When Robb Hammond took over the Pickerington High School Central girls track and field program in 2008, his goal of winning a conference title came to fruition during his first season.

When Robb Hammond took over the Pickerington High School Central girls track and field program in 2008, his goal of winning a conference title came to fruition during his first season.

Milton Folson has similar aspirations as he begins his first season heading the boys program.

While Hammond is back for his third season and has a girls team which again should challenge for conference and postseason success, Folson takes over a young boys squad which has about 60 competitors.

Among the returnees are three athletes who competed in the Division I regional meet last year in juniors Grant Hammond, Tyler W. Hammond and Kristopher Strange.

The Tigers opened last Saturday by taking fourth (67) in the home Hammond Relays behind champion Lancaster (94).

"It's really a pretty young team, with only about five or six seniors and a bunch of sophomores and juniors," Folson said. "Our primary goal is to win the (OCC-Ohio Division), and we have a huge goal of getting some guys through district and taking some guys to state."

Folson is originally from Indiana and ran track at Purdue University before moving to central Ohio 10 years ago. He coached Ridgeview Junior High the last three years before taking over in the offseason for Jason Roach, who stepped down after six seasons with the Tigers.

Grant Hammond, who is the son of Robb Hammond but is no relation to Tyler W. Hammond, won the pole vault (13 feet, 6 inches) to give Central its only conference champion. He then placed fourth (13-0) in the district 2 meet and eighth (13-6) at regional. In the indoor state meet March 20 at the University of Akron, he placed 10th (13-0).

Tyler W. Hammond is back to lead the sprint corps after competing on the 800-meter relay, which was third (1 minute, 30.94 seconds) in the league, first (1:29.65) at district and fifth (1:29.93) at regional.

Strange is the Tigers' top athlete in the long jump and also ran on the 800 relay.

Senior Jaysen Arzadon will lead the hurdles corps. Sophomore Devone Penick should be the top competitor in the 100 and 200 and junior Michael Jamar-Brown and sophomore Billy Eakins likely will be the top 400 runners.

In distance, the Tigers will feature sophomore Michael Gase and Mason Prater.

In addition to Strange, expected to be key contributors in the field events are senior Kenny Johnson (high jump), junior Aric Barker (shot put) and sophomore Nick Wilson (shot put).

Last season, the Tigers placed fourth (82.5) in the OCC-Ohio behind champion Reynoldsburg (144), and were third (67.5) in district 2 behind Hilliard Darby (111) and Pickerington North (93).

Among those lost to graduation were Evan Betts (second in OCC in 110 hurdles, 15.41; second in OCC in 300 hurdles, 40.19), Ron Burgess (800 relay, 400), Josh Stevens (second in OCC in long jump, 20-11) and Joe Taranto (distance).

At district, Betts (second in the 110 hurdles, 14.85; third in 300 hurdles, 40.08), Grant Hammond (fourth in pole vault, 13-0), Stevens (first in long jump, 21-4 1/2), Strange (fourth in long jump, 20-5), Taranto (second in 800, 1:58.45) and the 800 relay advanced to regional. Betts was seventh in the 110 hurdles (15.21) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (40.07) at regional.

•The girls team also has about 60 athletes, including five who qualified for the state meet last year.

Senior Christina Gagliardo finished 10th in the pole vault (11-0) at state last season. She placed second (10-6) at the indoor state meet.

Senior Kaitlin Peters and juniors Tionne Goodson, Jasmine Greene and Jalisa Jarrett are back after comprising the 1,600 relay that finished 10th (3:58.9) at state.

Also at state last year, Jarrett finished 11th in the 400 (57.0) and Greene was 14th in the 300 hurdles (47.24).

The Tigers opened last Saturday by winning the seven-team Hammond Relays with 86 points.

"It's going real well so far," Robb Hammond said. "I think we've got our biggest number of girls out since I've been the coach here. We've had two pretty successful seasons, and I think that's helped."

Back to lead the distance corps is junior Kaitlyn Meyer, who won the 1,600 (5:30.35) and ran on the 3,200 relay that was second (9:55.06) in the OCC-Ohio meet.

Also returning after posting top-three finishes in the league meet are juniors Nevada Brancifort (third in the 1,600, 5:37.73), Annie Curie (third in the 3,200, 12:31.1) and Allison Hammond (third in the pole vault, 9-6).

Others looking to contribute include juniors Jordon Robinson and Elizabeth England in sprints, seniors Jessica Hurley and Megan Sharrett in distance and senior Kendal Payne and sophomore Ada Burley in shot put and discus.

Abena Boamah-Acheampong, who is competing for the College of Wooster, was the biggest loss to graduation, as she tied for second at state in the high jump (5-8) and placed second in the league (5-2).

Also placing in the top three in the league were Jarrett in the 400 (second, 58.0) and 200 (second, 26.18) and Gagliardo in the pole vault (first, 11-0). The Tigers totaled 138 points to finish second behind eventual state champion Reynoldsburg (177).

Central was third (93) in district 1 as Boamah-Acheampong (fourth in 100 hurdles, 16.52; first in high jump, 5-4), Gagliardo (first in pole vault, 10-6), Greene (first in 300 hurdles, 46.4), Jarrett (first in 200, 25.3; first in 400, 57.27), the 1,600 relay (first, 3:58.5) and the 3,200 relay (fourth, 9:51.87) all advanced.

The girls were fourth (35) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (113), with Boamah-Acheampong winning the high jump (5-6), Gagliardo placing third in the pole vault (10-9), Greene placing fourth in the 300 hurdles (45.51), Jarrett placing third in the 400 (56.67) and the 1,600 relay placing second (3:57.51).

"It's going to be competitive again in the OCC with the defending state champions in it," coach Hammond said. "They've got some runners this year, and Gahanna is going to be strong. I think it's going to be a real competitive conference again."

At a glance

•Coaches: Boys -- Milton Folson, first season; Girls -- Robb Hammond, third season

•Next meet: Saturday at Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson

•Key athletes: Boys -- Jaysen Arzadon, Michael Gase, Grant Hammond, Tyler W. Hammond, Michael Jamar-Brown and Kristopher Strange; Girls -- Christina Gagliardo, Tionne Goodson, Jasmine Greene, Jalisa Jarrett, Kaitlyn Meyer and Kaitlin Peters

SCHEDULE

March 27 Hammond Relays

March 30 at New Albany

April 3 at Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson

April 6 at Lancaster

April 10 at Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North

April 13 vs. Pickerington North

April 17 at Dublin Coffman Invitational

April 20 at Gahanna

April 23 at Westerville South Relays

April 27 at Groveport

April 30 at Canal Winchester Relays

May 4 vs. Newark

May 8 at Jesse Owens Invitational at Ohio State

May 11, 13 at OCC-Ohio meet at Reynoldsburg