Upper Arlington High School girls track and coach field Latisha Wilder probably can't be blamed for thinking the performance of her distance runners will be key to the Golden Bears' success this season.
Not only does Wilder concentrate on coaching distance runners for the boys and girls teams, but she also guided UA's girls cross country team to the Division I state meet last fall in her first season.
In addition, senior Dorrian Jaffe was the Bears' lone state representative at the state track and field meet last year, finishing 16th in the 3,200 meters (11 minutes, 59.97 seconds).
Jaffe is one of a deep group of boys and girls runners for UA, which began its season April 8 at Thomas Worthington. Other top distance runners for the girls team include senior Sarah Heuerman, juniors Megan Brewer and Erin Simko and sophomore Ann Heuerman. Leading the boys are sophomores Nick Gill and Ian Hamilton.
"I am excited to see where they'll end up this season. Those girls are all very strong," Wilder said. "As far as boys, primarily it's freshmen and sophomores for distance runners. Jack Taylor and Drew Harper are freshmen, and they should figure in. They're young, and they're going to develop. Guys typically peak their junior and senior years."
Wilder is entering her third season as girls coach. Longtime assistant coach Tim Jewett was named the boys coach, replacing Dale Hartney, who retired last year after 23 seasons as boys coach and 28 years as cross country coach.
Jewett was an assistant for the past 11 seasons. A graduate of Solon in suburban Cleveland, Jewett played football and competed in track at John Carroll.
While Wilder officially is the girls coach and Jewett is the boys coach, the two will continue a longtime tradition at UA of working with athletes in specific events regardless of gender. Wilder's concentration is distance, and Jewett's is throwing events and sprints.
UA returns three individual regional qualifiers and most members of two qualifying relays from last year. Ann Heuerman was sixth in the 3,200, junior Hannah Peale was eighth in the 800 and senior D'Nae Reese was 12th in the discus. The girls 3,200 relay finished fifth and consisted of Jaffe, Peale, junior Sarah Shroyer and senior Betsy Trace; and the sixth-place 1,600 relay consisted of Peale, Hallie Trabue, Trace and sophomore Anna Collette Young.
Trabue did not return for her senior season.
According to Jewett, other throwers include seniors Nick Dolan and Jake Muratore and juniors Coleson Carmell and Caleb Wilt for the boys team, and seniors Alize Adams-Pugh and Ellen Schooley for the girls.
Jewett said top sprinters for the boys include seniors Nick Blazek and Sam Wheeler, junior Gabe Akins and sophomore Christian Matthews. Matthews also will compete in the high jump and long jump.
UA will compete in relay meets early in the season, beginning with the Elk Relays on Friday, April 11, at Centerville. The Bears also will travel to Chieftain Relays on April 17 at Bellefontaine and the Fulton Relays at Lancaster on April 25.
"A lot of the goals we've discussed (at this point) are individual," Jewett said. "We want to see better results in regional competition heading into state. We want to see them do well beyond the conference level. But ... so much of high school track is relying on those around you. All of our relay competitions require the kids to work together to accomplish a greater goal. We're doing more this year to reinforce that interdependence."