The Thomas Worthington High School girls track and field team has a familiar first-year coach in Andy Cox.
After 16 seasons coaching the boys team, Cox took over the girls program after two-year coach Evie Scholl resigned to spend more time with her family.
The move is similar to the one he made in cross country in 2006, taking over the girls program after nine seasons with the boys.
"I'm trying to get to know the girls and trying to figure out what they can do," Cox said. "I told them that this is all new and they might be asked to do some events that they have never done before, but the whole team has been positive."
The Cardinals did not have a state qualifier last season, but they return two Division I regional qualifiers from a year ago in juniors Ashley Forte and Allison Huedepohl. Forte was sixth in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 19.95 seconds) and joined Huedepohl and 2012 graduates Kendall Kwiatkowski and Emily Nordquist on the sixth-place 3,200 relay (9:30.65) and 10th-place 1,600 relay (4:02.17).
The other top returnees are seniors Cheyenne Buckingham (distance) and Alexa Friedlander (distance) and juniors Chandler Adamaitis (hurdles, jumps) and Cassandra Laios (throws).
"Cassandra has really helped us in shot put and discus by working with some of the freshmen and sophomores," Cox said. "I think we'll be OK in distance. Cheyenne went out for cross country for the first time and I really think that helped her base in the 800."
Also expected to contribute are juniors Alex Brown (sprints), Claire Cellar (sprints, high jump) and Shay Davis (sprints).
The Cardinals opened April 2 by finishing third (47) in a tri-meet behind Westerville South (70) and host Olentangy (55).
"We have better numbers, somewhere around 84 girls after just more than 40 last year," Cox said. "I made it a goal to recruit the hallways to try to get the girls out to try something new. I think we might be able to find some diamonds in the rough and help with our depth."
At regional last year, the Cardinals tied Marion-Franklin and Teays Valley for 30th (6) behind champion Reynoldsburg (77) as 43 teams scored.
In the 17-team district 2 meet, Thomas was ninth (27) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (101.5).
Thomas finished fifth (62.75) in the OCC-Central Division meet behind Dublin Coffman (179.5), Davidson (164), Worthington Kilbourne (82) and Hilliard Darby (78.25) and ahead of Upper Arlington (56), Central Crossing (20.5) and Westland (15).
Marysville and Olentangy Liberty have replaced Darby and Kilbourne in the league.
Boys team to feature youth movement
The boys team will have a youthful look under first-year coach Dominick Mazza, who was an assistant last season when the Cardinals finished fourth (34) in the Division I state meet behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (48) as 70 teams scored.
The only state competitor back is Jalen Wells. The junior placed seventh in the 300 hurdles (39.08) and was a member of the first-place 1,600 relay (3:15.41) with 2012 graduates Armand Austin, Nana Kyeremeh and Andrew Maetzold.
"You can't really replace the kind of senior class we had last year," Mazza said. "We have a really strong junior class and we want to develop those guys."
Junior Michael Wood is a returning regional qualifier after tying for 10th in the high jump (6 feet). At regional, Thomas finished fourth (41) behind champion Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored.
Also returning from last season are senior Tyrin Franklin (hurdles) and sophomore Jay Kirwan (sprints, jumps).
"We don't have a lot of big-meet experience," Mazza said. "We want to get them acclimated to those situations."
In their April 2 opener, the Cardinals finished second (54.5) behind Westerville South (80.5) and ahead of host Olentangy (36).
Others expected to contribute are seniors Alex Carter (distance), Alex Chih (distance), Michael Edgecomb (pole vault) and Alex Randolph (throws), juniors Malyk Burks (sprints, long jump), Ben Fenker (sprints, pole vault) and Kenny Freeman (pole vault), sophomore Jonathan Kissel (distance) and freshman Zach Emptage (distance).
In the 16-team district 3 meet last year, the Cardinals finished second (87) behind Pickerington North (127.5).
In the OCC-Central meet, Thomas was third (115.5) behind Davidson (170.5) and Coffman (146) and ahead of Darby (80), UA (52), Kilbourne (35), Central Crossing (35) and Westland (25).
"We expect to be good and we expect to get to regional and want to get state experience," Mazza said. "We want them to get that experience so they can make it to the podium as seniors."