Westerville Central High School girls track and field coach Ryan Borland is hoping to develop the Warhawks' young talent.
"It's a hardworking group so far," said Borland, who is in his fifth season. "We're going to be pretty young. We lost a lot from last year. We hope to have a solid season. I don't see us being a contender in our conference this year."
The Warhawks opened the season by losing to visiting Big Walnut 80-57 on April 2. But they finished first (114.5 points) in the Newark Invitational on April 6 ahead of runner-up Canal Winchester (99) as 14 teams scored.
Central returns two Division I regional qualifiers in juniors Jessie Swisher (hurdles/pole vault) and Ali Fehlhaber (400 meters).
At regional a year ago, Swisher was part of the fifth-place 400 relay (48.71 seconds) and joined Fehlhaber on the 11th-place 1,600 relay (4:02.81).
Other key returnees are seniors Lauren Barry (distance), Meagan Jahn (distance) and Natalie Pinney (distance), juniors Dana Roberts (distance) and Arie Williams (sprints) and sophomore Kenna Pollard (hurdles).
Freshman Morghan Hyatt (sprints) also is expected contribute.
At regional last season, Central tied Brookhaven, Pickerington Central and Marietta for 24th (8) behind champion Reynoldsburg (77) as 43 teams scored.
Central was sixth (46.5) in the 17-team district 2 meet behind champion Hilliard Davidson (101.5).
The Warhawks finished second (98) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet behind Dublin Scioto (142) and ahead of Olentangy Liberty (91.5), Westerville South (78.5), Dublin Jerome (72.5), Marysville (65), Westerville North (59) and Olentangy (54.5).
Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne have replaced Liberty, Marysville and Olentangy in the league.
"It's going to take us a little while to see where we can fill some gaps from last year with some of our new people," Borland said.
Sandvik among key athletes for Warriors
North coach Johnny Jackson believes he returns a solid nucleus led by sophomore distance runner Heather Sandvik.
The Warriors opened the season April 6 by finishing ninth (41) in the 21-team Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson behind champion Gahanna (125).
Last season, Sandvik accounted for all of the Warriors' points in the regional meet, placing fifth in the 1,600 (5:16.7) and sixth in the 3,200 (11:38.79) as North finished 28th (7).
Other returning regional qualifiers are senior Heidi Engelhardt and sophomores Jocelyn Sharpe and Haley Sandvik, who joined Heather Sandvik on the 10th-place 3,200 relay (9:52.86).
Heather and Haley Sandvik are twins.
Other key returnees are seniors Jasmine Johnson (sprints/long jump), Sali Kamare (throws), Sarah Koch (sprints) and Monica Petruzzi (sprints/middle distance), junior Amani Scott (sprints) and sophomore Devin Jackson (throws).
Coach Jackson also expects contributions from sophomore Symone Simmons (jumps) and freshman Aubrey Beck (sprints/jumps).
"The girls are really sticking out," he said. "They're looking pretty good. The girls are going to be a well-rounded team."
Last season, North finished seventh (42) in the 17-team district 1 meet behind champion Dublin Coffman (141).
"The goal for me is always to get them do the best they can and let the chips fall where they may," coach Jackson said.
Thompson expected to lead Wildcats
Junior sprinter Tara Thompson is the lone returning state qualifier for South.
Thompson ran on the 800 relay that finished 11th (1:44.67) at state a year ago. She was seventh in the 400 (58.86) at regional.
Also back is sophomore sprinter Paichence Carter, who was part of the 400 relay that finished sixth (48.99) at regional, where the Wildcats placed 17th (13).
South did not score at state. Reynoldsburg won its fourth consecutive state title with 56 points as 72 teams scored.
South finished ninth (36) in the district 1 meet.
Other key returnees are seniors Tiffany Pentello (throws), Keagan Richard (distance) and Olivia Watkins (hurdles), juniors Amaria Estes (hurdles), Caryn Snide (pole vault), Phoebe Nkansah-Wiafe (throws), Mariya Robinson (hurdles) and Madison Russell (high jump) and sophomores Lauren Frank (distance) and Ellen Turay (sprints).
Jimmy Gaul, who shares coaching duties with his father Jim, also expects freshmen Chasatea Brown (sprints/hurdles), Desiree Clark (distance), Mary Grace Sylvester (throws) and Ana Woodson (throws) to be key contributors.
The Wildcats opened the season by finishing fifth (49) in the seven-team Hammond Relays on March 30 behind champion and host Pickerington Central (102).
In a tri-meet April 2, South finished first (70) ahead of Olentangy (55) and host Thomas Worthington (47).
South was sixth (48) in the Wildcat Premier.
"We lost a lot in terms of scoring from last year's girls team," Jimmy Gaul said. "We lost our four senior sprinters (Nikia Buckingham, Alex Hall, Leija Harris and Abbey McDonald) that accomplished a lot here during their careers. We spent the winter and early this season looking to see how we're going to make up that scoring. Who's going to step up?
"We saw some very promising things with some of our freshmen at the Hammond Relays. We know for sure we have some proven commodities."