The Watkins Memorial High School track and field teams are beginning to prepare for the league and postseason meets.
The Warriors competed in the Gary Smith Invitational on May 4 at Thomas Worthington, where the boys team expected its toughest challenge of the season to date. Both teams will compete in the Licking County Honor Roll Meet on Wednesday, May 8, at Granville before concluding the regular season Saturday, May 11, in the Viking Invitational at Teays Valley.
"The boys have won every invitational we've been in thus far," boys coach Marty Dahlman said. "We've been challenged within the events but not in the team scores yet. So these last few meets, especially at Thomas Worthington, will give us a better indication of where we are and where we need to be to beat New Albany in the OCC-Capital (Division) meet (May 16 and 18 at Hilliard Bradley)."
Some coaches emphasize the district, regional and state meets more than their league meet, but Dahlman isn't one of them.
"We run for league titles at Watkins," he said. "The way we see it, track and field is a team sport, so let's win a team title. When it gets to the district, then our mindset changes because it's no longer a team sport at that point. But until then, we're competing as a team. Our athletes know that the league meet is our sell-out time."
That's why Dahlman will spend next 10 days making adjustments to his lineup in an effort to maximize team points for the OCC-Capital meet.
"For instance, we've got a sophomore, Chance Abbitt, who has outstanding times in the 200, 400 and 800 (meters), and we've got to decide how we're going to use him and where he can get us the most points," he said.
In the district honor roll last week, senior Nic Eader was ranked fifth in both the shot put (51 feet, 6 inches) and discus (51-7), senior Mike McKean was fifth in the 3,200 (9 minutes, 48.48 seconds) and junior Jerrod Lyon was fourth in the long jump (20-10 1/2).
Other key athletes for the boys team include sprinters Evan Caniff and Donovan Garrison, pole vaulter Kyle Ellinger and distance runner Andrew Jordan.
"Garrison has run a 10.8 (in the) 100 and he ran a 23.2 in his first-ever 200 (in the Hank Smith Invitational on April 20) at Heath," Dahlman said. "Jordan, Ellinger and Caniff have been awesome surprises as freshmen and our seniors are doing what they're supposed to be doing. We've got two guys throwing nearly 50 feet in the shot put because Jake Sanders is at 49-9. Ethan George, Hunter Holton, just everyone is doing their job.
"I think we're ahead of where we expected to be right now because we're finding kids to get the job done across the board. I think a lot of the credit goes to the staff, because we've got an experienced and veteran staff with John Jarvis in distance, Jan Heffelfinger in jumps, Jeff Kennedy in sprints and Nathan Corum in hurdles."
Corum, who serves as girls coach, also has been surprised by his team's depth.
"I knew we had a good group of hurdlers and we'd be strong at the front end of sprints with Stephanie Robb, but I've been real pleased with the progress of the entire team, really," he said. "We've got sophomores and freshmen not just filling the holes, but scoring, providing depth, and it really looks encouraging for the future."
Robb was the only member of the girls team to make the district honor roll last week. The senior was ranked fourth in the 400 (58.78).
According to Corum, sophomores Maddie Berry and McKenzie Biniker and freshmen Kelsey Grove and Rachel Lawwell also have been key sprinters.
"They're really helping to make things happen in our sprints and sprint relays," Corum said. "That's exciting because it's not normal for us to have good depth in our sprints. Plus, those four are young."
As expected, hurdles have been a strength for the girls team. Key contributors in the 100 and 300 hurdles include juniors Ricki Miles and Deja Scott and sophomores Kara Robinson and Monica Tumblin, Corum said.
According to Corum, sophomore Josie Woosley continues to excel in distance and the athletes in the field events are improving.
"We need to keep working in field events, but we're starting to see them come together," Corum said. "I fully expect them to be ready for the league meet. Freshman Sammi Miller is really coming into her own in the high jump and we have others that are just starting to step up."
Baseball team closes in on league title
The baseball team remained in the hunt for an OCC-Capital championship by beating Olentangy 4-0 on April 29 and 2-1 on April 30 and defeating New Albany 7-1 on May 1.
Watkins Memorial was 17-3 overall and 9-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing New Albany on May 3.
The Warriors have league games Monday, May 6, at Olentangy Orange and Wednesday, May 8, at home against Orange. The Pioneers fell to 9-2 in the league with a 6-5 loss to Big Walnut on May 1. They played the Golden Eagles again May 3.
Watkins Memorial also must make up a league game against Franklin Heights that was postponed April 24.
On April 29, pitcher Danny Sexton scattered five hits to post his third consecutive shutout and improve to 7-0 on the season.
Shortstop Charlie Schmidt hit a two-run double as part of a three-run fifth inning and outfielder Tony Winters, who had three hits, made it 4-0 with an RBI single in the sixth. Schmidt and second baseman Jordan Miller both had two hits.
The next day, pitcher Chandler Day limited the Braves to two hits and had 11 strikeouts. The Warriors scored both runs in the third inning on RBI by Miller and outfielder Ricky Frey, and Winters had two hits.
Watkins Memorial was ranked fifth in the Division I area coaches poll last week.
Boys tennis coach excited about team
Boys tennis coach Shawn Walter will use the final week of the regular season to determine his team's postseason doubles pairings.
According to Walter, the seven players who are vying for playing time in doubles have similar playing abilities.
"We're still trying to find the right fits that mesh for strong doubles teams," Walter said. "They've all gotten experience and the best part is that, after our top three, who are seniors, we have a bunch of sophomores. So it was important that they all got experience and had an opportunity to fight for postseason spots. This is a good problem to have, really."
Dylan Clear has solidified his spot at first singles, according to Walter.
"He played first doubles the past two years and started this year at second singles, but he has taken his game to a new level," Walter said. "His ground strokes are more consistent, his volleying is better and he's just more comfortable at playing singles now.
"His game sky-rocketed. He was determined to move to first singles and he earned it. His game used to be serve, serve, serve. If he struggled with service or if his opponents handled the serve, the rest of his game couldn't keep up."
Through 15 matches, Clear was 10-4 overall, including 7-3 at first singles, and had 34 aces.
Walter said Austin Williams and Max Nader have been solid at second and third singles, respectively. Williams was 8-5 overall, including 6-2 at second singles, and had 32 aces, and Nader was 9-5 with 38 aces.
"The entire team has played well across the board," Walter said. "I'm proud of what these guys have done thus far and I'm excited about the rest of the season and the future."