Last season was one to remember for the Bexley High School boys track and field team, especially the finish with two relays and one individual competing at state.
According to second-year coach Shane Roberts, the Lions have similar potential this season even though they lost 14 members of last year's squad to graduation.
"If we work hard, we should do good things again," he said. "My goal every year is to try to get somebody to state, whether it's a relay or as an individual."
The Lions opened March 30 in the Hornet Relays at Licking Heights.
One of the top returnees is junior distance runner Ian Kellogg, who saw his chance to compete in last year's Division II state meet in the 1,600 meters taken away by an official's decision to disqualify him during the regional.
"It was a bitter pill to swallow, but he has two more good years ahead of him and I feel he'll be back," Roberts said. "He made the podium and was told he was disqualified (for a lane violation).
"Sometimes you just need a little bit to get you over the hump, and he didn't necessarily need that, but I think he's using it as a motivating factor to leave it all on the line."
Other competitors include juniors Nathaniel Agnoli (middle distance), Josh Hoffman (sprints), Daniel Lee (throws), Alexander Meyer (distance), Chad Meyer (sprints) and Greg Miller (hurdles) and sophomores Ben Krajnak (middle distance), Max Maher (sprint) and Andre Stewart (hurdles).
Reaching state last year were the 400 and 800 relays, both of which consisted of junior Rasheed Morgan and 2012 graduates Derek Cain, D.J. Jones and Jalen Robinette, and Robinette in the 100 (11th, 11.24 seconds). The 400 relay finished fifth (43.34) and the 800 relay was disqualified.
Bexley scored four points at state to tie nine teams for 48th behind champion Dayton Dunbar (49) as 81 teams scored.
At regional, the Lions scored 24 points to tie Caledonia River Valley for sixth behind champion Dunbar (98) as 47 teams scored.
In the 13-team district 2 meet, Bexley placed second (78) behind DeSales (110).
The Lions scored 100.5 points in the MSL-Ohio Division meet to finish third behind Granville (164.5) and Columbus Academy (149) and ahead of Licking Valley (81.5), Heath (66.5), Lakewood (45), Whitehall (41) and Newark Catholic (10).
"Our league's always going to be tough," Roberts said. "For us, there have been multiple years when we've fared better in districts than we have in our own league. You watch other seasons and there are a lot of athletes in the league, and if they're running track that bodes well for the league."
Girls team must deal with losses
Second-year girls coach Jamie Hayes saw her inaugural squad advance all four of its relays to the Division II regional meet, where the Lions scored four points to tie Tontogany Otsego for 31st behind champion Celina (84) as 41 teams scored.
Six competitors graduated in Abby Arace, Sarah Arens, Kelsey Davidson, Tyler Holliman, Samantha Lord and Emily Winnegard.
Senior Eva Jerkins and sophomore Sabrina Ebner both were part of the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays at regional, but both are attending other schools this year.
Junior Regan Detwiler, who ran on the 3,200 relay at regional, will miss the season with a stress fracture in a leg.
Detwiler still will serve as a captain, along with senior Lindsey Mathews (distance), senior Emily Myers (high jump/sprints) and junior Lissy Schmidt (hurdles).
Others on the team include senior Hien Ta (middle distance), juniors Emily Callahan (middle distance), Meghan Hayden (distance), Marissa Kelly (distance) and Samantha Shamhart (distance) and sophomores Spencer Halliday (distance), Meliyah Holliman (throws) and Mary Tugend (long jump/hurdles).
At regional a year ago, Tugend ran on the 400 relay (seventh, 51.71), Myers was on the 800 relay (10th, 1:49.6), Schmidt competed with the 1,600 relay (12th, 4:12.21) and Halliday and Mathews were on the 3,200 relay (11th, 10:05.15). Competing as individuals were Halliday in the 1,600 (eighth, 5:29.14) and Schmidt in the 300 hurdles (10th, 48.89).
"We have a lot of leadership coming back and a lot of girls who competed at high levels, but we'll be looking for some underclassmen to contribute and fill voids," said Hayes, whose team opens Thursday, April 4, in a home meet with Whetstone and Whitehall. "We had a pretty young team last year and I didn't expect to send so much to regionals, so it's hard to say sometimes (how good the team can be). I think we'll have a great season overall. It's just we don't know who will be where or where we'll finish in the league and things like that. "
Bexley finished third (98.5) in the MSL-Ohio meet last year behind Granville (193) and Academy (127) and ahead of Heath (95), Whitehall (48), Licking Valley (40), Lakewood (32.5) and Newark Catholic (21).
The Lions scored 66 points in the 16-team district 1 meet to finish fourth behind champion Granville (176.5).
Preparing for this season went well, according to Hayes.
"I'm very fortunate to have a great group of girls," she said. "The captains ran conditioning in the winter time and the girls seemed to bond during that time. It's very team-oriented."