The Bexley High School track and field teams will play host to the Russ Owen/Bexley Relays on Friday, April 19. It will be the 44th time the school holds the event named for the Lions' longtime cross country, football, swimming and track coach.
"(Owen) taught and coached at Bexley for 31 years (from 1950-81)," boys track coach Shane Roberts said. "He's a charter member of the Bexley hall of fame and was (an All-American) track athlete at Ohio State (in the early 1940s)."
Roberts looks forward to the Bexley Relays because he has competed and coached in the event, having graduated from Bexley in 1996.
"It's one of the few (Bexley athletics) events where you get to compete under the lights," he said. "If you're not a soccer player or a football player, you don't get to do that much. By the end of the event you're under the lights and that's just an awesome experience."
"It's a fun event to host each year," girls coach Jamie Hayes said. "It's a popular event for the school and community, and it's exciting for the athletes to perform in front of a large home crowd."
The boys won the 10-team event last year, totaling 91 points to finish ahead of Eastmoor Academy (83), St. Charles (76), Ready (53), Walnut Ridge (40), Marion-Franklin (37.5), Franklin Heights (35), Watterson (29), Linden-McKinley (24) and Beechcroft (21.5).
The girls placed third (66.5) of nine teams, finishing behind Columbus School for Girls (76.5) and Ready (71) and ahead of Eastmoor (64), Franklin Heights (62), Watterson (57), Marion-Franklin (34), Linden (24) and Beechcroft (15).
Teams expected to join Bexley in this year's meet include Beechcroft, Columbus International, Eastmoor, FCI Academy, Linden, Marion-Franklin, Olentangy Orange and Walnut Ridge. St. Charles will compete in the boys meet, with CSG in the girls meet.
Last year's boys team had a strong sprinting corps led by 2012 graduate Jalen Robinette.
Roberts recalls people stopping what they were doing to watch Robinette run, and he's seeing the same thing happen this year with junior distance runner Ian Kellogg.
"He's running with a lot of determination and trying to leave no doubt when he runs," Roberts said of Kellogg. "It's been fun to watch him this year. He knows he wants to be at the state (meet) and he's doing whatever it takes to get there."
According to Roberts, others who have impressed are senior Dylan McGuire, a move-in from Germany who has excelled in the 400 and 800 meters, and senior Ryan Prendergast.
"(McGuire) pretty much has a smile on his face all the time," Roberts said. "He improves all the time. He didn't really want to run the 800 and ran it in (2 minutes, 15 seconds) the first time. He recently ran it in 2:09 and he's getting better every time.
"Ryan came over late last year and hasn't really run much in the past, but is running a 2:10 in the 800."
Hayes has been impressed with the performances of junior distance runners Meghan Hayden and Samantha Shamhart, freshmen Tyler Mansfield (sprints), Lauren Mathews (sprints), Meg Rhoads (distance) and Meredith Schwager (sprints) and a few returnees in senior Lindsey Mathews (distance), junior Lissy Schmidt (hurdles) and sophomore Spencer Halliday (distance).
"We're still figuring out what events the girls will be concentrating on at the end of the season, but we have a lot of options," Hayes said.
Pitching, defense boost baseball team
The baseball team won six of its first seven games, including its first three MSL-Ohio Division contests, and coach Tom Marker pointed to two reasons for the Lions' success.
"Our pitching and defense have been solid," he said. "We haven't been able to get timely hits yet, and that's one thing we'll have to do to continue this run."
Tyler Kondracke appeared in five of the first seven games, posting a 0.98 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. Josh Shapiro was 2-0 with 20 strikeouts and three walks in 17 1/3 innings, and the pitching staff as a whole had walked 16 in 52 innings.
"Any time you can hold offenses down you have a chance, but we've had a chance to score runs and haven't always been able to do it," Marker said.
"We've won games 3-2 leaving guys on base, so we could've easily won 6-2."
In the Lions' first two league games, they defeated Licking Valley 3-1 on April 5 and Heath 3-2 on April 8.
Sophomore right fielder Ethan Bredemeier had a team-high .385 batting average through seven games, and Shapiro had a team-leading 11 RBI.
Marker also altered the schedule, canceling games against Brookhaven and Marion-Franklin on April 13 and replacing them with a trip that day to Olentangy Orange.
Although the Lions lost to the Pioneers 17-9 to fall to 6-2 overall entering this week, "we wanted to get some stiffer competition," Marker said.
He said the Lions are looking forward to their league matchups in the coming weeks, especially since the Licking County schools will be leaving the MSL after the school year.
"This is our last go-around in this league, so we're excited to play those teams. We love playing good competition. Our guys feed off that," he said.
"Anytime you play league games, there are guys competing for a state championship in this league every year, so the competition is fierce."
Next season, the MSL-Ohio will feature Bexley, Columbus Academy, Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson, Whitehall and Worthington Christian.