Despite having its overall numbers drop by 50 percent from the previous year, the Reynoldsburg High School girls track and field team managed to win a second consecutive Division I state championship last season.

Despite having its overall numbers drop by 50 percent from the previous year, the Reynoldsburg High School girls track and field team managed to win a second consecutive Division I state championship last season.

The question that likely will be on the minds of opponents over the coming months is whether the Raiders will have enough depth to make it three in a row.

According to Destinee Gause, the answer is a resounding "yes."

"We have all of the same girls back from last year except for Alicia Rodgers," Gause said. "I think we're going to be better than last year."

The talented junior sprinter is one of the biggest reasons why.

At the state meet a year ago, Gause won her second consecutive title in the 200 meters (24.07 seconds) and also ran on the 400 relay (47.24) and 1,600 relay (3:48.87), both of which won championships.

The Raiders, whose 56 points at state last year were 26 fewer than their record-setting performance in 2009, have several other key components back as well.

Senior Donyelle Brown was fourth at state in the shot put (41 feet, 11 1/2 inches) and should be more of a contributor in the discus as well, according to coach Denny Hammond. Brown signed with Ohio University earlier this month.

The other returning senior is Kacia Grant, who ran on both state-winning relays and on the state runner-up 800 relay (1:40.4).

Junior Faith Washington is back after finishing fourth in the 100 hurdles (14.7) and second in the 300 hurdles (43.28) at state as well as running on the 800 relay.

Diamond Gause - Destinee's sister - and Yamonie Jenkins give the Raiders a pair of strong returning sophomores. Both ran on the 400 and 800 relays. Diamond Gause competed on the 1,600 relay as well.

Rodgers was the biggest loss to graduation after finishing 10th at state in the discus (120-10) and also competing throughout most of the season in the high jump, shot put and on relays.

"Last year Yamonie Jenkins was hurt about the whole season," said Hammond, who enters his 13th season coaching the girls team and 17th heading the boys program. "To have her for the whole year is going to help a lot. With as many girls as we have out this year, we won't have to run them all as much as we did last year. My thing is that with Destinee and Faith being juniors, there's usually a big difference in sophomores and juniors."

Lending depth to the sprint corps should be freshman Cherese Nimmons (200, 400) and junior Gelisa Pickens (sprints, hurdles, long jump). Senior Michelle Snyder, junior Kenzie Purtell and sophomore Kirsten Boone will compete in distance races.

Last season, the Raiders finished second (135) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet behind Gahanna (171) and ahead of Pickerington Central (127.5), Pickerington North (85), Lancaster (59.5), Groveport (37), Newark (25) and Grove City (18). They then won the district 2 meet (115) and placed first (95) at regional.

At district, Washington (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Destinee Gause (100, 200), Rodgers (discus), Brown (shot put) and the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays all were first. Brown (shot put), Destinee Gause (100, 200), Rodgers (discus), Washington (300 hurdles) and the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays were regional champions.

"We've got a lot of new girls out that are younger," Hammond said. "Some kids are good practicers and some are good racers, so we'll see how things go the next couple of weeks."

•The boys team again should be led by its distance corps, although it did lose a key member of that group during the offseason.

Junior Khalid Omar, who finished seventh at the state cross country meet last fall, transferred to Licking Heights last November.

Senior Hiruy Abraha, junior Tsehaye Hiluf and sophomore Dominik Seitzer all are back after being key members of the cross country team that finished ninth at state.

Senior Brandon Garza and junior LaVonne Gauthney will compete in the shot put and discus. Seniors Christian Ellis, Stanley Peterson and Talion Grace, juniors Johnny Pace, Tabeal Radney and Mike Saine, and sophomore Mykel Bennett should comprise the sprint corps.

The Raiders lost 11 athletes to graduation, including distance runner Lamar Booker and sprinters Muhammad Mbai, Devon McKoy and Kevin Zabala. Booker is competing for Tiffin and McKoy is playing football for Bowling Green.

Davion Bowers, who was fifth in the discus (140-10) and third in the shot put (46-0) at district and 11th in the shot put (45-5 1/2) at the regional last season, transferred to Pickerington Central for his junior year.

The Raiders finished fourth (70.5) in the OCC-Ohio meet behind North (171), Lancaster (148) and Gahanna (147) and ahead of Central (38), Groveport (31.5), Newark (30) and Grove City (25).

Reynoldsburg then finished fifth (59) of 16 teams that scored in the district 3 meet behind champion Brookhaven (89) and tied for 21st (9) behind champion Gahanna (63) at regional.

"We've got a better corps of sprinters to choose from," Hammond said. "We still need some hurdlers and jumpers, but I think our guys can score in any meets we go to. We have the makings of a pretty good team. I think we can surprise some people."