In his 16th season as Westland High School track and field coach, Tim Eckard is impressed with the family atmosphere his athletes have created in the program.

Eckard said there is a blend of veterans and younger competitors, which has resulted in an enjoyable start to the season.

Video •Westland senior Curtiss Shore competes in the discus in a home meet April 4.

"I love this team as far as working hard," he said. "They're really starting to grow as a family. They're good to coach, fun to coach, one of the best teams I've had in a long time. It's fun every day to come (to work) with these kids."

The Cougars opened April 1 by competing in the Newark Invitational. The boys finished 14th (14 points) of 15 teams behind champion Olentangy Orange (123) and the girls were 12th (1) of 13 teams behind champion Orange (166).

For the boys, senior Trent Bott was sixth in the shot put (40 feet, 5 1/2 inches) and eighth in the discus (125-1), and senior Mohamed Farah was sixth in the 3,200 meters (10 minutes, 14.48 seconds) and 10th in the 1,600 (4:43.4).

For the girls, sophomore Payton Compton was eighth in the 800 (2:37.84).

Westland played host to a quad meet April 4, and the boys finished second (96) behind Dublin Jerome (106) and ahead of Ready (29) and Briggs (6).

Farah, who is a transfer from Franklin Heights, teamed with junior E.J. Rondez, sophomore Kevin Reyes and freshman Manny Rojas to win the 3,200 relay (9:25). Rondez is a transfer from Galion.

Sophomores Abdi Aden, Mamadu Nabe and Arty Washington and freshman Moussa Diallo won the 800 relay (1:38.92). Rondez won the 800 (2:10.73) and 1,600 (5:10.72), Nabe won the 200 (24.48) and long jump (19-2) and Bott won the shot put (44-3).

The girls finished third (30) behind Jerome (146) and Ready (47) and ahead of Briggs (13).

Compton won the 800 (2:35.47) and sophomore Aja Nathans finished first in the 3,200 (14:01).

Compton said she's looking forward to becoming one of the team's leaders, although Eckard noted she's already becoming one of the top contributors.

"We're one big family," Compton said. "That's how we keep together, how we get better, how we grow as a team. We all help each other out and our coaches and captains really push us to get better and keep us going as a team."

Other key athletes for the boys should be senior Curtiss Shore (throws) and sophomores Isaiah Dukes (sprints) and Timmy Wotring (hurdles, distance).

"It's nice to be out here with a bunch of teammates I love and do the stuff that I love," Shore said. "It's a great way to end the year. ... I'm going to miss this team. It's been like a home for me the past four years."

Other key contributors for the girls should be senior Brooke Reid (sprints), juniors Katelyn France (throws), Gabby Helser (sprints) and Kaela Ponce (distance), sophomores Taylor Dilley (shot put) and Vanessa Evans (jumps) and freshmen Olivia Schumacher (throws) and Nichole Tedder (jumps).

"We have enough talent on this team that we could get kids to regional," Eckard said. "Getting kids to regional would be a good step for a young team. I don't know right now if we have any state qualifiers, but if a kid gets hot come May maybe some things will happen."

The Cougars lost several key athletes to graduation, including Ivan Suazo, who was the program's lone Division I state qualifier last season. He finished fifth in the 110 hurdles in a program-record 14.44.

Eckard hopes a leader emerges to replace Suazo's contributions on and off the track.

"You have to find your strength of every team, try to work them hard and see who emerges as a new leader," Eckard said. "Ivan was a great leader, but we can't look back. As a coach, we're always looking forward and seeing who's going to be our next leader. We have some kids who are stepping into that role nicely."

Suazo is a freshman on the track team at Eastern Michigan.

Last season, the boys team finished sixth (36) in the OCC-Central Division meet behind champion Marysville (161) and the girls were eighth (7) behind champion Olentangy Liberty (147).

Liberty is now competing in the OCC-Buckeye and Thomas Worthington is in the OCC-Cardinal.

"The OCC from top to bottom is one of the toughest leagues in the state, maybe barring northeast Ohio, but we're always in a tough league," Eckard said. "We're always going to be pushed. Hopefully to finish in the middle of the pack would be a good goal for us right now."

Baseball coach likes
team's 'work ethic'

Baseball coach Neil Bittel remains impressed with his team's dedication.

The Cougars were 2-3 overall before playing Madison Plains on April 6 and 0-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on April 7.

Westland lost to visiting Coffman 7-0 on April 5, but Bittel said freshman Kyle Bowles pitched well.

The Cougars trailed 1-0 in the fifth inning, when Coffman scored three runs. The Shamrocks added a run in the sixth and two in the seventh.

"We were able to hang with Dublin Coffman with Kyle Bowles on the mound," Bittel said. "I was very impressed with our team's work ethic throughout the game. We made various mental errors throughout. I challenged our players to play one out at a time and we showed we can hang with a good team if we make the fundamental plays and don't make dumb mistakes on the base paths."

Bittel is a 2008 graduate of Coffman.

Westland opened league play with an 11-0 loss in five innings to visiting Marysville on April 3.

The Cougars lost to visiting West Jefferson 13-2 in five innings April 4.

Softball team to
open league play

The softball team was 1-2 before playing Liberty on April 7.

The Cougars open OCC-Central play Wednesday, April 12, at Marysville.

Westland lost at West Jefferson 21-2 in five innings April 5.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

TRACK & FIELD

April 1 -- Newark Invitational

April 4 -- vs. Briggs, Dublin Jerome and Ready

April 8 -- Fairfield Union Invitational

April 13 -- Best of the South-West at Franklin Heights

April 18 -- vs. Central Crossing, Franklin Heights and Grove City Christian

April 25 -- at Central Crossing with Grove City, Grove City Christian, Newark and Ready

April 29 -- Anthony Wilson Invitational at Franklin Heights

May 2 -- vs. Columbus West and Grove City

May 5 -- at Columbus East

May 11, 13 -- OCC-Central meet at Dublin Coffman

Below are the coming schedules for the Westland baseball and softball teams:

BASEBALL

*April 10 -- At Upper Arlington

April 11 -- At Grandview

*April 12 -- Home vs. UA

April 15 -- Home vs. Mount Gilead (DH)

SOFTBALL

April 10 -- At Grove City

*April 12 -- At Marysville

*April 13 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman

April 15 -- At Marion Harding (DH)

*League contest