High school track and field teams use the month of April to work on times and distances in preparation for the league meet and postseason, and a strong season could be in store for the Big Walnut boys team given its start.
Led by strong performances in the field events, the Golden Eagles opened the season by winning the 16-team Newark Invitational on March 31, scoring 99 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Olentangy Orange (74) and third-place Reynoldsburg (70).
Eric Myers, now in his 11th season as coach, hopes the victory sets the tone for the season.
"It should be a fun and exciting season, with some high individual and team expectations in our locker room," he said. "We've taken our first step, but we will refocus in trying to win our fourth-consecutive Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays championship (on April 7)."
The Golden Eagles return two Division I state placers in seniors Brandon Mosher and Abe Myers.
Last season, Myers placed fifth at state in the discus (163 feet, 7 inches) after winning regional, district and OCC-Capital Division titles, while Mosher placed eighth at state in the shot put (56-6) after earning regional and district championships.
In the Newark Invitational, Mosher took first in both the shot put (52-4.5) and discus (141-01), but Myers did not compete as he continues to rehab an injury.
Other top performers in the field events in the Newark Invitational were junior Caleb Ramey in the long jump (second, 20-7 1/4), juniors Mitchell Truax and Nick Spangenberg in the pole vault (tied for second with two others, 11-0), senior Luke Apple in the discus (third, 122-1), sophomore Jackson Podraza in the high jump (fourth, 5-10) and junior Zach Westfall in the high jump (sixth, 5-8).
On the track, senior Tim Rumas won the 400 meters (51.3 seconds) and placed second in both the 200 (23.49) and 100 (11.59), Ramey finished eighth in the 200 (24.16), senior Colin White placed eighth in the 300 hurdles (45.03), junior Dante Chhuom finished ninth in the 100 (12.16) and the 800 relay of Ramey, sophomore Mitchell Embaugh, Podraza and senior Shane Swartzentruber placed third (1:34.96).
Other top returnees include seniors Devon Bingman (sprints) and Jacob Hutchinson (distance) and juniors Blake Conner (hurdles), Dawson Brehm (hurdles) and Josh Halbakken (pole vault, 400).
"We return 22 letterwinners and seven of our top 10 scorers from a year ago," Myers said.
Girls track coach excited about season
Time will tell if the girls track and field team has enough talent to top last season, when it had six regional qualifiers, set 10 program records and won the OCC-Capital championship.
But the Golden Eagles are out to a good start, having opened the season by placing second (98) in the 14-team Newark Invitational behind Olentangy Orange (103).
"We are mixing some top quality returnees this season with a lot of youth," 24th-year coach Joe Evener said. "It's going to be interesting to watch how well we mesh as the season progresses. I am very pleased with the leadership and the work ethic this group has shown."
Among the leaders is junior Kaley Rammelsberg, who won the 100 hurdles (16.07) and high jump (5-04) at Newark and placed third in the long jump (15-0) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (51.75).
Rammelsberg was Big Walnut's top scorer last season and finished 12th in the high jump (5-2) in her first appearance in the Division I state meet. She helped the Golden Eagles win their first league championship since 2004, as Big Walnut scored 158 points in the league meet to finish well ahead of runner-up Canal Winchester (117).
Another key returnee is sophomore distance runner Colbi Borland, who continues to break program records. She bested her own record in the 3,200 at Newark, where she took first in 11:31.03 and also won the 1,600 (5:17.62).
Also at Newark, the 3,200 relay of senior Kaitlin Meade, junior Becca Bogantz, freshman Grace Unger and sophomore Adelee Gartner finished first (10:28.23), Meade was runner-up in the 800 (2:33.89) and senior Maddie Swank placed second in the discus (111-5).
Seniors Tori Buxton and Mackenzie West, sophomores Hanna Pinkston and Sierra Sanders and freshman Mackenna Ames are expected to be key contributors in relays.
"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 are going to be our scorers? ... There are so many possibilities, I can't help but be excited."
Boys tennis team looks to gain experience
Having lost six players from a year ago to graduation, sixth-year coach Ryan Balaz has a much different lineup to mold.
Big Walnut finished 14-4 overall last season, falling one win shy of the program record. The Golden Eagles finished 15-4 in 2011 and 15-3 in 2017.
"This group is extremely young, so there has been a lot of teaching and getting them experience," said Balaz, whose team opened April 5 with an OCC-Capital match at Canal Winchester. "But, they're eager to learn, they're coachable and they practice hard. At the same time, we have some kids who are pretty talented and should have a good year."
The program consists of 15 players, including 13 underclassmen.
Junior Matt Pushkin, who played second doubles last season, and junior Gabe Mexicott are expected to rotate between first and second singles, while senior Collin Bates will play third singles.
Senior Tyler Shuster, sophomores Sebastian Kirkpatrick, Devon McCullough and Cameron Sutherland and freshman Charlie Jaeger are the top candidates to play doubles.
"It's going to be a kind of match-by-match thing for us, and we'll see how it goes," Balaz said.
Big Walnut went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital last season to place second, behind New Albany (5-0) and ahead of Groveport (3-2), Newark (2-3), Canal Winchester (1-4) and Franklin Heights (0-5).
The Golden Eagles were represented in the Division I district tournament a year ago by the doubles team of 2017 graduate Jared Deel and junior Carson Becker, who is playing baseball this spring. Deel and Becker lost in the first round after going 3-1 and placing third in the sectional at Reynoldsburg.
Deel had the Golden Eagles' best singles record a year ago at 26-7, while 2017 graduates Nick Schulz and Lane Davis had the team's best doubles record at 22-6.
*April 5 -- at Canal Winchester
April 6 -- at Mount Vernon
April 7 -- at Reynoldsburg
April 9 -- vs. Marysville
*April 10 -- vs. New Albany
*April 12 -- at Newark
April 13 -- vs. DeSales
April 16 -- vs. Buckeye Valley
*April 17 -- at Franklin Heights
*April 19 -- vs. Groveport
April 20 -- at Westerville Central
April 22 -- vs. Granville
April 24 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
April 25 -- vs. Watkins Memorial
April 26 -- at Delaware
April 30 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
May 1 -- vs. Worthington Christian
May 2 -- at Hilliard Darby
May 3 -- at Hilliard Davidson
May 7 -- at Westerville North
May 9 -- vs. Watkins Memorial
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Newark Invitational
April 5 -- Hornet Relays at Licking Heights
April 7 -- Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at home
April 10 -- at Marion Harding
April 14 -- Hank Smith Invitational at Heath
April 17 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
April 20 -- Fulton Relays at Lancaster
April 25 -- at Olentangy
April 28 -- Gary Smith Invitational at Thomas Worthington
May 2 -- vs. Franklin Heights and Centerburg
May 4 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at Olentangy Orange
May 10 -- OCC-Capital meet at Olentangy Orange
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and softball teams:
*April 9 -- At New Albany
*April 11 -- At Newark
*April 13 -- Home vs. Newark
April 14 -- At Olentangy with Watkins Memorial
*April 9 -- At Olentangy Liberty
*April 12 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*April 10 -- Home vs. Liberty
*April 12 -- At Westerville Central
April 14 -- At Centennial
April 9 -- At Mount Vernon
*April 11 -- At Canal Winchester
April 14 -- At Worthington Kilbourne with Grove City