Olentangy High School boys track and field coach Brad Komenda is confident a deep roster can carry the Braves to a strong debut in the OCC-Capital Division, and maybe more.
District champion Ramal Iverson returns for his senior season hoping to improve on a tough end to last year, and the entire 1,600-meter relay (Iverson and classmates Colin McShane, Garrett Rice and Dan Wruble) also is back.
Iverson was third in the OCC-Cardinal meet in the long jump (20 feet, 6 3/4 inches) and won the Division I, district 1 title (21-1/4) a year ago while helping the 400 and 1,600 relays earn regional berths. Strep throat took him out of both relays at regional, and he placed 12th in the long jump (19-9 1/4) to fall short of a state berth.
He has signed to play football at Division II Saginaw Valley State.
"I know Ramal has a completely different mindset now," said Komenda, who is in his fifth season. "He had a lot of success in football this year (478 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 65 carries) and every time he sees me, he's talking about making the regional and making sure our relays get out (to state). That's the kind of thing I love to hear."
McShane returns as a league champion in the 200 (22.87 seconds) and two-time regional qualifier in the 400 -- he finished seventh (50.08) last year -- to help pace a senior class that also includes Nick Schrader, who was seventh at regional (13-8) in the pole vault last year, as well as Buchi Okafor (sprints), Tommy Schwartz (throws) and Cory Standerwick (distance).
Okafor is a Miami University football signee.
Other expected contributors include juniors Chase Benson (distance), Jeff Clark (sprints, high jump) and Kevin Sherry (throws) and sophomores Tyler Azbell (distance), Jacob Darche (distance), Charles Rodheffer (distance) and Douglas Sutton (800 and 1,600).
"This is the deepest distance team I've had, not necessarily in numbers but in terms of talent," Komenda said.
The Braves were fifth (89.5) in the league meet last year behind Westerville Central (116), Westerville North (111), Liberty (104.5) and Westerville South (94.5) and ahead of Marysville (62.5), Dublin Jerome (55) and Dublin Scioto (27). McShane was second in the 400 (49.31), Schrader was second in the pole vault (13-6) and 2012 graduate Alex Shetler was second in the discus (131-1).
Olentangy was sixth (51) in district 1 behind champion Hilliard Davidson (104) as 16 teams scored. Schrader was third in the pole vault (14-0) and McShane was fourth in the 400 (49.62) as the top four individuals in each event advanced to regional, where the Braves scored four points and tied for 28th behind champion Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored.
The Braves started this season by finishing third (36) in a home tri-meet April 2 behind Westerville South (80.5) and Thomas Worthington (54.5).
On April 6 in the 21-team Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson, Olentangy was 14th (22) behind champion Pickerington North (130).
Liberty's Cartwright back to defend title
Liberty senior thrower Grant Cartwright won't sneak up on anyone after winning the Division I discus state title last year.
Seeded eighth entering the state meet, Cartwright's program-record and personal-best throw of 195-0 earned him the championship. The Michigan signee won the OCC-Cardinal and district 2 championships in the shot put and discus, was regional champion in the discus (174-6) and placed fifth in the shot put (52-7) at regional, falling one spot shy of advancing to state in that event.
"After last season, he had options to pursue a football scholarship or track, and he chose track," fifth-year coach Ryan Snivley said. "He's been working out every day. Even in winter, he'd go out to the pit in the morning and be working. He's pretty dedicated."
Junior Andrew Johnston also advanced to state, finishing ninth in the 3,200 (9:31.12) after winning the district title (9:39.02) and placing fourth at regional (9:24.97). The Patriots scored 10 points at state to tie for 19th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (48) as 70 teams scored.
Liberty was fourth (75) behind champion New Albany (100.5) at district and 12th (23) at regional.
The team's entire 3,200 relay, which was sixth (7:54.27) at regional, also returns in seniors Jack Schoettmer and Zach Van Gundy, junior Brad Wiemels and Johnston.
"Our throwing and distance (corps) are pretty deep and experienced," said Snivley, whose team opened April 9 against Westerville Central and Worthington Kilbourne. "That's where we have a lot of seniors. Our sprinters are mainly freshmen and sophomores, and a lot of them have a chance to make an impact."
Other key returnees include senior Zach Shank (throws) and sophomore Jacob Merrels (middle distance).
As part of OCC realignment, Liberty and Marysville now are in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas, Upper Arlington and Westland.
Orange hoping to continue upward trend
Senior Triston Richardson, a regional qualifier in the pole vault last year, returns as Orange tries to remain in the top half of the OCC-Capital under first-year coach Bryan Weaver.
Richardson was second in the pole vault (13-6) in the league meet, third in district 1 (13-0) and tied Logan's Austin Griggs for eighth at regional (13-8). Other district qualifiers who return are senior Sam Gerst, who was eighth in the 1,600 (4:35.81), and junior Charlie Barger, who was sixth in the pole vault (12-0).
Weaver, an assistant coach for the Pioneers the past three years, replaced Nathan Huffman, who resigned after two seasons to become principal at Sparta Highland.
Other expected key contributors include seniors Eric Aumiller (distance), Dustin Dieker (distance), Jess Glover (sprints), Trey Pride (sprints), Josh Parker (jumps, sprints) and Darryl Williams (sprints) and juniors A.J. Quesenberry (sprints) and Tyler Young (distance).
"We are not amazing in any one area," Weaver said. "Our talent seems to be pretty evenly spread throughout most of the events."
Orange was fourth (69) in the OCC-Capital meet last year behind New Albany (186), Hilliard Bradley (117.5) and Watkins Memorial (117) and ahead of Mount Vernon (54), Big Walnut (53.5), Franklin Heights (43) and Delaware (22). The Pioneers finished 10th (26) in district 3 behind champion Pickerington North (127.5) as 15 teams scored, and were 38th (.5) at regional.
Olentangy has replaced Bradley in the league.
Orange opened this season with an 81-56 home loss to Jerome on April 2. The Pioneers then scored 82 points to win the London Red Raider Relays on April 6 ahead of runner-up Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan (64).