Many of the key competitors who helped the Dublin Coffman High School boys track and field team finish fifth in the Division I state meet last season at Ohio State are gone, but second-year coach Chad Biegler has several replacement options with 102 athletes in the program.
Returning with state experience from last season are seniors Daniel Chang, Matthew Freese and Bilal Williamson, who teamed with 2012 graduate Taylor Williams to place second in the 400-meter relay in 42.22 seconds behind Lakewood St. Edward (41.79).
Also at state, junior David Gbenro tied for seventh in the high jump in a personal-best 6 feet, 4 inches, as the Shamrocks scored 32.5 points to finish behind champion St. Edward (48) as 70 teams scored.
Coffman was runner-up (53) in the regional meet to host Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored.
"We're going to be a good team, but finishing fifth in the state and being runner-up at regional is pretty rare," Biegler said. "This year, we'll be relying on people improving throughout the year and relying on our depth."
Other returnees who competed at regional were senior John Sotos in the 3,200 (eighth, 9:44.3), the 3,200 relay of Sotos, senior David Michael and 2012 graduates Kevin O'Leary and Grant Onken (eighth, 7:59.08) and Chang in the long jump (14th, 18-9), as the top four finishers in each event advanced to state.
Sotos is out indefinitely with a stress fracture, Biegler said.
Other key athletes include seniors Tony Woodford (hurdles) and Zack Vollmer (sprints), junior Thomas Solomon (sprints) and sophomores Dylan Daugherty (hurdles) and Zach Bons (distance).
"We have a good mix of very experienced people, but we are also a pretty young team," said Biegler, whose team opened April 6 by placing 10th (31) in the 21-team Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson behind champion Pickerington North (130). "We have a lot of teaching we need to do and that was tough to do in the preseason when it was cold and everyone was miserable, including the coaches."
Also last season, Coffman was runner-up (97.5) in the 16-team district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby behind Davidson (104) and placed second (146) in the OCC-Central Division meet, behind Davidson (170.5) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (115.5), Darby (80), Upper Arlington (52), Central Crossing (35), Worthington Kilbourne (35) and Westland (25).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty.
Distance should be strength for Celtics
Charlie Kattenhorn has taken over as coach of Jerome, replacing Mike Aldrink, who led the program for two seasons.
"I spent the last two seasons as an assistant for both the (Jerome) boys and girls teams," Kattenhorn said. "When the job came open, it seemed like the next step."
The Celtics have 94 athletes out, but none of them has state or regional experience.
Among the returnees are junior Jake Mandal, who placed fifth in the 3,200 (9:42.05) in the Division I indoor state meet March 16 at the University of Akron.
Other key returnees include senior Stephen Gaber (distance) and juniors Mitch Leitch (distance), Graham Stecz (sprints) and Chase Stewart (distance).
Kattenhorn also expects seniors Nate Crowson (pole vault), Nikhil Rivera (sprints), sophomores Alex Jacobs (hurdles/sprints) and Aaron Muresan (hurdles) and freshmen Ian Black (distance) and Brad Davis (distance) to be key contributors.
"We have a really good distance crew and we have a lot of good kids who can score, but most of them are juniors and have been competing since their freshman year," Kattenhorn said. "They were tossed in there as young pups and are now strong.
"We don't have a dynamic sprinter and experience is a concern. Senior Nate Crowson is a good pole-vaulter, but mostly it will be freshmen and sophomores in our field events. It will be interesting to see who steps up for us in the field events."
Last season, Jerome scored two points at regional to tie Chillicothe and Dresden Tri-Valley for 35th, finished 12th (13) in the district 1 meet and finished seventh (55) in the OCC-Cardinal meet behind Westerville Central (116), Westerville North (111), Liberty (104.5), Westerville South (94.5), Olentangy (89.5) and Marysville (62.5) and ahead of Scioto (27).
Darby, Kilbourne and Hilliard Bradley have joined the OCC-Cardinal. Liberty and Marysville moved to the OCC-Central and Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital.
Jerome finished ninth (31.5) in the Wildcat Premier on April 6.
"We're very, very young, which kind of makes me nervous because it was hard to train during the cold preseason," Kattenhorn said. "But we beat (Olentangy) Orange (81-56 in a dual meet April 2) in our opener, and even though the conditions weren't the best, I left with a good feeling for where we were as a team."
Irish aiming for return to state meet
Scioto did not have any Division I state qualifiers last season, but 18th-year coach Kevin Foley expects that to change this spring.
"Most years we usually have success up to and including the state meet and we usually have had podium athletes at state," said Foley, whose team opened April 6 by finishing eighth (37) in the 16-team Newark Invitational behind champion Independence (80). "Last year, we did not get an athlete there, so our goal is to return.
"We try to identify our strengths and build around those and see how far we can take them. This year, we should be strong in our relays."
The Irish return two regional qualifiers in senior Michael White and junior Kenny Mayes. White placed sixth in the 300 hurdles (40.18) and ninth in the 110 hurdles (15.52) and Mayes and White teamed with 2012 graduates Michael Hawkins and J'Anre Hinton in the 800 relay to reach regional, where they were disqualified.
Other key returnees include juniors Ahmad Abusharkh (distance), Derrick Agbaike (sprints), Dylan Languis (distance) and Christian Wade (sprints).
Foley also expects key contributions from seniors Gregg Howard (distance) and Connor Ritchey (discus), juniors Cody Steffy (long jump/sprints) and Brandon Sullivan (sprints) and sophomores Chris Asman (distance) and Tomo Hayasaka (middle distance).
"I believe mid-distance is our strength because we have some good people returning in that area," Foley said. "And most importantly, the strongest work ethic on the team comes from that area."
Last season, Scioto scored three points at regional to tie Central Crossing, Hamilton Township and Marysville for 31st, finished 10th (21) in the district 1 meet and placed eighth (27) in the OCC-Cardinal meet.