The Central Crossing High School track and field teams will feature a leaner and younger look.

The Central Crossing High School track and field teams will feature a leaner and younger look.

Participation is down about 20 percent from a year ago, second-year coach Glenn Blue said. That leaves the boys team with 10 freshmen and only two seniors among its 22 athletes. The girls team numbers 18 with four freshmen and just five seniors.

"We're down to 40 kids from about 50 last year," Blue said. "I can see the good and the bad in being so young.

"Central Crossing is traditionally a distance school, but we might be running an all-freshman boys (400-meter relay) and (800 relay). That makes it tough right now, but in the long run it could be a good thing. It's just a matter of keeping those freshmen all four years."

Blue said his distance group remains strong.

The boys return junior Kyle Dyer, who just missed qualifying to the Division I regional when he placed fifth in the 800 at last year's district 1 meet in 2 minutes, .86 seconds. Blue said junior Donovan Wonacott has clocked a 4:45 mile, and classmate Stanley Gates also will contribute. Those three will help comprise the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

Jordan Messisco, a sophomore, returns in the pole vault. The Comets have added freshman Efren Jimenez in that event. In other field events, sophomore Tory Clark won't be available until later in the season after he advanced to last year's regional in the long jump.

Central Crossing totaled 29 points to place seventh at last year's OCC-Central Division meet won by Hilliard Davidson (136). The Comets were ninth (22) at district as Gahanna (120) captured the title.

The girls team was seventh (29) in the OCC-Central behind champion Davidson (136.5) and 13th (12) at the district 4 meet won by New Albany (120).

Senior Tia Smith returns for the girls team. She placed sixth in the 3,200 (12:14.45) at district last year to miss a regional berth by two spots.

"She's put in a lot of miles in her training," Blue said. "We're looking for big things from her."

The Comets also will be led by seniors Sarah Hunter, Kendal Witherup, Ayana Colvin and Sam Downing.

Hunter broke the school record in the 300 hurdles (47.83) when she placed sixth at district last year. She's also expected to anchor the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays. Witherup has cleared 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump and has her sights set on breaking the school record (5-3).

Colvin is a sprinter. Downing will compete in the shot put and discus for the Comets, who had their first meet March 29 at Grove City. The original opener, the Hornet Relays on March 26 at Licking Heights, was canceled because of cold weather.

For its early training, Central Crossing has targeted next month's home Best of the South-West Invitational.

"We've won it eight times in a row - every year since the school opened," Blue said. "We barely beat out Grove City last year, though. We're going to need a lot of kids to step up if we're going to keep that streak going."

Grove City opened its season at the Icebreaker Invitational on March 26 at Watkins Memorial.

The boys team placed seventh (41.5) among 16 teams as the host Warriors (166) prevailed. The highlights included senior Jake Green's second-place finish in the high jump (6-2) and junior Harve Crabtree's fourth-place finish in the discus (118-10 1/2). Crabtree also is competing in the hurdle events.

Three of the four members return from the 400 relay, which placed fifth (43.41) at last year's Division I regional and narrowly missed a state berth. They are senior Nick Kowaleski, who also was a regional qualifier in the 100, and juniors Ryan Barberi and Jordan Fisher.

The 1,600 relay, which placed fourth (3:49.14) at Watkins, looks promising as well. Barberi and Fisher were joined on that relay by sophomore Jake Kursinkis and junior Drey Thompson. Kursinkis and senior Christian Smurthwaite also are competing in the 800 while senior Andy Bennett is one of the top distance runners. Kursinkis placed fourth (2:09.2) in the 800 at the opening meet.

The boys team finished eighth (25) at last year's OCC-Ohio meet won by Pickerington North (171). The Greyhounds were 15th (12) at the district 1 meet.

The girls team also finished eighth (18) at the OCC-Ohio meet won by Gahanna (171). The Greyhounds were 13th (2) at the district 1 meet won by the Lions (132).

A promising group of girls sprinters returns led by senior Beth Boes and junior Miranda Gaitten, who placed fifth (29.64) in the 200 at Watkins as the Greyhounds finished 11th (28.33) in the 14-team field behind the champion Warriors (140). The 400 relay of Boes, junior Elayna Brizendine, senior Emily Laffin and Gaitten also took fourth (54.62) while the same lineup placed fourth (1:55.97) in the 800 relay.

The distance group includes sophomore Annie Winkler, who was fourth (13:30.96) in the 3,200. The Greyhounds also had a fourth-place finish in the 400 shuttle hurdles (1:21.4) behind Laffin, Hughes and freshmen Amanda Bright and Melissa Kauffman.

Jane Taylor is in her sixth season as coach.