Mark Tremayne's first priority upon getting hired as coach of the Hilliard Darby High School boys track and field team last summer was to recruit as many athletes as possible, given that the Panthers had lost 13 athletes to graduation and had lost several others to first-year Bradley.

Mark Tremayne's first priority upon getting hired as coach of the Hilliard Darby High School boys track and field team last summer was to recruit as many athletes as possible, given that the Panthers had lost 13 athletes to graduation and had lost several others to first-year Bradley.

Thus, Tremayne was both surprised and thrilled when more than 90 boys showed up for the first day of practice.

"Our entire coaching staff hit the hallways to try to get kids involved because we knew we were losing a lot of kids to graduation and the split," said Tremayne, who spent the previous seven years as coach of the boys and girls track teams at Central Crossing. "We were hoping we would get a lot of kids out, but I was amazed at how outstanding our numbers are. The number of boys we have equals the amount of kids we had on the boys and girls teams combined at Central Crossing."

Leading the distance and middle-distance units are seniors Jay McKenna and Denton Thompson, juniors Landon Erb, Eric Mescher and Jean-Paul Poullet and sophomores Drew Lowery, Sean Newman and Brian Roth.

Last year in the Division I district 2 meet, McKenna won the 1,600 meters in a program-record 4 minutes, 17.25 seconds. In the regional, he finished fifth (4:18.98) to miss qualifying to state by one spot.

Darby's top sprinters are seniors Alex Day, Seth Fisher, Erik Greene, Jeremy Jeffay and Matt Keller and juniors Zack Hoyt and Tyler Ison. Day, Jeffay and juniors Austin Gifford and Ben Imwalle are the top hurdlers.

The Panthers' top shot put and discus throwers are seniors Evan Falardeau and Adam Jenne and junior Blake Clowes.

Sophomores Joey Alexander and Tyler Bowens are the leading pole vaulters. Jeffay and freshman Jake Atkinson will compete in the high jump and long jump.

Darby won (172 points) the OCC-Central Division meet last year, finishing ahead of Davidson (104.33), Thomas Worthington (85), Dublin Coffman (85), Worthington Kilbourne (77.33), Upper Arlington (63.5), Central Crossing (51.83) and Westland (15) for its first league title since 2006.

"We'll try to defend our OCC title, but it will be a tremendous challenge because Coffman, Davidson, UA and Thomas Worthington all have powerful teams," Tremayne said.

The Panthers won (111) the district 2 meet ahead of runner-up Pickerington North (93) and 15 others squads for their fourth consecutive district title. They then finished fourth (34) at regional behind champion Gahanna (81) with 42 teams scoring.

Darby scored 17 points in the state meet to tie Toledo St. John's for eighth behind champion Gahanna (48) with 73 teams scoring, as graduate Jordan Rispress won the 300 hurdles (37.56) and finished third in the 100 hurdles (14.52).

"We graduated our heavy hitters, but we've got some talented kids and we're looking to develop them quickly," Tremayne said.

•The girls team features a pair of quality hurdlers in senior Xerina Hughey and sophomore Brianna Rispress.

Hughey finished fifth in the 300 hurdles (44.33) and sixth in the 100 hurdles (14.78) at state a year ago.

Seniors Taryn Ashcraft and Ariel Winkfield and sophomore Caitlyn Rack are the top returning sprinters, and seniors Allison Jordan and Shannon Kelleher are expected to lead the distance and middle-distance corps.

Senior Chloe Kie and junior Heather Atkins will compete in the pole vault, Ashcraft will compete in the long jump, Rispress will compete in the high jump and senior Marissa Campos will throw shot put and discus.

"We have 86 girls, but over 60 percent of them are new to the sport," coach Don Seymour said. "One thing that stands out about this group is they are very hard-working and disciplined."

The Panthers finished third (106.5) in the OCC-Central meet behind Davidson (166) and Thomas (110) and ahead of Upper Arlington (89.5), Coffman (81.5), Central Crossing (56), Kilbourne (36.5) and Westland (16).

Rack won the 200 (26.4) and finished third (12.76) in the 100.

Darby finished sixth (64) in the Division I district 2 meet behind champion Davidson (120), and finished fifth (35) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (113). The Panthers then scored 12 points at state to tie Cincinnati Glen Este and Cincinnati Walnut Hills for 15th behind champion Reynoldsburg (82) with 71 teams scoring.

"It will be a challenge to compete in the OCC, because Davidson, UA and Thomas Worthington all have good teams, but we're going to give it our best shot," Seymour said.

At a glance

•Coaches: Boys -- Mark Tremayne, first season; Girls -- Don Seymour, first season

•Opener: Saturday at Wildcat Premier at Davidson

•Key athletes: Boys -- Jay McKenna and Denton Thompson; Girls -- Xerina Hughey and Caitlyn Rack

SCHEDULE

April 3 at Davidson Wildcat Premier

April 6 at Worthington Kilbourne

April 9 Panther Invitational

April 13 vs. Central Crossing

April 20 at Upper Arlington

April 23 at Lancaster Fulton Relays

April 27 at Dublin Coffman

April 30 at Gahanna Invitational

May 4 vs. Thomas Worthington

May 8 at Bradley Invitational

May 13, 15 at OCC-Central Division meet (Central Crossing)