Second-year Upper Arlington High School girls track and field coach Latisha Wilder knows the low turnout for practice and workouts in the weight room at Marv Moorehead Stadium on the morning of April 3 weren't indicative of the size and commitment of her team.
Neither were the 52 points the Golden Bears scored in a season-opening tri-meet the night before at Marysville, when they finished behind the host Monarchs (77) and ahead of North Union (41), as much of the team was out of town for spring break.
As long as this postseason turns out better than last, Wilder will cope with a few bumps in the road. Last season marked the first time in 13 years that UA did not have any boys or girls qualify for the Division I state meet.
"What I've talked to the girls about is being consistent with their conditioning and being consistent in the weight room," Wilder said. "I've asked them to lift two or three times a week all year, and the girls who have done that definitely have shown improvement in strength and stamina."
The Bears return all of their qualifiers from the regional meet last year at Pickerington North. Back from the 3,200-meter relay that finished seventh (9 minutes, 37.45 seconds) are junior Betsy Trace and sophomores Megan Brewer, Hannah Peale and Erin Simko. Also at regional, Simko placed ninth in the 1,600 (5:32.37) and senior Natalie Bayer finished 14th in the pole vault (9 feet).
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to the state meet at Ohio State.
Wilder expects her throwers, led by junior D'Nae Reese and sophomore Alize Adams-Pugh, to be solid along with a distance group that includes juniors Sarah Heuerman and Dorrian Jaffe, sophomore Sarah Shroyer and freshman Ann Heuerman.
Last fall, Ann Heuerman led the girls cross country team in the state meet at National Trail Raceway, finishing 45th (18:59.05) as the Bears placed 13th (29) behind champion Mason (42).
Sprinters include senior Maren Levering and Leann Drake and juniors Halle Trabue and Becky Tang. Bayer, Tang and Trabue also are competing in the 100 and 300 hurdles, and Drake also is competing in the long jump.
"We have a whole bunch of girls coming back," said Adams-Pugh, who won the shot put (30-5 1/4) and discus (89-3/4) in the tri-meet at Marysville. "We have some strong throwers. I like how I started. I'm hoping to get to 40 feet (in the shot put) by district, and I think I can do it."
Last season, UA placed sixth (56) in the OCC-Central Division meet, behind Dublin Coffman (179.5), Hilliard Davidson (164), Worthington Kilbourne (82), Hilliard Darby (78.25) and Thomas Worthington (62.75) and ahead of Central Crossing (20.5) and Westland (15). The Bears did not win any events.
Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal as part of OCC realignment last summer and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty.
The Bears placed sixth (40) in the 16-team district 3 meet last year at Darby behind champion Reynoldsburg (116.5) and tied Marysville for 38th (2) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (77) as 43 teams scored.
Wilder already is emphasizing how difficult the regional stage is for central Ohio athletes.
"I don't know if people realize that for track, the times run at Pickerington North are basically state-meet times," Wilder said.
"We'll get to state and see runners coming out of other regionals with slower times than what we had."