Hilliard Darby High School girls track and field coach Don Seymour was hoping he would have another large team this season after having 81 athletes last year.
His wish was more than granted as 115 girls joined the program this spring.
"I like having big numbers because it equals a bigger opportunity to find athletes who can make our team stronger, so I was thrilled that we had so many kids come out for track this year," Seymour said. "I was expecting our numbers to be somewhere in the 80s again, and I bought 100 uniforms figuring that it would be plenty. But even after we went through voluntary conditioning, we still have 115 girls on our team, so we're going to need more uniforms.
"I give Heritage's middle school program a lot of the credit because their coaches make the sport enjoyable for the kids and we had more than 50 freshmen join the team. Now we've just got to make sure we get them in the right places."
Darby opened March 29, placing third (40 points) in the 10-team Icebreaker Invitational behind host Watkins Memorial (74) and Springboro (42).
The Panthers boast a deep sprint unit, led by seniors Tahni Coker, Helen Erb, Maggie Kuhns and Amber Lilly, juniors Erica Custer and Taylor Kennedy and sophomores Anaya Lewis and Skylar Jacobs.
In the Division I regional meet last year, Lewis, Jacobs, Kennedy and 2013 graduate Nikki Misiolek combined to place 15th in the 400-meter relay (52.15 seconds).
The Panthers' top distance and middle-distance runners are seniors Kuhns and Emily Melnic, junior Kaleia Simpson and sophomores Emma Burke and Danielle Defhek.
Custer, Kennedy, Simpson and sophomore Cheyanne Botello are the top hurdlers. Other key athletes include sophomore Grace Keller in the long jump, sophomore Elizabeth Ferry and Kennedy in the pole vault and junior Maddison McDonald in the discus and shot put.
Seymour likes his team's chances of improving on its finish in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet last season, when the Panthers placed sixth (59.5) behind champion Westerville South (123).
"Our OCC (division) is as balanced as it gets," Seymour said. "There isn't a huge separation between most of the teams. We've improved our depth quite a bit with the addition of so many freshmen, and I think that will make us more competitive in our league meet."
Jaguars looking to move up in league
Bradley also is looking for a better showing in the OCC-Cardinal meet this season after placing fifth (78) a year ago.
"We have a great group this year," coach Thom Nees said. "They have really come together as a team and I am excited to see how things pan out. I feel like we have a very talented group that will place high at the league meet. I am looking forward to seeing them compete at a very high level. We have a lot of talented freshmen that I think will be able to help us this year and some upperclassmen who came out for the first time who will add to our depth."
The Jaguars feature a deep and experienced sprint corps, led by seniors Cierra Allen and Sydney Rings, juniors Sara Reitz and Hope Sawchuk and sophomores Ariel Brown and Taylor Hassell.
At regional last year, Brown, 2013 graduate Kayla Malik, Sawchuk and Rings combined to placed eighth in the 400 relay (50.25).
Senior Sarah Taylor is Bradley's top hurdler and juniors Tes Corea and Sarah Heavener and sophomore Olivia Wawzrynck are its leading distance and middle-distance runners.
Last year at regional, Corea finished 13th in the 800 (2:27.28).
Other key athletes include Allen, Brown and Reitz in the long jump, junior Becca Schalip in the high jump, junior Abby Walzer in the pole vault and senior Elaina Alpeter and junior Leila Harvard in the discus and shot put.
Last year at regional, Reitz finished 11th in the long jump (15 feet, 10 inches) and Allen placed 15th in the long jump (15-2 3/4).
'Cats still talented without Hoover
Davidson coach Matt Beatty said his team still has plenty of talent despite losing distance runners Lauren Hoover and Elsa Saelens to graduation.
At state last year, Hoover won the 800 (2:10.13) and teamed with senior Jane Haines, Saelens and junior Lilly Saniel-Banrey to finish fifth in the 3,200 relay (9:23.07).
Leading the distance and middle-distance corps are Haines, Saniel-Banrey and sophomore Jane Onders, who finished 15th in the 3,200 (11:50.83) at state last year.
Junior Molly Balcer has returned to lead the Wildcats in the high jump and long jump and junior Olivia Canestraro is their top hurdler.
Last year at state, Balcer placed fifth in the high jump (5-4), as Davidson tied Chesterland West Geauga for ninth (18) behind champion Solon (47).
Other key athletes include senior Ashley Blake and sophomore Iman Batiste in the sprints, senior Mackenzie Brown in the pole vault and senior Angel Garbrandt in the discus and shot put.
"We lost some really good kids (to graduation), but we still have some talent," Beatty said. "We just need to build up our depth around that talent, because we've got some question marks this year."
Last season, the Wildcats finished third at regional, won their third consecutive district title and won their first league title since 2010.
Davidson scored 90 points to win the district 1 meet ahead of runner-up Pickerington Central (78).
"We want to defend our OCC and district titles and to improve as a team," Balcer said. "We have a wide base of talent between our runners and field event athletes, and I think that will offset the loss of (the 2013 graduates)."
Davidson won the OCC-Central meet last year with 141.5 points, edging runner-up Dublin Coffman (140).
"We were fortunate to win our league meet last year and Coffman is definitely the team to beat this year because they are loaded," Beatty said. "Olentangy Liberty has great distance runners and hurdlers and Marysville has a couple of nice pole vaulters, so it's going to be a tough meet all around."