Even though Ben Gadfield is in his first season as coach of the Hilliard Bradley High School boys track and field, he's quite familiar with many of his athletes.
Gadfield worked with many of them when he coached at Memorial Middle School from 2008-10 and watched them from afar the past two seasons when he served as an assistant coach for the varsity girls team.
"It's been a smooth transition for me taking over as head coach because I already know most of our guys after coaching them at Memorial and following their careers at Bradley," he said. "We have a very similar team to what we had a year ago, except we have more sprinting depth due to the addition of some football guys. Give the kids the credit for that, because they did a nice job of recruiting new people to our team and adding sprinters such as (juniors) Tommy Horn and Matt Johnson is only going to make us better."
Also among those expected to be key contributors are seniors Eric Bridgett and Matt Bryant and junior Ross Hanson in the sprints, senior Nick Christensen and junior Eric McCabe in the distance and middle distance events, junior Daniel Tepe in the hurdles, senior Frazier Smith and junior Skyler Hartley in the shot put and discus and Bryant in the long jump.
"We had 70 kids come out for our team and there's a lot of talent there," Gadfield said.
Bradley has moved from the OCC-Capital Division to the OCC-Cardinal as part of OCC realignment last summer. Also in the OCC-Cardinal are Darby, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Westerville Central, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne.
Last year, Bradley finished second (117.5 points) in the OCC-Capital meet to place second, behind New Albany (186) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (117), Olentangy Orange (69), Mount Vernon (54), Big Walnut (53.5), Franklin Heights (43) and Delaware (22).
"I think we have a realistic chance of contending for our league title based on who we have back combined with our improved sprinting depth," Gadfield said. "But we should have good competition from Westerville Central and Westerville North."
Last season, Bradley finished fifth (68) in the 16-team Division I, district 2 meet at Darby behind champion New Albany (100.5) and tied Newark for 24th (8) in the regional meet behind champion and host Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored.
The Jaguars were represented in the state meet at Ohio State a year ago by 2012 graduate Troy Kelleher, who finished 16th in the 3,200 meters (10 minutes, 5.86 seconds) at state after placing third (9:24.71) at regional.
Also at regional, Christensen finished 10th in the 1,600 (4:28.41), Bryant finished 13th in the long jump (19 feet, 8 1/4 inches), Tepe finished 13th in the 300 hurdles (41.77) and the 400 relay of Bryant, Bridgett, 2012 graduate Blake Scipio and Hanson placed seventh (43.36).
Panthers see increase in number of athletes
Darby's lone Division I state qualifier last season, senior Caleb Day, opted not to compete this spring.
Among those expected to be key contributors are senior Devon Staten, juniors Kyle Mullins, Tim Lines and Colin Rack and sophomores Cal Kelleher and Dwayne Oates in the sprints, senior Lane Hagar, juniors Ryan Baldridge and Alex Keller, sophomores Kyle Fogarty and Ben Radcliffe and freshman Danny Reynolds in the distance and middle distance events, senior Jaleel Johnson and sophomore Alex Bottello in the hurdles, senior Jesse Rowe and junior Josh Humbert in the discus and shot put, junior Trevor Parker in the pole vault, Staten and freshman Chris Englert in the long jump and Johnson and senior Christian Cunningham in the high jump.
"Most of our core group is back and we recruited bigger numbers out of our younger ranks to increase our number of boys from the 58 we had last year to 77 this year," first-year coach Matt Fox said. "I'm this team's third head coach in three years, and I'm impressed with how well they have adjusted to our coaching staff and their commitment to our team. It's impressive that we have so many kids on our team with all of the changes that our team has gone through."
Last year, Darby finished fourth (80) in the OCC-Central meet behind Davidson (170.5), Dublin Coffman (146) and Thomas Worthington (115.5) and ahead of Upper Arlington (52), Kilbourne (35), Central Crossing (35) and Westland (25). The Panthers are in the OCC-Cardinal this year.
Last season, Darby finished 11th (15) in the 15-team Division I, district 3 meet at home behind champion Pickerington North (127.5) and tied Dover for 26th (5) at regional.
The Panthers had only regional qualifier in Day, who placed fourth in the 110 hurdles (14.89) to advance to state. He finished 11th (14.9) at state.
"Our new division of the OCC is very good, so I hope we can compete with the big teams there," Fox said. "Westerville North has exceptional distance runners and Dublin Jerome does as well, so it will be a challenging meet."
Three state qualifiers return for Wildcats
Davidson returns three Division I state qualifiers from a year ago in juniors Dametrius Clark, Phillipie Motley and Damarcus Nelson.
The trio teamed with 2012 graduate Jack Kincade at state to place sixth in the 1,600 relay (3:22.22), as the Wildcats tied five teams for 55th (3) behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (48) with 70 teams scoring.
Clark, Motley, Nelson and senior Cody Shutt are expected to be Davidson's top sprinters.
Other athletes expected to be key contributors include senior Lou Takahashi, junior Garrett Knapik and sophomores Colin Burdette and Johnny McKeown in the distance and middle distance events, senior Tyler Anthony and sophomore Drew Brown in the discus and shot put, Nelson in the long jump and junior Garrett McIlvain in the pole vault.
"We don't have the sprint depth that we had last year, but our distance corps is one of the best we've ever had," 26th-year coach Jim Smith said. "We have solid No. 1 kids in every event, but we need to find our No. 2 and 3 kids in each event to have the kind of season we're looking for."
Last season, Davidson won its second consecutive league and district titles.
The Wildcats scored 104 points in the 16-team district 1 meet at Darby to finish ahead of runner-up Coffman (97.5) and finished 15th (18) at regional, where the 1,600 relay placed fourth (3:18.89).
"It will take a lot of work on our athletes' part to create depth, but I think we have a shot at another great season," Smith said. "Dublin Coffman has a bit of everything and they're going to be tough to beat in the OCC meet. We just need to work hard to get back into the best condition we can be in and develop our depth to give ourselves a shot at winning another league title."