With 90 athletes out this spring, the Pickerington High School North boys track and field team isn't expecting to have trouble finding talent in every event.

With 90 athletes out this spring, the Pickerington High School North boys track and field team isn't expecting to have trouble finding talent in every event.

The Panthers' reputation as being one of the top programs in the area is another reason for optimism.

North, which won its second consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championship last season, opened by scoring 110 points to win the seven-team Hammond Relays on March 24 at Pickerington Central.

"We've got a nice mix of guys," fifth-year coach Dave Spring said. "Our junior class is very strong and we've got a group of seniors who have been running varsity for three years. We've also got some young guys who could make an impact early. It's a deep team, and our talent is spread out."

Senior Kyle Mushill is the top returnee after finishing 14th in the discus (135 feet, 4 inches) in the Division I state meet last season at Ohio State.

Junior Desmond Palmer is expected to compete in hurdles events as well as the 200 and 400 meters. Junior Kody Kasey also is running hurdles.

Senior Pat Elflein was seventh in the shot put (48-7 1/4) in the home regional and also should compete in the discus. Senior Geno Rollo is another competitor in shot put and discus.

Seniors Bryce Cordova, Derek Frebault, Stephon Goodwin and Alston Robertson, juniors Jamie Hence, Godwin Igwebuike and Roland Ladipo and freshmen Trey Bonner, Nick Gray and Jaye Williams are expected to compete in the sprint events. Robertson and Hence also will do the long jump.

Senior Demantis Okafor and sophomore John Harris are the top high-jumpers, and junior Kenan Roberts is the top pole-vaulter.

Seniors Spencer Bentley, Austin Kilgore and James Whitehead, junior Brent Pritchard and freshmen Ryan Kronk and Zach Zimmerman will run distance. Bentley was a regional qualifier in the 800 last season.

Juniors Marlon Pugh and Sean Saffle are competing in middle distance.

Last season, North scored 156 points to win the OCC-Ohio title ahead of Reynoldsburg (107), Gahanna (92), Lancaster (83), Pickerington Central (80), Newark (52), Groveport (50.5) and Grove City (27.5).

The Panthers then placed second (78.5) in the 16-team district 1 meet at Hilliard Bradley behind Thomas Worthington (87) and placed 13th (24 1/2) at regional behind co-champions Westerville North (37) and Thomas (37).

Also competing at state last year was 2011 graduate Michael Ballentine, who tied for eighth in the high jump (6-6).

At regional, the 400 relay of Ballentine, Cordova, Goodwin and Robertson was eighth (43.72 seconds) and the 1,600 relay of Finnegan, Palmer and 2011 graduates Bennett Blazo and Sam Maratta was fifth (3:24.17).

Distance corps should lead North girls team

The girls team has 70 athletes out, including one returning state qualifier in junior Kristen Eisenhauer, who placed 15th in the 1,600 (5:21.16) last season.

Distance should be a strength for the Panthers, with seniors Gabby Bobadilla, Meg Moledor and Alexa Strejeck and junior Fayth Greegor also back.

The Panthers opened March 24 by placing second (83) in the seven-team Hammond Relays behind host Central (84).

"We've got a lot of girls out, and I'm always impressed by their enthusiasm for girls track and field," ninth-year coach Jim Langenderfer said. "Our top goal is to win our conference meet, and our conference is loaded as it always is."

Senior Jasmine Simmons, who was ninth in the discus (104-8) at regional last year, is another key returnee. Also expected to compete in the shot put and discus are seniors Neah Gray and Carson Myers and sophomore Annette Echikunwoko.

Other seniors are Carlie Goodchild (pole vault) and Jenny Jue (high jump).

Expected to join Jue in the high jump are juniors Marie Hall, Rashelle Myers and Chelse Spinner and freshman Courtney Kemmerling. Juniors Abby Hart and Kendal Lane and sophomore Kelsey Waite are others in the pole vault, and juniors Omeliah Nembhard and Sarah Rini are expected to compete in the long jump.

Juniors Andrea Hazelwood, Alicia Meyer and Shurelle Stewart will compete in the hurdles events. Hazelwood was 11th in the 100 hurdles (16.55) at regional last year.

North has an inexperienced sprint corps after losing Zena Kolliesuah and Bria Booker to graduation. Juniors Kristian Carter and A'Lyah Martin, sophomores Kourtny Morgan and Cailey Wallace and freshman Aleks Jobanovski are the top sprinters.

Kolliesuah was a four-time state qualifier and is now competing for Cornell University. Last season, she was second in both the 200 (24.62) and 400 (54.77).

The 16 points Kolliesuah scored at state gave North a ninth-place state finish behind champion Reynoldsburg (47) as 70 teams scored.

Julianne Ballog, a 2011 graduate, was 15th in the pole vault (10-6) at state last year.

North was second (140.5) in the OCC-Ohio last year behind Central (159). Reynoldsburg (116), Gahanna (97.5), Lancaster (73), Groveport (31), Newark (23) and Grove City (15) followed.

The Panthers then placed second (108) in the 13-team district 4 meet at Hamilton Township behind Hilliard Davidson (110) and finished sixth (35) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (88).

Also competing at regional but not advancing to state were Booker in the long jump (16-6 1/2, eighth), the 400 relay (51.43, 13th), the 800 relay (1:47.47, 12th) and the 3,200 relay (9:49.94, eighth).

"I think our sprinters are going to get better as the season goes on," Langenderfer said. "There's definitely speed on this team, but it's just got to develop."