The Westerville South High School boys and girls track and field teams are confident as the Wildcats return most of their athletes from last year, including both state qualifiers.

The Westerville South High School boys and girls track and field teams are confident as the Wildcats return most of their athletes from last year, including both state qualifiers.

Last season the boys team was 42nd at state, 11th at regional, second in the district meet and fourth (81 points) in the OCC-Cardinal Division behind Pickerington Central (133), Worthington Kilbourne (117) and Mount Vernon (87) and ahead of Olentangy (66) and Dublin Jerome (30). Jimmy Gaul, son of girls coach Jim Gaul, takes over for Jen Zaluski as the coach of the boys.

"One thing we've talked about a lot already is that there's a lot of championship banners in the gym but there's only one boys track in there," Jimmy Gaul said. "We're hosting the (OCC) meet this year and we're hoping to defend the home turf and win the league championship."

The boys team will be led by Jedidiah Adarquah (sprints/relays), Ryan Barber (sprints/relays), Tevin Favor (high jump), Jordan Hardgrow (sprints/relays), Ricky Harris (throws) and Chris Larson (distance).

Barber is a returning state qualifier in the 100 and 400 meters. He was fourth last year in the 400 and third in the event two years ago as a freshman. Barber set a personal record with a 47.68 in the state final of the 400 last year but said he plans on dropping that time this season.

"I know that I didn't end the season the way I wanted to last year," Barber said. "I'd really like to get into the mid-to-low 46s. I know I'm capable of doing that."

Led by Adarquah, Barber and Hardgrow the Wildcats expect to be strong in the sprint relays. Favor and Harris will be two of the main scorers in the field events.

The biggest weakness South has faced in recent years was the lack of a good distance program and that appears to have changed. Led by Larson, the distance crew expects to be able to hang with the rest of the teams in its league, which could provide the necessary points to help South score well in the OCC-Cardinal.

"I'd like to see the distance team step up more this year," Larson said. "We haven't really been strong the last few years but now we've really got a chance to support the team."

"I've been really impressed with the distance guys so far," Jimmy Gaul said. "I think this year for the first time in the last few years they'll be right up at the front of races trading punches so we're looking for points from the distance guys."

With the OCC realignment the Wildcats will compete in the OCC-Cardinal with Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Westerville Central and Westerville North.

ēThe girls team also has big expectations as it returns almost everybody from last year.

Last season the Wildcats did not score at state, were 21st at the regional, eighth in the district and fifth (41) in the OCC-Cardinal behind Pickerington Central (186), Mount Vernon (101), Olentangy (92) and Worthington Kilbourne (76) and ahead of Jerome (26).

"With the senior leadership we have I think we have real great potential," Jim Gaul said.

South will be led by Amie Bannister (sprints/relays), Leah Coleman (sprints/relays), Tess Hoogeveen (distance), Annaleise Kitzler (sprints/relays/long jump), Tiffany Ray (throws), Nikki Sullivan (distance) and Tori Sumner (hurdles/relays).

Coleman is a returning state qualifier in the 400 and Bannister, Kitzler and Sumner were all regional qualifiers.

"Hopefully we can get our (1,600 and 3,200 relays) to regional. Our 1,600 relay might make it to state," Bannister said. "We'd also like to win the Wildcat Invitational."

"Hopefully we'll do well in the league but it's supposed to be a hard league," Hoogeveen said.

With Bannister, Coleman and Kitzler, the Wildcats will be strong in the sprints and sprint relays. Hoogeveen and Sullivan will provide consistent scoring in the distance events.

South has better numbers this season and is using those numbers to fill out field events such as the long jump and high jump.

"We're going to have more a complete team this year than we have in the past," Jim Gaul said. "We're a little thin on the distance side but overall I'm excited about the team. We have some untested people but I think we'll be OK."

Jim Gaul said he expects better finishes in the two key regular-season meets in the Wildcat Invitational and the OCC-Cardinal Division meet.

"I would like to think that we'll be in the top three at the Wildcat," he said. "And now that there's eight teams in the league I don't see any reason why we can't be in the top half."

At a glance

ēCoach: Boys -- Jim Gaul, 23rd season; Girls -- Jimmy Gaul, first season

ēOpener: Tuesday at Dublin Scioto

ēKey athletes: Boys -- Jedidiah Adarquah, Ryan Barber, Tevin Favor, Jordan Hardgrow, Ricky Harris and Chris Larson; Girls -- Amie Bannister, Leah Coleman, Tess Hoogeveen, Annaleise Kitzler, Tiffany Ray, Nikki Sullivan and Tori Sumner