Although his program lost several key athletes to graduation, Columbus Academy boys track and field coach Bob Kirk is looking forward to his team attempting to defend its consecutive Division III state titles.
"These guys want to be in the thick of everything, too," said Kirk, who is in his 40th season.
"We don't dwell on (the past two seasons), but we're well aware of it. ... It's a really good legacy and a great motivator for kids because they go: 'We want our chance.'"
Senior Jack Lint, who will compete for the University of Virginia, was a key contributor to last season's state title. He was second in the 300-meter hurdles (37.15 seconds), third in the 110 hurdles (14.57) and third in the high jump (6 feet, 6 inches) in the state meet.
He also joined senior Jake Tuckerman and 2013 graduates Dominic Facciolla and Tyler Gittins on the winning 1,600 relay (3:19.66).
Tuckerman also teamed with senior Aron Aziz, sophomore Logan Baker and Facciolla to place second in the 3,200 relay (7:59.09).
Facciolla is running at Columbia and Gittins is competing at Miami.
Kirk said other key contributors should be seniors Alex Ho (distance), Isaac Sheumaker (throws) and Ben Uchimura (3,200 relay) and junior Tim Leathery (sprints, relays).
Kirk expects sophomore Jack Mills and freshmen Kevin Boyce, Michael Kusi, Anthony Thomassey and Dylan Warren to contribute in sprinting events.
"I have a lot of guys on my team that are new guys to it and some of them are seniors," Kirk said. "They're not guys who are experienced seniors, they're new seniors and that's a little unusual to have that."
Last season, the Vikings scored 47 points at state to finish ahead of runner-up Lima Central Catholic (43). Academy's other state titles came in 1977 and 1981.
The Vikings also won their third consecutive regional title a year ago, scoring 89 points to finish ahead of runner-up Attica Seneca East (60), and captured the district 1 title with 168 points as Liberty Union (125.5) was runner-up.
Girls track team returns solid group
The girls track team returns several key contributors from a squad that finished second (24) in the Division III state meet last season behind Versailles (28).
Leading the way should be junior Julia Rizk, who was second in the 1,600 (4:59.95) and anchored the second-place 3,200 relay (9:39.78) and fifth-place 1,600 relay (4:02.59).
Also back is junior Elizabeth Falkenberg, who ran on the 3,200 relay.
Senior Margaret Sutton and junior Andrea Ballinger opted not to participate this season, according to second-year coach Kelly Parker.
Another key returnee is senior Jillian Woodard, who finished seventh in the long jump (17-2) at state.
"(Rizk and Woodard) are by far our strongest leaders," Parker said. "They bring a sense of excitement (and) experience to the team. We're hoping they can carry some of the weight, and they're going to have to carry a lot of the weight if we do want to take it a step further at the state meet this year."
Other key returnees are seniors Maddie Burns (hurdles), Caitlyn Halsey (sprints), Sydney Lawrence (sprints), Annie Mampieri (sprints), Maria Mullin (sprints) and Kyle O'Hara (distance), juniors Ana Clavijo (distance), Bemnet Tesfaye (distance) and Taylor True (distance) and sophomores Sydnie Boykins (distance), Jessica Hile (throws), Ellie Levine (jumps), Louise Rosler (sprints), Maddie Vaziri (hurdles), Madeline Walter (distance) and Cobi Warstler (distance).
Parker expects senior Brianna Stahl (sprints), a first-year runner, to be a solid contributor.
"We're hoping for the best," Parker said. "We lost some important bodies that were either seniors or chose to continue on in different sports this year, so that is going to make it tough to fill that void, but we return some very important people."
Last season, Academy won the regional title by scoring 63 points to finish ahead of runner-up Reedsville Eastern (50) and the district title by scoring 96.5 points to finish ahead of runner-up Grandview (66.5).
Girls lacrosse team again has high hopes
The girls lacrosse team returns several players from a squad that finished 17-2 overall last season.
"The team is very energized and we show a lot of passion about wanting to see how far we can take this team this year," said coach Anne Horton, who is in her 20th season.
Senior attacker Courtney Gittins was first-team all-region and second-team all-state in Division II last season. Sophomore midfielder Julia Chester was second-team all-region and junior midfielder Kelly Brown was honorable mention all-region.
Other returnees are seniors Paige Berliner (defender), Hayley Mitchell (attacker), Kat Restrepo (attacker), Stahl (midfielder) and Rachel Theis (defender), junior Alivia Brown (midfielder) and sophomores Katie Boeckman (midfielder), Alyssa Edwards (midfielder), Grace Geiger (attacker), Makela Hughes (attacker), Eleanor Rackoff (midfielder), Charlotte Smith (attacker) and Lawson Stump (goalkeeper).
Stump has replaced 2013 graduate Deepa Manda in goal.
Other players are senior Kat Weikert (defender), juniors Lauren Martin (defender) and Kendall Silwonuk (defender), sophomore Lily Rizk (midfielder) and freshmen Michelle Daoud (attacker), Baylee Mueller (defender) and Kami Tibbles (defender).
Last season, the Vikings won their fourth consecutive Central Independent League title, going 7-0 to finish ahead of second-place Bexley (5-2).
Academy lost to Worthington Kilbourne 14-10 in a Division II South/Central Region final.
The Vikings opened league play by losing at Bexley 10-9 on April 5 and were 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the league before playing Hartley on April 16.
The Vikings are looking to replace four 2013 graduates in attackers Courtney Deena and Abby Young, defender Annie Lavin and Manda. Deena, who is playing at the University of Maryland, was first-team all-region and all-state last season.