As Grove City High School's track and field athletes began practice April 3, eighth-year coach Jane Taylor surveyed the group and wondered who would step up to become the boys and girls teams' new leaders.
"We do have a lot of freshmen coming in that we're still trying to get a read on," said Taylor, whose girls team returns three of its six Division I regional qualifiers from last year. "We have 84 kids out (between both programs). That's a pretty big number for us."
Senior Gabby Rodriguez was 14th in the discus (95 feet, 6 inches), junior Danielle Shipley qualified for regional in the pole vault but did not post a height and sophomore Carmen Dippolito is the only returning member of the 800 relay that placed 12th (1 minute, 48.52 seconds).
The Greyhounds didn't score at regional, which was won by Reynoldsburg (77).
Grove City is seeking its first Division I state qualifier since 2009, when 2009 graduate Andrae Kaufman was 15th (6-2) in the high jump. The girls team has not had a state qualifier since 2005.
The girls were fifth (42.5) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet last year behind Reynoldsburg (174), Pickerington North (143.5), Gahanna (121) and Pickerington Central (120) and ahead of Groveport (38), Lancaster (32) Newark (11). In the 16-team district 3 meet, Grove City was eighth (32.5) behind champion Reynoldsburg (116.5) -- an effort highlighted by school-record performances from the 400 (fifth, 51.07) and 800 (fourth, 1:47.48) relays with the lineup of Dippolito and 2012 graduates Elayna Brizendine, Miranda Gaitten and Danielle Terry.
"We had amazing sprinters last year, and we still have good girls sprinters," said senior Annie Winkler, a captain and distance runner. "We're getting more sprinters interested in (distance running), and because of that we're getting people wondering about doing fast races or distance. We have more people developing. That will help."
In the season-opening London Red Raider Relays on April 6, the girls team finished fourth (59) behind champion Olentangy Orange (99) and the boys tied Bexley for third (59) behind champion Orange (82).
Taylor said standouts for the girls team should include senior Alexis Ewing (distance), juniors Megan Darst (thrower), Hannah Hawkins (thrower), Alex Koser (distance), Alexis McCoy (hurdler) and Nayla Morbitzer (distance) and sophomore Hope Stocker (sprinter, long jumper).
Shipley also owns the school record in the pole vault (8-9).
The boys team did not advance anyone to regional last season. The Greyhounds finished 15th (2) in the district 3 meet behind champion Pickerington North (127.5) after placing eighth (14.25) in the OCC-Ohio meet behind North (174), Gahanna (121.5), Lancaster (108), Pickerington Central (87.5), Reynoldsburg (84.25), Groveport (46) and Newark (23.75).
Expected leaders for the boys team include seniors Gage Call (sprinter), Luke Egelhoff (thrower), Nick Ember (thrower) and Ryan Uhrin (thrower), juniors Matt Brown (thrower), Ethan Jean-Louis (high jump), Brendan Mountain (distance), Cody Nicholson (distance), Ike Pack (distance), Brandon Presley (distance), Corey Williams (distance) and Matt Zuroski (pole vault) and sophomores Koffi Edah (sprinter, hurdler) and Preston Hite (sprinter).
"We're going to be OK. We have a lot of numbers, and with numbers you can find good things," Taylor said.
That sentiment hasn't escaped the athletes.
"It does seem like we have a lot more people than last year or the year before," Call said. "Everybody's getting the time they need and we're finding out who the better athletes are."