The Canal Winchester High School girls track and field team put together what 21st-year coach John Bender described as its best all-around season a year ago.
The Indians set 11 program records and won their sixth MSL-Buckeye Division title in the seven seasons and had their highest team finishes in the Division I district, regional and state meets.
Bender believes his team was poised to surpass what it accomplished last season before several injuries weakened its depth.
Senior Caitie Traylor, a Wittenberg University recruit, is expected to miss the entire season with a knee injury. Last year in the Milt Will Relays, she teamed with juniors Gretchen Rosch and Joscelyn Powell and 2012 graduate Leah Shryock to win the shuttle hurdle relay in a program-record 1 minute, 6.2 seconds.
Freshman Betsy Cadwallader is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season because of a foot injury. Last year, she set the middle school record in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.7.
Senior Rebecca Lusignolo, who is expected to be the Indians' top performer in the discus and shot put, has been slowed by an ankle injury, and senior Taylor Smith suffered a knee injury less than a month before the Indians opened in the Hammond Relays on March 30 at Pickerington Central.
Last season, Smith, who is an Ohio University recruit, placed third in the high jump (5 feet, 6 inches) in the Division I state meet and teamed with juniors Fleetwood Carter and Ashley Mavis and Powell to win the 800 relay in a program-record 1:45.8 in the Milt Will Relays. Smith also won the high jump (5-4) and long jump (16-2 1/4) in the MSL-Buckeye meet last year.
"Last year was the best season we've ever had, but this would have been an even better season if not for the injuries that we've had," said Bender, whose team scored 80 points in the seven-team Hammond Relays to finish third behind champion Pickerington Central (102). "Taylor does a lot of things well for us, including being one of the top high jumpers in the state and a key member of our sprint relays. Caitie was one of our top hurdlers and a key member of our sprint relay, and Betsy was going to be a strong hurdler and sprinter for us as a freshman. We're already thin on sprinters, so to lose those three girls early on really hurts.
"I think we can still be very good if we can get some of these girls back healthy again, but we'll need to keep improving as we avoid further injuries."
The Indians have one of the top returning hurdlers and sprinters in the state in Powell, who won the 60 hurdles in a meet-record 8.67 in the state indoor meet March 16 at the University of Akron.
Last spring at state, she placed fourth in the 100 hurdles (program-record 14.33) and eighth in the 300 hurdles (program-record 43.7).
Powell set two other program records last season, running a 12.31 in the 100 in the Stallion Invitational at DeSales and a 25.4 in the 200 in a dual meet at Pickerington North.
The Indians feature a deep distance and middle distance corps that includes seniors Kelly Henderson, Elizabeth Kifer and Taryn Meidl, junior Sarah Collins and freshmen Julia Cook, Cassidy Long, Chloe Palmer, Megan Tamasovich and Joelle Zuberi.
Kifer and Collins teamed with 2012 graduates Jessica Wheeler and Kayla Scott to set the program record in the 6,400 relay (22:59.7) in the Milt Will Relays.
Rosch and senior Rachel Muller are the team's top two pole vaulters. Rosch cleared a program-record height of 10-3 in the Milt Will Relays last year.
"We're thin in the sprints and throws right now, but I think we're pretty solid just about everywhere else," Bender said.
Last year, Canal Winchester scored 181 points in the MSL-Buckeye meet to finish ahead of Circleville (92.5), Bloom-Carroll (81.5), Hamilton Township (77.5), Teays Valley (66), Logan Elm (61), Fairfield Union (52) and Amanda-Clearcreek (47.5).
Powell led the Indians, winning the 100 hurdles (14.78), 100 (12.59), 300 hurdles (47.03) and 200 (meet-record 25.65).
The Indians placed second (97) in the 17-team district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby behind Dublin Coffman (141) and finished third (36.5) at regional at Pickerington North behind Reynoldsburg (77) and Coffman (73) as 43 teams scored.
Canal Winchester tied Chillicothe and Chesterland West Geauga for 10th (18) at state at Ohio State behind champion Reynoldsburg (56) as 72 teams scored.
"I would guess that we're favored to win the MSL again, as much as I don't like to say that," Bender said.
Boys track team looking to rebuild
First-year boys track and field coach Kurtis Robinson is looking to rebuild the program after the Indians lost 10 of their top athletes to graduation.
Expected to lead the sprint corps are seniors Bailey Held, Noah Ising, Luke Laguio and JaVaughn Morris, juniors Craig Fowlkes, Jermil Powell and Willy Totten and sophomore Trae Johnson.
Freshman Wyatt Gardner, sophomores Jason Appel and Bryce Carroll and senior Brandon Nichols are expected to be the top distance and middle distance runners, and senior Zach Huffer and junior Jared Lopresti should lead the team in the shot put and discus.
"Our seniors are doing a great job of leading our young team and they are adjusting to taking on a bigger role this year," said Robinson, whose team opened by placing fifth (53) in the seven-team Hammond Relays behind champion Pickerington North (119). "I feel like we can still be competitive in every event. We just need to develop athletes in the pole vault, hurdles and 800."
Last season, Canal Winchester won its seventh league title in eight years, scoring 213.5 points in the MSL-Buckeye meet to finish ahead of Hamilton Township (132), Teays Valley (74.5), Circleville (70), Fairfield Union (56.5), Bloom-Carroll (46), Logan Elm (36.5) and Amanda-Clearcreek (29).
Totten and junior Khari Golden teamed with 2012 graduates Jordan Dalton and Antonio Whitfield to win the league title in the 400 relay (44.97).
"I definitely think we'll be competitive in the MSL once again," Robinson said. "Hamilton Township was very good last year and they have a lot of great athletes back, so they will contend. Fairfield Union and Teays Valley have good athletes, too."
Last season, the Indians placed fifth (68) in the 16-team Division I, district 3 meet behind champion Pickerington North (127.5), finished fifth (36) at regional behind champion Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored and 13th (14.5) at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (48) as 70 teams scored.
"We're definitely not the team we were last year," Robinson said. "We're a young team, but I can see these guys developing and doing some unexpected things."