Every time he looks over to the pole vaulting pit, Olentangy Liberty High School boys track and field coach Ryan Snivley feels a sense of loss.

Every time he looks over to the pole vaulting pit, Olentangy Liberty High School boys track and field coach Ryan Snivley feels a sense of loss.

For the first time since 2004, the Patriots don't have a Uhle.

Twins Chris and Joey Uhle, who accounted for 36 of the 38 points that the Patriots scored in the past four Division I state meets, graduated last spring. Their older brother, Mike, also competed in the program.

"It's like you're starting out a track team without 60 to 70 (points) that you were counting on a year ago," said the fourth-year coach, whose team opens Tuesday, April 3, at Worthington Kilbourne. "It definitely levels the playing field. Everyone has an equal opportunity of contributing."

The Uhle brothers left their mark on the program.

In the 2010 state meet, Chris won the pole vault in a state-record 16 feet, 9 inches and Joey was second (16-0). Last year at state, Chris was eighth in the 800 meters (1 minute, 55.68 seconds) and third in the pole vault (16-0), and Joey was second in the pole vault (16-6) behind Gahanna's Jake Blankenship (state record 17-0) as the Patriots tied Cincinnati Mount Healthy for ninth (17 points) behind champion Cincinnati LaSalle (36) as 78 teams scored.

Mike was the 2007 state champion (15-4) in the pole vault, and he placed ninth (14-0) in 2006.

However, Liberty again appears to be strong in the field events. The Patriots will be led by seniors David Bartone (pole vault) and Josh Gresham (long jump) and juniors Grant Cartwright (discus and shot put) and Zach Shank (shot put).

Last year at state, Cartwright placed seventh in the discus (161-1).

"The throwing events will be still pretty strong," Snivley said. "Grant is going to score in the shot and discus. We have one of the best pole vaulting coaches around in Jason Schall and we have a couple of freshmen who are also willing to try it, so you never know."

Seniors Josh Cottrill, Jack Jones and Andrew Snyder, juniors Jim Pappas and Zach Van Gundy and sophomore Andrew Johnston lead the distance runners. The group helped the Patriots finish seventh (190) in the Division I state cross country meet last fall behind champion Dublin Coffman (101).

Johnston, who was sixth (15:31.94) in the state cross country meet last fall, also placed fifth in the 3,200 (9:28.07) in the state indoor meet March 17 at the University of Akron.

"They're coming into the season with a lot of confidence," Snivley said. "The only drawback of having so many solid distance runners is there are only four events we can put them in."

Seniors Robert Davis, Nick D'Amico, Miles Robinson and Jordan Wade are the top sprinters. Wade missed most of last season after pulling a hamstring three weeks into competition.

Liberty placed third (102) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet last season behind Westerville Central (126.5) and Olentangy (104.5) and ahead of Westerville North (90), Marysville (72.25), Westerville South (66.25), Dublin Scioto (49.5) and Dublin Jerome (44).

The Patriots finished fourth (66) in the district 2 meet behind champion Hilliard Davidson (109), Watkins Memorial (70) and Reynoldsburg (69). They tied New Albany for third (33) at regional behind co-champions Westerville North (37) and Thomas Worthington (37).

Snivley said a key for Liberty is finding competitors for the 400.

"If we can fill that gap, we'll be all right," he said. "We have a strong distance group and a strong group of upperclassmen sprinters. I need a distance guy to step down to the 400 or a sprinter guy to step up."

Experience gained last year should help girls team

Struggling with inexperience last year might make the girls team stronger. The Patriots have a different vibe this season, according to second-year coach James Dingus.

"Last season, we had a lot of good senior leadership, but overall, we were a very young team," Dingus said. "Our younger athletes started to come through at the OCC, district and regional meets.

"There is a different atmosphere (this season). There's more confidence as we go through different practices. Not only do we have a strong group of senior leaders, but we have some younger leaders who are stepping up. That's pretty exciting for the program."

The Patriots finished fifth (73) in the OCC-Cardinal meet last season behind Scioto (150), Olentangy (116), Westerville North (78) and Westerville South (75.33) and ahead of Westerville Central (65.33), Jerome (56) and Marysville (48.33). Liberty finished sixth (47.5) in the district 1 meet behind champion Coffman (152) but didn't score at regional.

Senior Halee Wex, the district runner-up in the discus (98-9) and fourth-place finisher in the shot put (32-11 1/2), leads the returnees in the field events.

"Halee had surgery (on her) shoulder during the offseason, so her starting marks are a little lower than last year," Dingus said. "However, she is really focused on doing her best."

Competing in distance events are seniors Devon Moske and Emily Yax and freshmen Mhairi Johnston, Beatrice Porcu, Matilde Porcu, Claire Wiles and Trinity Wiles.

Juniors Morgan Dye and Sami Kulp, sophomores Aubry Cole and Katy McFarland and freshmen Lauren Fertig and Stephanie Paul lead the sprinters. Junior Sonia Pham, sophomore Alena Southwick and freshman Autumn Lowder will compete in the hurdles.

Competing in the field events are Fertig (high jump), Lowder (long jump), McFarland (high jump) and senior Jackie Hayes (pole vault).

Dingus wants the Patriots to pay attention to detail.

"We need to continue to get better. I want us to do the right things with the right form," he said. "Being technicians at our events, especially in the field events, is going to lead to success down the road."