Everywhere he looks, New Albany High School girls track and field coach Otis Winston has reason to believe more than two individuals and one relay will accompany him to the Division I state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State.
Sophomore Karrington Winters will attempt to defend her OCC-Capital Division, district, regional and state championships in the 400 meters while surrounded by a deep roster seasoned with its own postseason experience.
"We have a great group of girls. This year could be amazing," said Winston, who is in his sixth season. "We believe in being strong from discus to distance. That's our motto this year. We have to cover every angle if we have any chance at being successful as a team."
Winters won her state title in 53.95 seconds. Junior Ama Karanteng also made state in the long jump (15th, 15 feet, 1/2 inch), as did the 1,600 relay with sophomore Debi Bhanja, junior Alex Dunn, senior Cynthia Cox and Winters (14th, 4:01.59).
Winters set meet records in the 400 in the league (55.56) and regional (53.89), and won the district 3 title (54.4) in that event while also winning a league title in the 200 (25.26) and anchoring the winning 800 (1:44.35) and 1,600 (meet-record 4:02.3) relays. Winters also advanced to regional in the 200 (second, 25.24).
Karanteng was a district champion in the long jump (15-11).
In the Division I indoor state meet March 16 at the University of Akron, Winters won the 400 in 55.38.
Other expected contributors include seniors Mirra Galbreath (distance), Haley McLellan (throws) and Emily Rolwing (high jump), juniors Eliza Matt (distance), Lexi Simpson (distance) and Dena White (high jump, long jump), sophomores Julia Rothstein (hurdles), Camilla Suarez (distance) and Christina Shoemaker (sprints, hurdles) and freshmen Bianca Cavender (pole vault), Charlotte Matt (distance), Miranda Scott (long jump) and Emily Zhong (distance).
White is the defending league champion in the high jump (5-0).
New Albany won the OCC-Capital meet a year ago with 161.5 points, finishing ahead of three-time defending champion Watkins Memorial (109), Hilliard Bradley (85.25), Big Walnut (84), Olentangy Orange (76.75), Franklin Heights (61), Delaware (44) and Mount Vernon (80.5). Olentangy has replaced Bradley in the league.
The Eagles placed third (96.5) in the 16-team district meet behind Reynoldsburg (116.5) and Dublin Scioto (112) and tied Scioto for fifth (31) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (77) as 43 teams scored.
At state, New Albany tied Uniontown Green and Walnut Ridge for 19th (10) behind Reynoldsburg (56), which won its fourth consecutive championship as 72 teams scored.
The Eagles opened this season April 2 with a 70-67 loss to Watkins Memorial. On April 6 in the 21-team Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson, they placed fifth (56) behind champion Gahanna (125).
"I've been head coach for six years now, and this is easily the most versatile team I've had," Winston said. "We've built some good specialists, but in doing that the girls have grown and developed just as athletes. They've started to believe in what we're doing with this program. That's what makes my heart smile."
Boys track team deep as well
Buoyed by the return of league, district and regional high-jump champion Alex Frye and several versatile athletes, fifth-year boys coach Chad Olinger isn't shy about heaping praise on a team he believes could be his best yet at New Albany.
"I look at every event and I am excited about our chances," said Olinger, whose team will attempt to defend league and district titles. "I've already told the boys they should be thinking about a regional championship. If you can do that, your chances of placing in the top five at state are pretty high."
Frye, who was third (6-6) in the high jump at state last year, will compete in that event, both hurdle events and possibly the long jump. Other expected leading contributors on the track are seniors Austin Bach, Jacob Gigliotti, Nathan Lackey, Darron Lee, C.J. Stringer and Alan Watson, junior O.B. Oppong and sophomores Zack Buck, Brian Krugh, Dennis Maloney and Alex Quillin. Bach, Lee, Oppong and Watson are sprinters, Gigliotti is a hurdler and Buck, Krugh, Lackey, Maloney, Quillin and Stringer are distance runners.
Maloney led the cross country team to 15th place (71) in the Division I meet last fall, placing 65th in 16:16.69.
Throwers include juniors Daniel Plescia and Trey Quillin and sophomore Tyler Pearson. Olinger said Quillin also might be a high jumper.
New Albany's 10 wins in last year's OCC-Capital meet earned the Eagles 186 points and ended Watkins Memorial's four-year reign atop the league. New Albany finished ahead of Bradley (117.5), Watkins Memorial (117), Orange (69), Mount Vernon (54), Big Walnut (53.5), Franklin Heights (43) and Delaware (22).
As he did in the league meet, Frye's championships in the 110 hurdles (15.06), 300 hurdles (39.27) and high jump (6-7) powered the Eagles to the district 2 title with 100.5 points, ahead of runner-up Lancaster (90). Frye's 6-7 effort at regional won him that championship, and the Eagles were eighth (31) behind champion Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored.
Behind Frye and 2012 graduate Adam Bodrick, who was fourth in the 400 (48.92), New Albany scored 11 points and tied for 17th at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (48) as 70 teams scored.
In the indoor state meet, Frye was third in the high jump (6-7) and fifth in the 60 hurdles (8.38), and Watson was eighth (7.19) in the 60.
The Eagles opened with an 82-56 win over Watkins Memorial. They finished fourth (64) in the Wildcat Premier behind champion Pickerington North (130).
"It's a very talented group. We feel we can be strong in every event," Olinger said. "There's some youth and experience, but these guys have been successful, whether it's in cross country or football or anything else they've done. They know how to work hard."