The Hilliard Bradley High School girls track and field team's numbers are down in comparison to its first two seasons even though it has 65 athletes, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The Hilliard Bradley High School girls track and field team's numbers are down in comparison to its first two seasons even though it has 65 athletes, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The Jaguars open Tuesday, April 3, with a dual meet at Watkins Memorial.

"This is a much smaller team than we've had in the past and it's one of the smaller teams I've worked with in many years," said third-year coach Thom Nees, who coached Hilliard Darby's girls team from 1997-2009. "But these kids are very coachable and I've found that we can accomplish more working with a smaller group than some of the bigger teams I've worked with. When we had more kids, we didn't get as many reps in areas where we really needed it, such as in the field events and on handoffs for our relays."

Bradley has plenty of experienced athletes who throw the shot put and discus, with seniors Courtney Braun, Katie Hummel and Jasmine Junkins leading the way.

Junior Kayla Malick and sophomore Sydney Rings are the Jaguars' top sprinters and Malick also is their leader in the high jump.

Expected to lead the distance and middle-distance corps are seniors Kaera Alexander and Lauren McCabe and sophomore Cierra Allen.

Senior Amanda Ciani is the team's top returning hurdler and senior Vicki Horton is its top pole vaulter.

"We should be pretty balanced," Nees said. "We're a little thin in distance, but we've got some strong girls there and a lot of other kids are coming on. We're pretty deep in sprinters and in throws, and we've got a quality group overall."

Last year, Bradley finished fourth (85) in the OCC-Capital meet, behind Watkins Memorial (152.5), Big Walnut (119) and New Albany (86) and ahead of Mount Vernon (64), Franklin Heights (63.5), Olentangy Orange (59) and Delaware (27).

Bradley scored 84 points to place third in the 12-team Division I, district 2 meet at home, behind Pickerington Central (126) and Watkins Memorial (107), and scored 13 points in the regional meet at Pickerington North to tie Gahanna and Marion Franklin for 16th behind champion Reynoldsburg (88) as 40 teams scored.

Malik, Rings and 2011 graduates Kate Johnston and Emily Lebsock finished third in the 400-meter relay in a program-record 49.2 seconds to become the program's first state qualifiers.

The Jaguars failed to score in the state meet, as the 400 relay was disqualified for a handoff outside of the exchange zone.

"Watkins Memorial, Big Walnut and New Albany are always tough, but I think we'll hold our own in the OCC meet," Nees said. "Our chance of winning depends on how well the younger kids fill in."

Boys team expects to be strong in distance events

The boys team will move forward without the services of two key sprinters from last season in seniors Sam Darling and Terell Stanford, as the duo chose not to compete this spring.

Last year, Darling placed seventh in the 100 (11.07) and finished 11th in the 200 (22.05) in the state meet to become the program's first state placer. Stanford also was part of the 1,600 relay that finished 10th (3:21.63) and the 400 relay that finished 12th (43.29) at state. Darling also was on the 1,600 relay.

Competing in the sprint events this season are senior Blake Scipio, juniors Eric Bridgett and Matt Bryant and sophomore Ross Hanson.

The Jaguars have deep distance and middle-distance corps, led by seniors Austin Alpeter, Richie Gopel, Troy Kelleher and Jacob Markusic.

Senior Jesse McGraw and sophomore Dan Tepe are the team's leading hurdlers, while senior Conor Rains is its top pole vaulter, Bryant is its leader in the long jump and Scipio is its leading high jumper.

Senior Ricky McGrath and juniors Skyler Hartley and Frazier Smith are the leaders in the shot put and discus.

"We're definitely strong in distance. We just aren't as strong in sprints as we were last year," said third-year coach Jon Agriesti, whose team opens Tuesday, April 3, at Watkins Memorial.

Last season, the Jaguars finished fourth (82) in the OCC-Capital meet, behind Watkins Memorial (156), New Albany (155) and Big Walnut (103) and ahead of Orange (60), Franklin Heights (41), Mount Vernon (36) and Delaware (27).

Bradley then placed second (99.33) in the 14-team Division I, district 3 meet at home behind champion Dublin Coffman (116.5) and placed sixth (31) in the regional meet at Pickerington North behind co-champions Thomas Worthington (37) and Westerville North (37) as 39 teams scored.

At regional, Darling finished second in the 100 (11.06) and third in the 200 (22.15) to become the program's first state qualifier in an individual event. He also advanced to state with Stanford, Gopel and Bridgett in the 1,600 relay, which placed second (3:22.51), and the 400 relay of Bryant, Stanford, 2011 graduate Jeffie Johnson and Scipio placed fourth (43.18).

The Jaguars then scored two points at state to tie Medina Highland and Westerville Central for 69th behind champion Cincinnati LaSalle (36) as 78 teams scored.

"Our conference is loaded again," Agriesti said. "Watkins Memorial and Big Walnut are strong, and New Albany is doing real well. I definitely think we'll do some damage in our league meet and I think we have a shot at getting some people to state as well."