Despite winning just one event, the Olentangy Liberty High School girls track and field team captured last year's OCC-Central Division championship to set up a strong postseason.
The Patriots likely will use a similar formula of trying to place multiple athletes in numerous events to grind their way to success again this spring.
On April 7 in the eight-team Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby, Liberty scored 127 points to earn a runner-up finish behind the host Panthers (135).
"We're going to try to win with depth again," seventh-year coach James Dingus said. "The nice thing is that in the past I haven't had to rely on an elite athlete to win a meet. The expectation is that we're really going to make it a team aspect thing."
Junior Kelsey Mockler won the team's only league title last year when she ran 15.8 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles.
At Darby, senior Abby Summers was first in the 100 (12.56) and 200 (25.95), junior Emma Bower won the 3,200 (11:21.49), junior Sydney Englehart won the long jump (16 feet, 7 inches) and the 400 (1:00.39) and sophomore Gracie Sprankle was first in the 1,600 (5:14.65).
The only other seniors are Allison Antonaccio (distance), Mara Johnson (hurdles), Sarah Mugge (shot put, discus) and Sam Silber (pole vault, long jump).
Other key distance runners include juniors Anna Bower and Sarah Colvin and sophomores Maddy Ailes, Lily Biros and Emily Matta.
Juniors Chloe Englehart, Sophia Englehart, Allie Haddow and Lauren Walsh and sophomores Laura Bichsel, Camryn Jefferson, Carrie Lawal, Noelle Meeker, Betsy Merritt, Sienna Sakich and Brea White also are among the sprint corps.
Juniors Jenna Culver (high jump) and Lizzy Croop (discus), sophomores Lily Collignon (pole vault), Nikole Kirkham (discus), Mollie Kunar (shot put) and Reagan Smoller (long jump, hurdles, sprints) and freshman Tara Jones (pole vault) are other contributors.
Boys track team out
to gain experience
With 170 athletes, the boys track team has a plethora of options this spring.
The Patriots are hoping to gain big-meet experience after all four of their Division I state competitors from last season were lost to graduation.
Liberty placed sixth (58) in the eight-team Panther Invitational behind champion and host Darby (138) on April 7.
"Last year we had 148 boys, so it's a significant increase in numbers this year, which is a good problem to have," second-year coach Nate Cikach said. "Our mission and our daily focus is on competing toward our maximum potential. Most importantly, we want to compete to be the best version of ourselves and push each other."
Seniors Noah Meeker and Ben Rinsma, who ran on the 400 relay that set a program record of 43.01 last season, are the top returning sprinters.
Other key seniors include Jake Adams (long jump), Blake Cox (sprints), Andrew Eppley (middle distance), Tim Kalmar (discus), Jonathan Mace (hurdles, sprints), Ryan Milligan (middle distance) and Cole Richards (sprints).
Also contributing are juniors Nicholas Anderson (distance), Andrew Bendick (sprints), Logan Boone (distance), Kyle Coleman (shot put), Jacob Hunter (pole vault), Will Koberna (distance), Dmitri Minto (discus), Chris Osborne (shot put) and Jared Whitfield (high jump), sophomores Alex Adams (long jump), Alex Azusenis (shot put, discus), Luke Bendick (pole vault), Adam Clark (distance), Joseph Johnson (middle distance) and Mitchell Kershner (discus) and freshman Nick Ruppe (pole vault).
Boys volleyball team
looks to bounce back
After winning 19 matches and reaching a Division I East Region semifinal in 2015, the boys volleyball team had just three seniors a year ago and ended up with a losing record.
Although the Patriots lost their leader in kills (183) to graduation in Daniel Koloff, key players at several other positions have returned.
"We only graduated three seniors from last year, so we have basically the rest of our guys back," 13th-year coach Dave Hale said. "This year I have eight seniors. We definitely have some size, but I'm really impressed with how scrappy we're playing. I think our defense is really improved from what it was last year."
Liberty, which went 8-9 a year ago and lost in the second round of the tournament, was 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before facing Westerville North on April 11. The Patriots beat Watterson 25-12, 25-8, 25-14 on March 30, lost to Westerville South 25-16, 25-6, 25-15 on April 6 in their league opener and beat Reynoldsburg 25-1, 25-6, 25-7 on April 7.
The top returnees are seniors Blake Knollman (outside hitter) and A.J. Smith (outside hitter). Smith had 132 kills and 138 digs and Knollman had 108 kills and a team-best 185 digs last season. Smith made special mention all-OCC-Cardinal and Knollman was honorable mention all-league.
Senior Jake Kottenstette (middle hitter) returns after leading Liberty in blocks (34).
Senior James Loftus (middle hitter) is among the team's tallest players at 6-foot-5.
The other seniors are Kevin Coughlan (defensive specialist), Neil Patel (opposite hitter), Brennan Walentschak (setter) and Enzo Wielenzinski (defensive specialist).
Junior Shiva Dubbaka (defensive specialist) also is on the roster.
TRACK & FIELD
April 4 -- vs. Delaware
April 7 -- Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby
April 11 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
April 18 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
April 21 -- Freedom Relays at home
April 25 -- at Hilliard Bradley
April 28 -- Marion Harding Night Invitational
May 2 -- vs. Olentangy
May 5 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at Olentangy Orange
May 11, 13 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Olentangy Orange
March 30 -- vs. Watterson
*April 6 -- at Westerville South
April 7 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
*April 11 -- vs. Westerville North
*April 13 -- at Westerville Central
*April 18 -- vs. Olentangy
April 21 -- at Dublin Scioto with Pickerington North
*April 25 -- vs. Westerville South
*April 27 -- at Westerville North
*May 2 -- vs. Westerville Central
*May 4 -- at Olentangy
May 5 -- TBA in Spike for Tykes at Greater Columbus Convention Center
May 11 -- at Hilliard Davidson
May 13 -- vs. DeSales and Cleveland St. Ignatius
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys tennis teams:
April 13 -- At Gahanna
*April 17 -- At Westerville Central
*April 19 -- Home vs. Central
*April 13 -- Home vs. Westerville South
April 14 -- At Hudson
*April 18 -- At Olentangy Orange
*April 13 -- At South
*April 19 -- Home vs. Orange
*April 13 -- At South
*April 17 -- Home vs. Westerville North
*April 19 -- At Central
*April 13 -- Home vs. North
April 15 -- At Marion Pleasant
*April 18 -- At Central
April 19 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington