It hasn't been difficult for Whitehall-Yearling High School senior Ifa Abduljelil to find motivation entering the boys track and field season.
Abduljelil qualified for the Division II state meet last season in the 110-meter hurdles but was disqualified because of a false start -- a ruling he still questions.
Abduljelil, who also competes in the 300 hurdles along with sprints and relays, hopes to atone for that outcome at state this spring.
"I can't wait. I'm pretty excited," he said. "Last year was the greatest motivation you can have. I've gotten there, I've come really close. I could have won, but now my only goal is to win. I've made it there already and it's the only goal I have."
Abduljelil was joined at state last season by 2012 graduate Jontey Hammock, who finished 15th (2 minutes, 2.91 seconds) in the 800.
The Rams did not score at state. Dayton Dunbar won with 49 points as 81 teams scored.
Abduljelil, who battled a right hamstring injury during the second half of last season, said he is 100 percent.
"I know he wants to get back to the state meet in both hurdles events and he should be able to place in both of them," said coach Zach Wright, who is in his 28th season.
Whitehall opened March 30 by finishing second (66.67) in the seven-team Hornet Relays behind champion and host Licking Heights (67).
The Rams return other athletes with varsity experience, including seniors Marquis Barton (sprints), Samson Edessa (middle distance), Troy Gray (distance/shot put), Abiel Kiflu (middle distance/distance), Jaleel Morgan (sprints/relays) and Isaiah Turner (sprints/relays).
Also back are junior Chanse James-McDuffie (sprints) and sophomore Dassan Jefferson (hurdles).
Wright has added athletes from the wrestling team, which tied for 14th at state in Division II and won sectional and league titles, including seniors Alex Farrow (discus/shot put), Josh Delgadillo (sprints/hurdles) and Mohamed Toure (sprints). Farrow finished second at heavyweight in the state tournament.
Wright also expects freshman Brandon Copley (hurdles) to contribute.
"We have a lot of seniors out, but a lot of them have never run track before," Wright said. "It will be a learning experience for a lot of them, but a lot of them are football players and wrestlers, so they've been around sports."
Last season at regional, the Rams were 12th (20) behind champion Dunbar (98) as 47 teams scored.
In the 13-team district 2 meet, Whitehall was seventh (49) behind champion DeSales (110).
In the MSL-Ohio Division meet, the Rams finished seventh (41) behind Granville (164.5), Columbus Academy (149), Bexley (100.5), Licking Valley (81.5), Heath (66.5) and Lakewood (45) and ahead of Newark Catholic (10).
Ware expected to lead girls team
The girls team opened March 30 by finishing sixth (27) of seven squads in the Hornet Relays.
Senior Marissa Ware was the Rams' lone regional qualifier last season. She finished 12th in the 100 hurdles (17.82).
The Rams did not score at regional. Dayton Chaminade Julienne finished first (64) as 44 teams scored.
Also back are seniors Amari Price-Brown (sprints) and Tashara Smith (sprints) and juniors Sarah Euman (hurdles/middle distance), Ashley Hatfield (middle distance/distance) and Kayla Williams (sprints/hurdles/high jump).
Wright expects junior Tierra Copley (jumps/sprints/relays) and freshmen Ana Hammock (sprints/hurdles) and Alexis Kefauver (discus/shot put) to make an impact.
"The kids have been working hard," Wright said. "They're fun to work with."
In the district 2 meet last year, Whitehall was 11th (23) behind champion Columbus School for Girls (129).
In the MSL-Ohio meet, the Rams were fifth (48) behind Granville (193), Academy (127), Bexley (98.5) and Heath (95) and ahead of Licking Valley (40), Lakewood (32.5) and Newark Catholic (21).