Hilliard Davidson High School boys track and field coach Jim Smith initially was disappointed when Cleveland Glenville and Medina opted to drop out of the Wildcat Premier this season after having competed in the event in recent years.
Despite the absence of those traditional powerhouse programs, he expects the field for the Wildcat Premier on Saturday, April 6, to be strong.
In addition to Davidson, being represented by boys and girls teams are Bradley, Brookhaven, Chillicothe, Columbus Academy, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome, Franklin Heights, Gahanna, Hamilton Township, Marysville, New Albany, Olentangy, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg, Westerville North and Westerville South.
Also competing are Cleveland St. Ignatius and St. Charles in the boys meet and Cleveland Heights Beaumont and Springboro in the girls meet.
Last season, Davidson finished fourth (75) of 20 teams in the boys meet, behind St. Ignatius (128), Pickerington North (98) and Huber Heights Wayne (92).
"The Wildcat Premier is definitely still one of the best and strongest regular-season meets in the state because of the number of high-caliber teams that we're bringing in," Smith said. "St. Ignatius is a very strong, balanced team, so I'd consider them to be the front-runner going in. But we're bringing strong teams across the board. ... It's going to be hard for us to win our own meet, especially coming off of our spring break like we are."
Davidson girls coach Matt Beatty said the level of competition is comparable to the Division I regional meet.
Last season, the Wildcats finished seventh (63) of 17 teams in the girls meet. Wayne (86) won the event, with Coffman (84), Pickerington Central (78) and Darby (73) rounding out the top four.
"It's much harder to win the Wildcat Premier compared to winning (a) district meet," Beatty said. "All of the teams are bringing top-level athletes who will do some incredible things.
"We want to win it, but we've only won this meet a few times in the past, so we know it's going to be a difficult task. This meet is a great gauge of where you're at and how much better you need to be to get to where we're going."