Olentangy High School boys track and field coach Brad Komenda said he wouldn't put extra pressure on certain areas of his team to score every meet.
As the Braves try to replace three-quarters of the 1,600-meter relay that finished ninth in last year's Division I state meet as well as key contributors in other areas, Komenda will look to his distance runners and field athletes to keep Olentangy competitive in the OCC-Capital Division and beyond.
"Usually, our sprinting unit seems to have the most experience, but this year we'll have to rely on the distance (runners) and field events, at least early," said Komenda, whose sixth season began April 9 with a dual against Big Walnut. "I've told them their leadership has to be consistent. We have a lot of three- and four-year letterwinners (among the distance runners), and it's the same situation with our throwers. But I haven't necessarily told them that we have to get this many points from them every time out."
Senior Jeff Clark returns from the 1,600 relay and will concentrate on sprint events.
The field unit will be led by senior throwers Curtis Conrad and Kevin Sherry and sophomore Obi Anunike. Senior Chase Benson returns to lead the distance runners with junior Charles Rodeheffer.
Benson was .04 shy of advancing to the state cross country meet last fall, finishing 17th (16 minutes, 17.94 seconds) at regional as the top 16 individuals advanced.
According to Komenda, other top sprinters will be junior Anthony Golden and sophomore Jacob Bell, who was an alternate on the 1,600 relay last year. Komenda also expects junior Brandon Bice to take over the top pole vaulting spot succeeding Nick Schrader, who is at Ohio State as a preferred walk-on.
Bice vaulted 13 feet, 9 inches during the indoor season.
Olentangy's season continues Saturday, April 12, in the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at Big Walnut. The Braves' first individual-based invitational is the Dublin Classic on April 19 at Dublin Coffman.
"Some years, that's like a regional meet," Komenda said. "We'll see how things shake out the next few weeks and how we perform there."
Deep distance unit to lead Patriots
Liberty coach Ryan Snivley expects a strong senior season from distance standout Andrew Johnston, who was 10th (15:46.87) in the Division I state cross country meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway and eighth in the 3,200 (9:19.16) at last year's state track and field meet.
Johnston, who like teammate Josh Wojciechowski has accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy, also was 11th in the 5,000 (15:26.04) in the New Balance National Track and Field Championships in March in New York.
"It's a matter of consistency with Andrew," said Snivley, who is in his sixth season. "He's the guy every track and field coach dreams of having on his team. He's a hard runner and he puts in a ton of miles. He's just an amazing runner. He's a smart kid and I have no doubt he'll have a great senior season."
The Patriots opened April 8 at Worthington Kilbourne.
Johnston and Wojciechowski will be joined in the distance unit by all of the cross country team's top seven runners who guided Liberty to 12th place at state. They are seniors Chatham Anderson, Daniel Parsons and Brad Wiemels, junior Cameron Lackey and sophomore Mitchell Towne.
Anderson, Johnston, Wiemels and Wojciechowski also were on the 3,200 relay that placed sixth (8:06.72) in the indoor state meet March 8 at the University of Akron.
According to Snivley, other top contributors for the Patriots will be seniors Devin Collins (high jump, long jump), Cameron Cook (pole vault, high jump), John Schultz (pole vault), David Trzcinski (throws) and Jake Winters (sprints), juniors Chris Adams (throws), Jacob Merrels (sprints, middle distance), Matt Totin (hurdles), Michael Tweddle (long jump) and Kian Worcester (middle distance) and sophomore Ryan Jones (pole vault).
Trzcinski was eighth in the shot put (49-1) at regional last year as the top four finishers in each event advanced to state.
Merrels was a regional qualifier in the 200, finishing 12th.
Liberty has 128 runners in its program.
"We definitely have strength in numbers," Snivley said. "We won't lack for talent. It's just a matter of seeing who fits where to make the team stronger."
New Pioneers coach sees rebuilding year
Orange will have a mostly new look this year, as both 2013 state qualifiers were among 13 athletes lost to graduation and the Pioneers gained a new coach in Adam Walters.
"We're young, and that bodes well for the future, but I do think we'll be competitive this year," Walters said. "We'll get some points out of our relays, distance events and the pole vault."
In last year's Division I state meet, Triston Richardson -- who now competes at Eastern Michigan -- was 14th in the pole vault. Travis Napper competed in four wheelchair events, placing third in the shot put, sixth in the 400 and 800 and seventh in the 100.
Walters replaces Buck Weaver, who became athletics director at Westerville South last July. He also is Orange's boys cross country coach and was a volunteer assistant track coach with the Pioneers last year.
According to Walters, top contributors will be seniors Charlie Barger (pole vault), Cameron Flesch (distance), Brandon Simon (distance) and Tyler Young (distance), junior J.P. Leskovich (sprints) and sophomore Brandon Morrow (distance).
Leskovich is a move-in from Highland Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
"He'll be a 400 and 200 runner. He had a solid indoor season," Walters said. "I think Charlie will be our best returner in terms of points, and Brandon was our top runner in cross country. Distance-wise, we'll be young. But we will score some points."
Orange has seven seniors -- Barger, Emmanuel Djan, Flesch, Taraji Hillard, Lenn's Kamba, Charles Karas and Christian King. Walters still was tinkering with his lineup entering the week, as only about half the team competed in the season-opening Newark Invitational on April 5.
At Newark, the Pioneers finished 11th (32) behind champion Westerville Central (104.5) as 18 teams scored. Freshman Brandon Lane was second in the 3,200 (10:15.39), and Morrow was third in the 1,600 (4:45.31) and seventh in the 800 (2:09.5).