional title by 0.05 seconds over Cincinnati Country Day senior Darryn Jordan and also qualified for the state finals in the 200 dash.

It was the longer race in which he had his best state success, taking fourth in the preliminaries and earning a state medal with a seventh-place finish in the finals. He was 10th in the 100 dash.

That pair of top-10 finishes instantly had Fort Recovery fans wondering how fast LeFevre can go this season and beyond. The top steps of the state podium could become his home.