It remains to be seen whether the Upper Arlington High School boys track and field team will improve on its fifth-place finish in the OCC-Central Division from a year ago and have any Division I regional and state qualifiers.
Dale Hartney, who is in his 23rd season as coach and has announced that he will retire at season's end, expects his team to be strong in the distance events, but senior Stu Silver remains sidelined with a nagging shin splint injury originally sustained last fall during cross country season.
Seniors Jake Fowler and Nathan Perry are expected to pace the distance unit, which also includes junior Hunter Bloecher, sophomore Nar Wang and freshmen Nicholas Gill and Ian Hamilton.
"It'll be interesting to see (how Gill and Hamilton fare this season)," Hartney said. "They both were in our top seven (during cross country season). Ian was top two or three or top one sometimes."
UA opened April 2 with a tri-meet against host Marysville and North Union. Senior Ben Kompa won the discus (140 feet, 1/2 inch) and junior Alex Hutchins finished first in the 400 meters (58.85 seconds).
Others expected to be key contributors include seniors Alex Husted (sprints) and Greg Hickey (hurdles), junior Nick Blazek (sprints) and sophomore Gabe Akins (sprints).
"(The coaches and athletes for the boys and girls teams have) been talking a lot about goals and setting ourselves up to be in a position to reach those goals come late May," said girls coach Latisha Wilder, who also coaches some members of the boys team, including the sprinters. "We want to get to the regionals and then the finals. Last year, we didn't do so well. We definitely want to re-establish ourselves in the postseason."
Kompa is the only returnee for the boys team who qualified for regional last year. He placed fourth in the discus (147-8) in the district 3 meet at Hilliard Darby but fouled on each of his three attempts at regional at Pickerington North.
Last season, UA finished seventh (43) in the 16-team district 3 meet behind champion Pickerington North (127.5) and did not score at regional. North won the regional title with 60 points as 38 teams scored.
The Bears placed fifth (52) in the OCC-Central meet last year, behind Hilliard Davidson (170.5), Dublin Coffman (146), Thomas Worthington (115.5) and Darby (80) and ahead of Central Crossing (35), Worthington Kilbourne (35) and Westland (25).
Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal as part of OCC realignment last summer and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty.
Volleyball team hopes to thrive on turnout
Fourth-year boys volleyball coach Matt Wion is dealing with a few unknowns this season, and he couldn't be more excited.
His program has 30 players, enough for a varsity and two junior varsity teams, the latter of which is unprecedented at UA, and every varsity player has at least one year of experience.
"That's a big help right there," said Wion, whose team finished 7-15 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio last season. "Everybody knows serve receive. Everybody knows defense. It makes a world of difference."
Paul Linville (right-side hitter/outside hitter), who was named honorable mention all-league last year, leads a senior class that also includes Derrick Galantowicz (setter), J.B. Gauch (middle hitter), Josh Jackson (middle hitter), Matt Warner (defensive specialist/right-side hitter) and Max Zambito (outside hitter).
Also on the team are juniors Nate Jones (middle hitter), Carson Showe (outside hitter) and Eddie Simpson (defensive specialist) and sophomores Joe Bevan (middle hitter/right-side hitter) and Garrett Jones (defensive specialist).
UA finished fifth in the OCC-Ohio a year ago, behind Darby (10-0), Davidson (8-2), Kilbourne (5-5) and Thomas (4-6) and ahead of Coffman (1-9). Kilbourne has moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Hilliard Bradley.
Seeded 11th in the 15-team Division I East Region tournament last year, the Bears lost to third-seeded Davidson 25-19, 20-25, 26-24, 25-18 in the first round.
UA opened April 9 with an OCC-Ohio match against Coffman and plays host to Thomas in a league match Thursday, April 11.
"We'll have three or four matches every single week until the first week of May," Wion said.
"We'll have a lot of action. We're thrilled. We can't get to wait started. It's been so long since tryouts that we're just ready and anxious for games to start."