Track program begins anew
Although there still are a few veterans remaining, the Reynoldsburg High School track and field program hardly resembles the boys and girls teams from the last few seasons.
According to new coach Richard Ladowitz, about three-quarters of the athletes are freshmen and sophomores.
There are three returnees who helped the girls team capture a fourth consecutive Division I state championship and one boy with state-meet experience, but much of the leadership -- and depth -- from those teams has moved on.
"We're coming from a team the past couple years that had a lot of seasoned veterans," said Ladowitz, who had been an assistant since 2005. "At practice we're dealing with freshmen who have no idea how things work or what paperwork to hand in. The best part of being a freshman is that they become sophomores, but it's definitely been enjoyable. And the seniors we have, anyone would want to have on their team."
Two of those seniors are Diamond Gause of the girls team and Dominik Seitzer for the boys.
Gause ran on the 400-meter relay that won the state championship a year ago in a meet-record 45.99 seconds and also was on the first-place 1,600 relay (3:50.33).
On March 16 in the indoor state meet in Akron, Gause won the 60 (7.67) and was sixth in the 200 (25.21).
Sophomore Leah Wallace returns after placing 15th at state in the 3,200 (11:32.83). Wallace, who is a two-time state cross country qualifier, placed eighth in the 1,600 (5:14.52) in the indoor state meet.
The other key returning girl is junior Cherese Nimmons, who ran on the 1,600 relay at state.
Also looking to contribute in sprinting events are senior Kiara Chatman, who is a move-in from Groveport, and juniors Ramiah Thornhill and Imani Evans. Sophomore Courtney Purtell was injured playing basketball during the winter but is expected to compete in the high jump when healthy.
The girls team won the OCC-Ohio Division meet last season, scoring 154 points to finish ahead of Pickerington North (143.5), Gahanna (121), Pickerington Central (120), Grove City (42.5), Groveport (38), Lancaster (32) and Newark (11).
The Raiders then scored 116.5 points to edge Dublin Scioto (112) and win the 16-team district 3 meet, marking their sixth district title in seven seasons.
At regional, Reynoldsburg scored 77 points to place ahead of runner-up Dublin Coffman (73) as 43 teams scored.
The Raiders scored 56 points at state as 72 teams scored.
Destinee Gause, who is Diamond's sister and now competes for the University of Florida, stood atop the awards podium a record 12 times during her prep career. Last season, she won her second consecutive title in the 100 (11.95), was first in the 200 (23.91) for the fourth year in a row and also ran on the 400 and 1,600 relays.
Faith Washington, who now competes for Vanderbilt and was part of six state championship relays, ran on both the 400 and 1,600 relays, won the 300 hurdles (stadium-record 41.33) and was third in the 100 hurdles (14.29) last season.
Denny Hammond retired after coaching the girls team for 14 seasons and the boys for 18.
Seitzer is the top returnee for the boys, who scored 16 points at state to finish 12th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (48) as 70 teams scored.
Seitzer ran on the 3,200 relay, which was sixth (7:53.27) at state and included 2012 graduates Trey Hamilton, Tsehaye Hiluf and Khalid Omar. Seitzer also was runner-up in the 800 (1:54.32) in the indoor state meet.
Also looking to contribute are senior Devon Bollinger (shot put, discus), sophomore El Hadj Kamara (sprints) and freshman Mark Gooden (sprints, shot put, discus).
Last season, the Raiders were fifth (84.25) in the league meet behind Pickerington North (174), Gahanna (121.25), Lancaster (108) and Pickerington Central (87.5) and ahead of Groveport (46), Newark (23.75) and Grove City (14.25).
In the 16-team district 3 meet, Reynoldsburg scored 78 points to tie Granville for third behind Pickerington North (127.5) and Thomas Worthington (87).
The Raiders were ninth (29) at regional behind champion Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored.
Hiluf ran a state-record 8:55.04 to win his second consecutive state title in the 3,200.
The Raiders' other state qualifier last season was LaVonne Gauthney, who was sixth in the shot put (57 feet, 11 1/2 inches).
Gauthney, who will play football for the University of Akron in the fall, is serving as a volunteer assistant this spring.
"We have some high-end athletes and we're trying to build a team," said Ladowitz, a Walnut Ridge graduate who previously coached football for the Raiders.
"It's going to take a while for these kids to develop."
The boys team opened by finishing seventh (21) in the Hammond Relays on March 30 at Pickerington Central behind champion Pickerington North (119).
The girls were sixth (33) of seven teams in the Hammond Relays behind champion Pickerington Central (102).
On April 6, the boys were 18th (11) in the 21-team Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson behind champion Pickerington North (130). The girls were 19th (8) in the Wildcat Premier behind champion Gahanna (125).
Softball team seeking wins
The softball team had lost 49 consecutive OCC-Ohio games before playing Pickerington Central on April 10, but that's a streak second-year coach Rich Hogle knows won't continue forever.
"I don't think we've won a league game in about four years, but I think we're going to be able to break that streak," said Hogle, whose team's last league win before April 8 came April 29, 2009, when it beat Lancaster 2-0. "We plan on snapping it. Our kids have really worked hard. They've worked hard in the weight room and I'm very proud of how they've bought in the last couple years."
The Raiders went 1-20 a year ago, losing to 10th-seeded Olentangy Liberty 14-4 in five innings in the first round of the Division I district tournament. Their only win came over Ready, 5-3.
Back to lead the Raiders are seniors Jessie Alianiello (P), Trenice Davidson (2B/3B) and Danni Woolever (C/OF). Alianiello is in her fourth season on varsity and Davidson is in her third.
The team also includes juniors Kelley Alianiello (OF), Savannah Hinkle (INF/OF), Marissa Andrews (1B/C) and Kaitlyn Cress (CF/1B), sophomores Sydney Brown (P/IF/OF), Michel O'Brien (OF) and Bailey Long (INF/OF) and freshman Kieri Johnson (SS/P).
The Raiders opened with losses to Whitehall (9-0 on March 30), Dublin Jerome (12-0 on April 3), Zanesville (10-0 on April 4), Centerburg (15-4 and 20-2 on April 6) and Grove City (22-0 on April 8).
The Raiders were outscored 277-43 and shut out six times last season. They went 0-14 in the league to finish behind Grove City (13-1), Pickerington Central (12-2), Gahanna (9-5), Lancaster (7-7), Groveport (6-8), Pickerington North (6-8) and Newark (3-11).