An increase of the pay-to-participate fees at Groveport Madison High School is impacting the track and field program this season.
"We are real young due to the doubling of pay-to-play," boys coach Jason Brooks said. "Our depth is thin at best. The levy situation and pay-to-play really have hurt us."
"We're just not very deep," girls coach Kelli DelGuzzo said.
Last season, the boys team finished sixth (46 points) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet, behind Pickerington North (174), Gahanna (121.25), Lancaster (108), Pickerington Central (87.5) and Reynoldsburg (84.25) and ahead of Newark (23.75) and Grove City (14.25).
The Cruisers were represented in the Division I state meet at Ohio State by 2012 graduate Karlos Pinkston, who finished 14th (20 feet, 9 1/2 inches) in the long jump. He placed fourth (21-11 1/2) in the regional meet to secure the final state-qualifying spot as the Cruisers finished 17th (13.5) behind champion and host Pickerington North (60).
Groveport finished seventh (43.5) in the 16-team district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby behind champion Hilliard Davidson (104).
Among the key returnees is junior Da'Marious Napier, who just missed qualifying for state last year in the high jump. He tied Dublin Coffman's David Gbenro for fourth (6-2) at regional but lost the jump-off with Gbenro. Napier also is expected to be a key contributor in the 400 meters and the 800 and 1,600 relays.
Another key returnee is senior Eddie Wilson, who is expected to compete in the high jump, long jump, 400 and 1,600 relay.
"Our (1,600 relay) broke the school record last year (3 minutes, 22 seconds) and we have the top two runners back (Napier and Wilson) from that group," said Brooks, who is in his seventh season as coach. "We need to find that diamond in the rough to solidify the (1,600 relay) and other relays. Maybe it will be our freshman, Dana Cherry."
Cherry is expected to compete in the 100 and 200 and the sprint relays.
Other key returnees include seniors Ariel Pichardo (400, 800, 1,600, 1,600 relay) and
Ryan Robinette (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles) and juniors Kahlil Davis (100, 200, 400 relay, 800 relay) and Emmanuel Salako (100, 200, 800 relay, long jump).
Napier, Picardo and Wilson have received interest from college coaches, according to Brooks.
"Our goals are to compete at the highest level we can and get at least one runner and one relay to state," Brooks said. "In addition to our (1,600 relay), we have two 6-5 high jumpers (Napier and Wilson) and two 21-foot long jumpers (Salako and Wilson)."
The girls team didn't have any state qualifiers last season and its only regional qualifier, Ceira Cruz, graduated.
The Cruisers didn't score at regional as Cruz finished 15th in the 100 hurdles (16.89).
Groveport finished 11th (16) in the 16-team district 2 meet at Darby behind champion Davidson (101.5) and placed fifth (38) in the OCC-Ohio meet, behind Reynoldsburg (154), Pickerington North (143.5), Gahanna (121), Pickerington Central (120) and Grove City (42.5) and ahead of Lancaster (32) and Newark (11).
Expected to lead the Cruisers are seniors Eva Jerkins (100, 200, 400, sprint relays) and Jasmine Lisath (200, 400, sprint relays).
Among the juniors expected to be key contributors are Champage Moss (sprints, sprint relays, long jump), Trenika Bruner (400, 800), Sharde Bumper (100, 200, sprint relays), Atyuan Jones (sprints, hurdles, sprint relays) and Kiana Perkins (sprints, hurdles, sprint relays).
Also expected to be a key contributor is sophomore Janel Lisath (sprints, sprint relays).
"We want to be competitive in every invitational and in the OCC-Ohio meet," said DelGuzzo, who is in her fourth season as coach. "We will prepare for district, regionals and state. We want to qualify as many people as possible for regionals and be represented at state. We will work and grow as a team."
Baldwin expected to lead tennis team
The boys tennis team returns only one player with significant varsity experience in senior Forrest Baldwin, so 33rd-year coach Doug Ewart anticipates that he will be doing a lot of teaching this season.
Baldwin will be playing first singles.
"Forrest is a grind-it-out baseliner, but we are very young and inexperienced with the exception of him," Ewart said.
Groveport, which opens Wednesday, April 3, at Westerville South, lost four players from a year ago to graduation, including Dylan Merle and Evan Zimmerman. Merle and Zimmerman advanced to the Division I district tournament in doubles last spring to become the Cruisers' first district qualifiers since Nathan Mann in 2000.
The Cruisers finished 5-9 overall and went 1-6 in OCC-Ohio dual matches last spring. They finished the league tournament with 16 points to place seventh in the overall standings, behind Pickerington North (63, 7-0), Reynoldsburg (60, 6-1), Gahanna (47, 5-2), Grove City (32, 4-3), Pickerington Central (29, 3-4) and Lancaster (18, 2-5) and ahead of Newark (3, 0-7).
In addition to Baldwin, expected to play a key role this season is junior Nate Parsons, who will play doubles and share captain duties with Baldwin.
Ewart declined to name any other players on the team.