The Watkins Memorial High School boys track and field team saw its streak of consecutive league championships come to an end last season.
The Warriors, who had won four OCC-Capital Division titles in a row before placing third last year behind champion New Albany, are looking to regain the title in their final season in the OCC. They move into the revived Licking County League next year.
"Our goal is pretty simple," 33rd-year coach Marty Dahlman said. "It is our last year in the OCC. We won the Capital Division four out of the last five years, losing last year to New Albany. We would like to leave the OCC as a champion, but we know that New Albany has a tremendous program with multiple state-quality athletes back."
Watkins Memorial returns four Division I regional qualifiers in seniors Nic Eader, Ethan George and Jake Sanders and junior Hunter Holton.
Sanders had the Warriors' highest finish in the regional at Pickerington North, placing ninth in the shot put (47 feet, 4 inches). George finished 11th in the 300-meter hurdles (41.37 seconds), Eader finished 11th in the shot put (47-2) and 13th in the discus (135-0) and Holton finished 13th in the high jump (6-0).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to the state meet at Ohio State.
Watkins Memorial did not score at regional and finished fifth (60) in the 16-team district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby behind champion Hilliard Davidson (104).
Holton won the long jump title at district (6-5) last spring and, during indoor season this winter, cleared a personal-best 6-6. He tied for seventh (6-2) in the indoor state meet March 16 at the University of Akron.
Others expected to be key contributors include seniors Vinny Anderson (sprints), Michael McKean (distance) and Connor Severino (sprints), junior Jerrod Lyon (long jump) and sophomore Chance Abbitt (sprints/middle distance). McKean was a state qualifier in cross country last fall.
"We preach the 'Watkins way,' which is to score everywhere in every event and to not have a weak spot," Dahlman said. "Currently, the areas we see as strengths are hurdles, throws, jumps, long distance (and) long sprints.
"We need to significantly improve in the short sprints, 800 and pole vault."
Watkins Memorial won its opening meet March 30, scoring 179 points in its 17-team Icebreaker Invitational as Logan (129) was runner-up.
George won the 300 hurdles (40.85) and the Warriors also won the 1,600 (3:31.89), 3,200 (8:31.4) and 440 shuttle hurdles (1:00.85) relays. Placing second were McKean in the 1,600 (4:38.83), Holton in the high jump (6-0) and Lyon in the long jump (20-10 1/2).
Watkins Memorial won its eighth consecutive title in the 13-team Dick Houston Relays on April 4 at Heath. The Warriors scored 97 points, with Licking Valley (82) as runner-up.
"We have 61 kids on the boys team," Dahlman said. "We have a lot of young kids who will find a way to contribute and make our team stronger."
Watkins Memorial scored 117 points in the OCC-Capital meet last season, finishing behind New Albany (186) and Hilliard Bradley (117.5) and ahead of Olentangy Orange (69), Mount Vernon (54), Big Walnut (53.5), Franklin Heights (43) and Delaware (22).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy.
Girls track team expects to be balanced
The girls track and field team also is eyeing the OCC-Capital championship this season.
Watkins Memorial won the league meet three consecutive years from 2009-11 but placed second (109) a year ago, behind New Albany (161.5) and ahead of Bradley (85.25), Big Walnut (84), Orange (76.75), Franklin Heights (61), Dela-ware (44) and Mount Vernon (40.5).
"We are young, so I'm not real sure how our depth is going to be," fifth-year coach Nathan Corum said. "We've got some talented girls and we have a lot of girls out (for the team), so time will tell."
Among the key returnees is sophomore Josie Woosley, who finished 12th in the 800 (2:18.1) in the Division I state meet last spring and set a meet record by winning the 800 in the OCC-Capital meet in 2:17.59.
She also was on the 3,200 relay that finished 14th (9:38.15) at state and finished first in the OCC-Capital (9:44.87). Also on the relay were seniors Veda Durbin and Stephanie Robb and 2012 graduate Mara White.
Robb, who plans to compete for the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Durbin were regional qualifiers in the 400 and 3,200, respectively, last year and sophomore Kara Robinson was a regional qualifier in the 100 hurdles.
Others expected to be key contributors include juniors Ricki Miles (sprints/hurdles) and Deja Scott (sprints/hur-dles/jumps), sophomores Alexis Christy (jumps), Nicole Holtz (jumps) and Monica Tumblin (hurdles/pole vault) and freshman Josie Cotugno (distance).
The Warriors opened March 30, finishing second (104.5) in their 16-team Icebreaker Invitational behind Gahanna (198).
Woosley set a meet record by winning the 800 in 2:23.9 and Robb won the 200 (26.61) and was second in the 400 (58.78). The 1,600 relay also finished first (4:13.85) and Holtz placed second in the triple-jump (31-5 1/2).
"We should be a pretty well-rounded team," Corum said."
Watkins Memorial won its fifth consecutive title in the 13-team Dick Houston Relays on April 4 at Heath. The Warriors scored 74 points, with Thornville Sheridan (56.5) as runner-up
Last season, Watkins Memorial did not score at state, finished 11th (24) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (77) as 43 teams scored and placed fourth (73) in the 17-team district 2 meet at Darby behind champion Davidson (101.5).