As an assistant coach for the DeSales High School boys track and field team last spring and as an assistant for the Stallions' Division II state runner-up girls soccer team last fall, Ben McGinnis developed several ideas about how he wanted to run a program.
Now coach of both the boys and girls track and field teams, he has moved quickly to implement his philosophies in hopes of achieving more unity within the program.
"My No. 1 thing is uniting the two teams as one," said McGinnis, who succeeded 23-year boys coach Rick Baker and five-year girls coach Greg Zacharias last summer. "I want us to focus on the disciplines of each event, not the (competitor's) gender. We'll teach strategy and philosophy to those who want to learn."
The boys team has nine seniors -- Nate Biggers (sprints), Breyon Bowman (sprints), Darrin Brodie (throws), Tristan Caldwell (sprints), Grant Goddard (throws), Sherwin Polk (sprints/hurdles), Matt Ratliff (sprints), LaShaun Sanders (sprints) and Tyler West (middle distance).
In the Division II state meet at Ohio State, West placed ninth in the 800 meters (1 minute, 58.35 seconds) and teamed with Sanders, sophomore Adam Acquista and 2012 graduate Riley West on the 1,600 relay that finished eighth (3:25.61).
Other expected key contributors for the boys team include juniors Ian Lawson (distance) and Andrew Spark (sprints/ jumps) and freshman Joe Bakle (sprints).
Ashli Pope, a junior who was a Division I regional qualifier last season, leads a less-experienced girls team. She placed 11th in the 100 (12.75) and ninth in the 200 (25.99) in the regional meet at Pickerington North.
The girls team also features seniors Sierra Mergliano (sprints/middle distance), DeShae Nelson (sprints), Lauren Omlor (distance), Leah Selmek (sprints/jumps) and Amber Strohacker (throws).
McGinnis said other expected key contributors include juniors Kristin Faulkner (middle distance/sprints/jumps) and Erin Kuisti (sprints) and freshmen Morgan Barrett (throws) and Abigail Mulligan (sprints/jumps).
McGinnis, whose program consists of 32 boys and 46 girls, hopes a well-rounded approach sustains the Stallions' success. He has begun "rotation days," in which assistant coaches are set up at several stations and involve all athletes in various events.
"That way, the kids train with each coach at some point and build an appreciation for what everyone on the team is doing," McGinnis said.
The Stallions, who do not have a home meet this season, opened in the Newark Invitational on April 6. The boys team scored eight points to finish 14th of 16 teams and the girls finished 12th (16) of 15 teams. Independence (80) won the boys' title and Westerville Central (114.5) won the girls'.
Last season, the boys team tied six teams for 58th (3) at state behind champion Dayton Dunbar (49) as 81 teams scored, finished fifth (35) in the regional meet at Welcome Stadium in Dayton behind champion Dunbar (98) as 47 teams scored and won (110) the 13-team district 2 meet at Westerville South, finishing well ahead of runner-up Bexley (78).
The Stallions also ended St. Charles' three-year reign atop the CCL a year ago, as they won the league meet with 157 points, finishing ahead of St. Charles (126), Hartley (79), Ready (68) and Watterson (58).
At regional, West placed fourth in the 800 (1:59.11), the 1,600 relay placed fourth (3:23.8), Sanders placed sixth in the 400 (50.52), Bowman finished 13th in the 200 (23.44),) and the 3,200 relay of Tyler West, Lawson, 2012 graduate Luke Howard and Acquista finished 13th (8:42.27).
Last season, the girls team scored two points at state to tie seven teams for 59th behind champion Reynoldsburg (56) as 72 teams scored, tied Northland for 33rd (5) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (77) as 43 teams scored and finished seventh (44) in the 17-team district 2 meet at Hilliard Darby behind champion Hilliard Davidson (101.5).
In the CCL meet a year ago, the Stallions placed third (102) behind Hartley (162) and Columbus School for Girls (104) and ahead of Ready (64.5) and Watterson (57).
Boys tennis team aims for another CCL title
First-year boys tennis coach Rob Lehner's interest in keeping the program at or near the top of the CCL is both professional and personal.
The 2006 DeSales graduate was a senior when the Stallions won their first CCL title since 1982, and he hopes to direct them to their second consecutive league title and fifth in eight seasons this year.
"We knew we hadn't won (the CCL) in a long time and our class had a lot of pride in winning a championship," said Lehner, a full-time tennis pro at Wickertree Tennis Club who was hired in January to replace seven-year coach Matt Rutherford. "This was probably the only job I ever would have taken being from here or if there was another premiere job open."
The Stallions lost six players from last spring to graduation but return two in juniors Mack Beidler and Sonny DiMichaelangelo. Both alternated between singles and doubles last year, and Lehner wasn't sure before the season opener against Upper Arlington B on April 10 where they would be in the lineup this year.
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Stephan Ganobsik, Nick Hancart, Peter Tran and Quinn Verfurth, junior Tyler Moon, sophomores Kevin Boyer, Charlie Mitchell, Alex Tran, Michael Truong and David Vincent and freshmen Domenic Belvedene, Jacob Cudnik, Alex Graver and Lee Schockling.
"There's a lot of flexibility within who we have, but it's somewhat tough because we have a lot of kids who could play either way," Lehner said. "We have a good, solid four seniors this year, three who will definitely play significant varsity time. ... It'll be hard for me to figure out all the different lineups I have in my head as to who can click well with who."
Last season, the Stallions finished 9-5 overall and went 4-0 in the CCL to win the league title ahead of St. Charles (3-1), Watterson (2-2), Ready (1-3) and Hartley (0-4). They did not have any players advance out of a Division II sectional tournament at CSG.
At sectional, Beidler and 2012 graduates Jack Felkner and Davis Keller each went 1-1 in singles. In doubles, 2012 graduates James Walsh and Kevin Walsh went 1-1 and DiMichaelangelo and his older brother, 2012 graduate Gian Carlo DiMichaelangelo, went 0-1.
DeSales opens its league schedule Tuesday, April 16, at home against St. Charles.