While the Big Walnut High School girls track and field team is far from postseason form, 23rd-year coach Joe Evener believes his group already has produced a number of top finishes against strong competition.
The Golden Eagles opened March 28 by defeating Buckeye Valley 102-34 in a dual meet. They then finished fourth (71) of 14 teams in the Newark Invitational on April 1, behind Olentangy Orange (166), Thomas Worthington (104) and Westerville Central (83), before placing second (80) in a quad meet April 4, behind Central (131) and ahead of Columbus School for Girls (40) and Whitehall (4).
"This is a strong start to our season," said Evener, whose team played host to the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays on April 8. "We saw plenty of competition (in the Newark Invitational), and the young squad handled themselves very well."
Among the top athletes for Big Walnut are two returning Division I regional qualifiers in senior Anna Vrancken and sophomore Kaley Rammelsberg.
Last year at regional, Rammelsberg tied for fourth in the high jump (5 feet, 2 inches), but lost a jump-off with Athens' Alexis Zatta for the final state berth. Rammelsberg also finished ninth in the 100-meter hurdles (15.87 seconds), while Vrancken placed ninth in the discus (108-6) for the second year in a row.
Rammelsberg was the district 1 champion in the high jump last year.
In the Newark Invitational, Vrancken won the discus with a throw of 114-4 and placed third in the shot put (34-1/4), while Rammelsberg won the high jump (5-4) and finished fourth in the 100 hurdles (16.51).
The Golden Eagles scored in 14 of 17 events and had 16 placers at Newark. Other top finishers were the 3,200 relay of juniors Kaitlin Meade, Emma Padgett and Becca Bogantz and sophomore Adelee Gartner (second, 10:19.69) and freshman Colbi Borland in the 3,200 (second, 12:12.19) and 1,600 (third, 5:38.58).
"I always find the dynamic of a new season so much fun, and this year is no different," Evener said. "Who is going to step up? Who is going to surprise us? Who is going to be our scorers? It's our job to put the girls in the right events and best position to maximize their potential as soon as we can to be as competitive as we can."
Evener said his team's strengths lie in the distance and field events.
"The sprint team has been depleted by graduation over the past few years, but senior Bryn Rammelsberg is back and healthy (after missing most of last season because of an injury)," Evener said. "(Junior) Tori Buxton will take on a bigger role in the sprints after her performance at last year's conference meet."
Big Walnut lost 12 athletes from a year ago to graduation, including its lone state qualifier in Ellie Jindra, who won the regional championship in the high jump (school-record 5-4 1/4) and finished ninth (5-4) at state. Another graduate, Sami Rammelsberg, won the OCC-Capital Division title in the long jump 16-6 1/4) last year.
The Golden Eagles finished third (104) in the OCC-Capital meet last year behind Olentangy Orange (189) and Olentangy (109.5). Along with Big Walnut, the league consists of Canal Winchester, Franklin Heights, Groveport, New Albany and Newark this season.
"My No. 1 goal this year is to win the OCC," Evener said. "In order to do that, we need to be solid through all 17 events. Canal Winchester is our biggest challenge, and we match up pretty evenly with them on paper.
"Hopefully, by the end of the year, we can get people in the right events and (be) peaking at the right time to make this goal a reality."
Girls lacrosse team
growing in numbers
While the girls lacrosse team has struggled on the field throughout its existence, seventh-year coach Steve Palmer is winning the numbers game, which he hopes will equate to a winning culture in the future.
For the first time in its eight-year history, the program has junior varsity and middle school teams, as the roster has grown from 20 girls last season to 35 this spring.
"It's hard to say why, but I think the sport being sponsored by (the Ohio High School Athletic Association) this season has helped," said Palmer, whose team was 1-1 overall before playing Westerville North on April 6 in its OCC-Buckeye opener. "The first year or two, there were times we didn't even have a full squad."
Despite having a larger roster, Big Walnut remains young. The roster for the Golden Eagles, who finished 2-13 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Capital last season, includes a dozen freshmen.
Sophomores Cassidy Becker, Megan Helber and Meri Buckles and junior Izzy Rooney were leading the team's offensive attack through two games. Becker, who had a team-high 20 goals a year ago, scored five in a 13-6 loss to Dublin Scioto on March 17 in the season opener.
Big Walnut, which bounced back to beat Delaware 9-8 on April 3, expects to be led by its defense, which includes a four-year starter at goalkeeper in senior Emily Hall and three returning starters at defender in juniors Becca Fitch and Alex Williams and sophomore Gabriella Mellen.
"It's very nice to have Emily back," Palmer said. "She understands the game and really knows how to direct the players ahead of her."
The Golden Eagles had to replace eight 2016 graduates, including attacker M.J. Walzak, who was second on the team in goals a year ago with 14.
March 17 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
April 3 -- at Delaware
*April 6 -- vs. Westerville North
*April 10 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 12 -- vs. Centennial
*April 13 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 17 -- at Westerville South
April 22 -- TBA in Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington
*April 25 -- at Olentangy
*April 27 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*May 2 -- at New Albany
May 9 -- at Gahanna
May 11 -- vs. Delaware
TRACK & FIELD
March 28 -- vs. Buckeye Valley
April 1 -- Newark Invitational
April 4 -- at Westerville Central with Columbus School for Girls and Whitehall
April 7 -- at Buckeye Valley
April 8 -- Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at home
April 11 -- at Marion Harding
April 15 -- Hank Smith Invitational at Heath
April 18 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
April 19 -- Gahanna Relays
April 26 -- vs. Olentangy
April 29 -- Gary Smith Invitational at Thomas Worthington
May 2 -- vs. Franklin Heights
May 5 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at Olentangy Orange
May 10, 13 -- OCC-Capital meet at Dublin Coffman
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut baseball, boys lacrosse, softball and boys tennis teams:
*April 10 -- Home vs. Newark
April 11 -- Home vs. Caledonia River Valley
*April 12 -- At Newark
*April 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 13 -- At Westerville Central
*April 10 -- At Groveport
April 11 -- Home vs. DeSales
*April 12 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
*April 13 -- At New Albany
April 15 -- At Heath with Zanesville
April 10 -- At Granville
*April 11 -- At New Albany
*April 13 -- Home vs. Newark
April 15 -- Spartan Invitational at Marion Pleasant