Two of the New Albany High School boys track and field team’s three state-meet qualifiers from a season ago return, giving first-year coach Greg Flecher that much extra help in his hopes of implementing a successful culture and teaching his younger athletes what it takes to compete at a premier level.

Still, Flecher is aware that for the most part, his roster is young. Twenty of his 52 competitors are freshmen, along with five seniors, 14 juniors and 13 sophomores.

“We are very excited about our returning athletes. We have some great upperclassmen who not only offer talent in their events but also make for great examples to the younger athletes,” Flecher said. “We are also a very young team. Our numbers have increased greatly in the past few seasons. We are really looking to build the team and culture with these younger

athletes.”

Senior Michael Fenster will attempt to win his third consecutive state championship in the seated 800 meters and repeat in the 100 and 400, and senior Kenny McDonald will try to improve on his 14th-place finish in Division I in the long jump.

The Eagles graduated 110 and 300 hurdles state champion Max Frye, who also swept the OCC-Capital Division and regional championships in those events and now competes at Dartmouth.

Fenster plans to attend Illinois and participate in its wheelchair athletics program.

Bad weather pushed the start of New Albany’s season back a week.

Each of the Eagles’ first two meets, the Groveport Invitational on April 3 and the Stingel Invitational on April 7 at Pickerington North, were canceled.

New Albany was scheduled to compete in a tri-meet April 10 at Newark that also included Watkins Memorial.

Other expected contributors include seniors Kane Breuer (distance), Gabe Glenn (sprints) and Ben Simmons (throws), juniors Alex Cox (sprints), Malik Clarke (sprints), Derek Long (throws), Tim Marshall (throws), Anthony Walters (throws) and Drew Watson (sprints), sophomores Pedro Faerman (distance), Brody Kidwell (hurdles), Kingston Matabah (sprints) and Michael Von Zastrow (distance) and freshmen Nico Candido (distance), Max Mathias (sprints), Ethan McNichols (distance) and Sebastian Ramirez (sprints).

According to Flecher, McDonald also will run the 100 and 200.

New Albany’s first of three home meets will be the inaugural Friday Night Eagle Invite on Friday, April 13. Other participating teams will be Columbus Academy, Gran-ville, Groveport, Olentangy, Reynoldsburg and Watkins Memorial as well as Lancaster’s girls team and Westerville Central’s boys.

“We have some great returning athletes,” Flecher said. “However, this team will have some great contributions from the younger runners, jumpers and throwers.”

Distance runners, sprinters pace girls

The girls track team returns several of its top distance runners and sprinters from last season, when the Eagles did not qualify any athletes to regional.

Distance runners Simmi Diwanji, Loren Klein and Alyssa Painter, sprinters Jalyn Austin and Grace Lowe and middle-distance runner/hurdler Sophie Matt, all of whom are seniors, are among the expected key contributors.

Lowe finished 22nd in the 400 (1:01.03) in the indoor state meet March 3.

“We’re excited. We’re young but talented with some key returning seniors,” second-year coach Amy Glenn said. “Numbers are up with 20-plus more athletes from last year. We’re more balanced across all the events. (Both) programs started winter conditioning much earlier this year in October and included variety to our conditioning, including hot yoga sessions.”

Austin was second in the 400 in the OCC-Capital meet last year and helped the 800 relay to second place. Painter was fourth in the 1,600 and was on the third-place 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

Austin also was the Eagles’ top placer at district, as she finished seventh in the 400. Lowe was eighth in the same event, and Painter was eighth in the 1,600.

According to Glenn, other top contributors will include juniors Char Jones (throws) and Monica Vale (distance), sophomores Rachel Blais (jumps, sprints), Kristen Dressel (sprints), Emily Flaherty (distance), Meredith Given (distance), Mia Lobel (hurdles, sprints) and Lindsey Neff (distance) and freshmen Jayla Reese (jumps, sprints) and Nicole Stewart (sprints).

New Albany altered its schedule to compete in more invitationals and fewer relay meets. The Eagles’ only two relay meets this year will be the Gahanna Relays on Wednesday, April 18, and the Milt Will Relays nine days later at Canal Winchester.

“Fewer relay meets give us more opportunity for individuals to showcase their talent,” Glenn said.

Big stretch awaits girls lacrosse team

The girls lacrosse team took records of 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye into an April 10 home game against Olentangy Orange, a contest that preceded a rematch of the Eagles’ past two Division I state semifinal appearances and a showdown with a potent league rival.

Ranked seventh in Division I this week by LaxPower.com, New Albany visits Massillon Jackson on Friday, April 13. The Polar Bears have defeated the Eagles in a state semifinal each of the past two years, including 9-2 last season.

The Eagles then play host to Olentangy on Tuesday, April 17. The Braves were 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Westerville Central on April 10 and had scored 54 goals in their first three games.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

TRACK & FIELD

April 10 – at Newark with Watkins Memorial

April 13 – Friday Night Eagle Invite at home

April 18 – Gahanna Relays

April 20 – Wildcat Invitational at Westerville South

April 23 – vs. Groveport and Pickerington North

April 27 – Milt Will Relays at Canal Winchester

April 30 – vs. Gahanna

May 4 – Westerville Central Invitational at Otterbein

May 10, 12 – OCC-Capital meet at Olentangy Orange

Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys volleyball teams:

BASEBALL

*April 13 – At Groveport

*April 16 – At Canal Winchester

*April 18 – Home vs. Canal Winchester

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 12 – At Westerville North

*April 17 – Home vs. Olentangy

GIRLS LACROSSE

April 13 – At Massillon Jackson

*April 17 – Home vs. Olentangy

SOFTBALL

*April 12 – At Big Walnut

April 14 – At Westerville North

*April 16 – At Groveport

*April 18 – At Canal Winchester

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

April 13 – At Olentangy Orange

April 17 – Home vs. Whetstone

April 18 – At Briggs

*League contest