Even though the Panther Invitational was designed to be a fun, eight-team meet, Hilliard Darby High School girls track and field coach Don Seymour said it always has featured at least a couple of the area's most competitive squads.
Considering that Dublin Coffman, Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange have been added to the field, Seymour said the event will be even more competitive this year.
Those schools will bring boys and girls squads to Darby to compete Friday, April 12, against the Panthers, Davidson, Chillicothe Unioto, Dublin Jerome and Westland.
"This is going to be a more powerful meet on both the boys and girls side than it's been most of the years we've had it," Seymour said.
The Darby girls team finished second (148 points) in the Panther Invitational last year behind Davidson (184.33), but with a relatively young lineup, Seymour said it would be an accomplishment for his team to finish in the upper half this season.
"To win a meet of this caliber, a team is really going to have to be on that day," Seymour said. "Dublin Coffman's real good, but Davidson's going to give them all they can handle at the Panther Invitational. This is a growing year for us because we're so young, so we're just looking to gain experience to be at our best by the end of the year."
On April 4, the Panthers scored 122 points to win the 12-team Chillicothe Zane Trace Invitational ahead of runner-up Zane Trace (93.5).
Placing first were Skylar Jacobs in the long jump (15 feet, 4 1/4 inches), Jordan Alexander in the 300-meter hurdles (49.94 seconds) and Maggie Kuhns, Danielle Deshuk, Emma Burke and Julissa Poullett in the 3,200 relay (10:22.7).
Davidson senior Lauren Hoover said she is confident her team can defend its Panther Invitational title after the host Wildcats finished third (81) on April 6 in the 21-squad Wildcat Premier, behind Gahanna (125) and Pickerington Central (86) and ahead of Coffman (75).
"I definitely think we have the potential to win this meet," Hoover said. "We beat Dublin Coffman (in the Wildcat Premier) and I think we can beat them again. It should be a great meet."
Hoover helped score 38 points for the Wildcats in their home meet, as she won the 800 (2:19.24) and 1,600 (5:20.88).
She also combined with Lilly Saniel-Banrey, Elsa Saelens and Jane Onders to win the 6,400 relay (22:43.53) and teamed with Saniel-Banrey, Saelens and Lizzy Litzinger to finish second in the 1,600 relay (4:15.09).
"We surprised ourselves by doing this well because we were missing Ashley Blake and a couple of our other top sprinters for this meet," Hoover said. "I'm proud of our team because we had a lot of people step up and do better than expected."
Placing second for the Davidson were Catherine Hildebrand in the 3,200 (11:55.92) and Jane Haines, Margo Lince, Saelens and Saniel-Banrey in the distance medley relay (13:23.56).
The Bradley girls team finished seventh (47) in the Wildcat Premier, as Sara Reitz (14-8 3/4), Kaelyn Stafford (12-11 1/2) and Cierra Allen (14-1/4) placed third in the long jump relay; Alex Winter finished third in the 3,200 (12:14.17); Sarah Taylor placed third in the 100 hurdles (17.73); Kayla Malik placed third in the 100 (13.13); Tes Corea, Sarah Hevener, Kayce Pharazyn and Winter finished third in the 6,400 relay (23:29.29); and Taylor, Malik, Hope Sawchuk and Sydney Rings finished fourth in the 400 relay (52.26).
Davidson boys finish 3rd in Wildcat Premier
The Davidson boys team is aiming for its third consecutive Panther Invitational title after scoring 204 points to win ahead of runner-up Darby (113) last year.
"We're still trying to fill some holes, so we're just going to try to keep improving and see what happens, because there will be a lot of good competition there," Davidson coach Jim Smith said. "This meet should be a lot closer this year because we're weak in some events that the other teams are strong in."
The Wildcats finished third (84.5) in the Wildcat Premier behind Pickerington North (130) and Cleveland St. Ignatius (105.5).
Placing second for Davidson were Joe Bernard, Dametrius Clark, Kit Hodges and Cody Shutt in the 800 sprint medley relay (1:37.5), Clark, Phillipie Motley, Damarcus Nelson and Shutt in the 400 relay (43.38) and Tyler Anthony (143-3) and Drew Brown (129-0) in the discus relay.
"We're very pleased with our performance because this is our first meet of the season and a lot of our guys did well," Smith said. "Our biggest surprise was doing so well in the discus."
The Bradley boys team finished 12th (27) in the Wildcat Premier, as Nick Christensen placed second in the 3,200 (9:41.7) and Skylar Hartley (48-2 3/4), Fraser Smith (39-6 1/4) and Austin Miller (38-4 1/2) placed third in the shot put relay.
The Darby boys team, which is rebuilding after losing several key contributors to graduation, finished second (115) in the 11-team Lima Spartan Invitational on April 6 behind Toledo Central Catholic (117.5).
Placing first for the Panthers were Chase Hampton in the 800 (2:06.61), Daniel Reynolds, Lane Hagar, Ryan Baldridge and Hampton in the 3,200 relay (8:37.12) and Josh Humbert in the shot put (46-6 1/2) and discus (138-3).
Finishing second were Baldridge in the 1,600 (4:51.56), Devon Staten, Colin Rack, Dwayne Oates and Cal Kelleher in the 400 relay (45.11), Staten, Rack, Kelleher and Kyle Mullins in the 800 relay (1:35.65), Staten in the long jump (19-2 1/2) and Jesse Rowe in the discus (132-8).
"We've got some really good teams coming to the Panther Invitational," Darby boys coach Matt Fox said. "Our goal is to finish in the top four of the meet, which won't be easy against that kind of competition. We're going to need to have a great performance from all of our boys to do that."