After being diagnosed with cancer, Don Seymour had his thyroid removed in January then underwent radiation treatments that sometimes left him too weak to get out of bed.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Don Seymour had his thyroid removed in January then underwent radiation treatments that sometimes left him too weak to get out of bed.

But by early March, Seymour resumed his coaching duties for the Hilliard Darby High School girls track and field team. He's looking forward to Saturday, April 2, when the Panthers open their season in the Wildcat Premier at Davidson.

"When you're diagnosed with cancer, you can let it get you down or you can be a survivor," Seymour said. "I'm very fortunate to have received great support from everyone around me, especially my wife (Melissa). The kids were scared for a while, because they were afraid I wouldn't make it, and they really wanted me to come back. Personally, I never considered it an option not to coach. I wouldn't want to return to coaching if I couldn't give it my all, and that's what I'm going to do again this season."

Junior Caitlyn Rack said the Panthers are inspired to do their best in support of Seymour, who is in his second season as coach.

"We were shocked to hear that he had cancer, and we were just as surprised with how quickly he was able to come back from it," Rack said. "He's kind of like our dad and we all love him. He has a drive to do well as our coach, and we want to do well for him, especially since he came back to coach us after everything he's been through."

Seniors Shea Castle and Katlin Ferry, along with Rack, are Darby's top returning sprinters.

Sophomore Brianna Rispress is the Panthers' best hurdler, while senior Taylor Baldridge and sophomores Anna Gadzik, Erin Gadzik and Aaris Sheets are expected to lead the distance and middle-distance corps.

"We don't have a huge gun with state-level experience returning like we've had in the past, but Rack could be one of the best sprinters in the state if she stays healthy," Seymour said. "We have 70 girls out, so it's just a matter of finding the right people to fill some of the holes that the seniors left behind."

Last season, the Panthers finished second (117 points) in the OCC-Central Division meet behind Davidson (136.5) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (108), Upper Arlington (107), Dublin Coffman (99.5), Worthington Kilbourne (50), Central Crossing (29) and Westland (13).

Darby scored 79 points to finish third in the Division I district 4 meet at Groveport behind New Albany (120) and Dublin Scioto (118).

The Panthers then finished 10th (25) in the regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (95), before scoring three points to tie nine other teams for 50th at state as Reynoldsburg (56) captured the team title.

"I consider Davidson the team to beat in the OCC until somebody beats them, because they're as strong as ever," Seymour said. "Thomas Worthington and UA are traditionally strong, and Thomas Worthington is going to be very strong this season, too. We're still looking for our first (league and district titles), and I'd like to think we'll have a shot at it, too, because we've got some talented athletes. We're the only team in central Ohio who has finished in the top 10 in our regional meet each of the past 10 years, and we'd like to add to that streak."

•The boys team features strong distance and middle-distance units led by seniors Landon Erb, Tyler Ison and Eric Mescher and juniors Drew Lowery and Brian Roth.

Junior Keenan Olds is Darby's top returning sprinter and senior Ben Imwalle, sophomore Caleb Day and freshman Jacob Stacy are its leading hurdlers.

Veteran performers in the high jump are Imwalle, senior Austin Gifford and sophomore Jake Atkinson.

Junior Tyler Bowens is the Panthers' top returnee in pole vault, senior Erik Greene is a top returnee in long jump and seniors Blake Clowes and Chris Johnson will lead in throws.

"We don't have any big-time sprinters returning and we don't have a ton of depth or experience," second-year coach Mark Tremayne said. "We should be strong in the middle distance, high jump and hurdles, and our throws are much improved."

Last year, Darby scored 119.5 points to finish third in the OCC-Central meet at Bradley behind champion Davidson (136) and Coffman (133), and ahead of Thomas (101), Upper Arlington (63.5), Kilbourne (62), Central Crossing (29) and Westland (15).

The Panthers placed sixth (57) in the Division I district 1 meet at Coffman behind champion Gahanna (120).

Darby scored 11 points to tie three teams for 16th in the regional at Pickerington North, as Gahanna (63) won. Jay McKenna, a 2010 graduate, finished third in the 1,600 meters in 4 minutes, 20.51 seconds.

The Panthers then scored three points to tie four other squads for 51st at state, as Warren Harding (47) won. McKenna finished sixth in the 1,600 (4:19.18).

"Davidson and Coffman are going to be good again, and Thomas Worthington and UA are much improved," Tremayne said. "But I think we can be in the hunt to win the OCC, along with those teams, if we keep improving, because the guys we have coming back offer good experience and leadership."