Coupled with what her team already had, Grove City High School track and field coach Jane Taylor began to think her field unit could be special weeks before the season began.
Regional-qualifiers Gabby Rodri-guez (shot put, discus) and Danielle Shipley (pole vault) -- both seniors -- returned to the girls team, as did junior thrower Hannah Hawkins. The boys received a boost from the return of seniors Luke Egelhoff and Nick Imber, as well as the arrival of junior Matt Brown, and they have helped the shot put and discus become an area on which Taylor relies for scoring.
"They've done very well for us. It's been a nice surprise," Taylor said. "To tell you the truth, the field events have been one of our strongest points this year, more than we imagined. We feel lucky with the guys and girls we have out."
Imber recorded a personal-best 134 feet, 9 1/2 inches in the discus in the Anthony Wilson Invitational on May 4 at Franklin Heights. Brown set a personal record of 46-0 to win the shot put in the Elmo Kallner Invitational on April 27 at Hamilton Township.
Brown came in from football, and Egelhoff returned to the team after taking a few years off. Imber missed last season because of a torn labrum sustained during football.
"I went from a 108 in my first (discus) throw to a 134, and I have meets left," said Imber, who also has thrown 43-10 in the shot put. "Luke and I have improved a lot in discus and I've improved in shot. Matt Brown is a junior and he's improved. ... We're happy with where we are, but we know we can still make a lot of progress."
In last year's Division I regional meet, Rodriguez was 14th in discus (95-6) and Shipley did not post a height in the pole vault. Each finished fourth in district 3 to earn the final regional berth in their events. Rodriguez threw 100-6 and Shipley vaulted 8-9, then a school record that she since has bested by three inches.
Shipley estimates she'll have to clear between 9-0 and 9-6 to assure herself another trip to regional. Entering last week, the top six pole vaulters in central Ohio had heights of 9-9 or more.
She has attempted vaults at 9-6 but never completed them.
"They were horrible, horrible attempts because I was so nervous," she said. (In the Elmo Kallner Invitational) my attempts were so much better. My mom videotaped them and I looked so much better. I was proud of myself that I could get past the fear. Every time the bar goes up, there's a little mind game going on."
Hawkins topped her previous best with a discus-winning toss of 105-7 in a tri-meet April 30 against Groveport and Westland.
Rodriguez has been in the 35-0 range in the shot put and 95-0 in the discus, and junior Megan Darst threw 33-5 on April 30 to win shot put.
"You have three girls who are in the high 90s or low 100s (in the discus)," Taylor said. "They're getting a little bit better each time."
The Greyhounds also have reliable jumpers in junior Ethan Jean-Louis and sophomore Hope Stocker. Jean-Louis -- the boys team's only high jumper -- went 6-2 last year in the Best of the South-West Invitational and 6-0 in London's Red Raider Relays on April 6, but he has missed the past few weeks with a nagging injury in his left knee, the one off which he jumps. He previously has torn his left anterior cruciate ligament once and torn his meniscus twice.
"Six feet is difficult to get, but I haven't had many opportunities to get it this year," said Jean-Louis, who was hoping to be cleared for competition earlier this week. "Whenever I go out at 5-8 or 5-10, it's been really cold or something, lots of wind, whatever. If I win, I just stop and don't try to go any higher."
Stocker, a district long jump champion as an eighth-grader, achieved a personal-best 15-3 on April 9 in a dual meet against Newark.
"I went 13 feet in eighth grade, which looking at it now isn't too far but then, it was good enough," Stocker said. "I'd like to get 16 feet by the end of this season. If I listen to my coach (Josh) Blankenship, I'll be fine. He knows what he's talking about. Just running harder and just doing what he says is what will really help me, and has helped me a lot in getting farther."
Comets girls win Anthony Wilson
Senior Brenda Pereyra Perez won the 100 meters (13.27 seconds), 200 (26.62) and 400 (1:02.13), and senior Molly Lalonde won the 1,600 (5:33.78) and 3,200 (12:34.32) to power the Central Crossing girls to the championship of the Anthony Wilson Invitational.
The Comets scored 115 points to top runner-up Grove City (98) as 13 teams scored.
Junior Isse Roble won the 3,200 (10:26.67) as the Central Crossing boys placed fourth (68) behind champion and host Franklin Heights (84) as 15 teams scored. Grove City was second (81).