With more than 80 athletes in the program, 12th-year Westland High School track and field coach Tim Eckard is excited about the season.
"I like our depth this year," said Eckard, who is in his 12th season. "We have a good balance of each grade level. We have about 75 percent of our team who is returning to run for us. I expect this group to take the other new 25 percent under their wings and teach them what it means to be a Cougar track athlete."
The boys team, which defeated Madison Christian 102-24 in its opener April 2 and competed in the Newark Invitational on April 6, ended last season in the Division I, district 2 meet at Hilliard Darby.
The top four finishers in each event at district advanced to the regional at Pickerington North and the highest finish for Westland was sixth. Finishing two spots shy of moving on to regional were 2012 graduate DeShone Davis in the long jump (20 feet, 5 1/4 inches), the 400 relay of junior Giann Martinez, Davis and 2012 graduates Chris Butcher and Braylon Williams (44.45 seconds) and the 800 relay of Butcher, Davis, Williams and 2012 graduate Ryan Martin (1:32.74).
In addition to Martinez, expected to be key contributors this spring are seniors Logan Barnhart (throws), Cody Guitner (hurdles), Jose M. Rodriguez (hurdles) and Dayon Walton (discus/hurdles), juniors Kris Davies (sprints), Kurt Guffey (distance), Steven Lewis (throws), Erick Martinez (sprints), Devon Middlebrooks (sprints) and Connor Scott (sprints), sophomores Tommy Fajardo (distance) and Seth Farmer (distance) and freshman Isaiah Henn (jumps/sprints).
Erick Martinez and Giann Martinez are not related.
Farmer is a transfer from Piketon, where he was part of the 3,200 relay that placed 15th (8:28.15) in the Division II state meet last season.
"We have some talent on the boys team," Eckard said. "We have some wheels this year."
Last season, Westland finished 11th (13) in the 16-team district 2 meet behind champion New Albany (100.5) and placed eighth (25) in the OCC-Central Division meet behind Hilliard Davidson (170.5), Dublin Coffman (146), Thomas Worthington (115.5), Darby (80), Upper Arlington (52), Worthington Kilbourne (35) and Central Crossing (35).
As part of OCC realignment, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marys-ville and Olentangy Liberty.
Expected to be key contributors for the girls team are seniors Melina Gaines (jumps/discus), Sydney Lutz (discus) and Odunayo Shobo (sprints), juniors Sasha Bouaroy (sprints/hurdles) and Haylee Brown (distance), sophomores Heidi Paxson (distance) and Shelby Walls (hurdles) and freshmen Elizabeth Finley (distance), Johnay Florence (sprints) and Destinee Long (sprints). Walls is a transfer from London.
Westland, which beat Madison Christian 89-34 on April 2, did not have any regional qualifiers last season and failed to score in the 17-team district 1 meet as Coffman (141) won.
The Cougars finished eighth (15) in the OCC-Central meet last year, behind Coffman (179.5), Davidson (164), Kilbourne (82), Darby (78.25), Thomas (62.75), UA (56) and Central Crossing (20.5).
Boys tennis team low on experience
The boys tennis team returns only two players with varsity experience in seniors Terrell Dixon (first singles) and Michael Carrico (second singles).
Sophomore Grant Bare is playing third singles, sophomore Jonathan Marshall and freshman Roman Novikov are playing first doubles and sophomores Bryan Moreno and Zach Prak are at second doubles.
"This is a very young team this year," 43rd-year coach Dan Witteman said. "There's a lot of new guys and they don't have a lot of experience and we haven't been outside very much."
Westland opened April 2 with a 5-0 loss to Whetstone and lost 4-1 to Columbus Academy on April 3. Against Academy, Bare won 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Last season, Westland finished 8-11 overall and placed seventh in the OCC-Central. The Cougars went 1-6 in OCC matches and finished with nine points, finishing behind UA (77, 7-0), Coffman (54, 6-1), Davidson (44, 5-2), Kilbourne (34, 4-3), Thomas (27, 3-4) and Darby (20, 2-5) and ahead of Central Crossing (4, 0-7).
The Cougars did not have any Division I district qualifiers.
Baseball team off to slow start
The baseball team was 0-5 overall entering contests against Shekinah Christian and Fisher Catholic on April 6.
Westland begins OCC-Central play Monday, April 8, at home against Marysville.
The Cougars were swept by London in a doubleheader March 30, losing 4-1 and 13-3 in five innings. They then lost to Franklin Heights 7-3 on April 1, Westerville South 15-0 in five innings April 2 and Westerville Central 6-3 on April 3.