After winning the Division I state title in the 800 meters as a freshman, sophomore Malachi McGill of the Hilliard Darby High School boys track and field team will be looking to grow as a leader and excel in other events this season.

"We're looking for Malachi to grow into more of a leadership role and show off his range of abilities this season after such a successful freshman season," sixth-year coach Matthew Fox said. "We have several returning letterwinners who have received a lot of accolades, mixed with a ton of new faces. That includes both youth and first-year seniors. We should be well-balanced and continue to grow throughout the season.

"A lot of the athletes will be experiencing their first varsity experience in track. There will likely be a lot of growing to do, but by the end of the year, it will be exciting to watch how much they accomplish as a team and as individuals."

McGill, who was Darby's lone state qualifier last season, won the state title in 1 minute, 53.28 seconds after winning the regional title in 1:52.8. He totaled 10 points at state as the Panthers tied five teams for 19th behind champion Thomas Worthington (36) as 80 teams scored.

Other key returnees include seniors Josh Baldrige, Clint Barnett, Dylan Litreal, Dylan Newport and Colin Wagner and juniors Chris Burkhart, Kris Day, Owen Martin and Solomon Toliver.

Barnett and Day are expected to lead the sprint corps, along with seniors Jeremy White and Matt Wilson and sophomore Lucas Fratianne.

"After a really successful first year of track last season, Clint should show a new range of confidence," Fox said. "He has already produced some of the fastest times in Darby history and will look to move up on the all-time record boards."

Expected to back McGill and Baldridge in the middle distances events are senior Jason Fleishman and freshman Sean Carney, while Martin, Newport and Wagner will head the distance corps.

Toliver and junior Malachi Reynolds will be the team's top hurdlers, while Litreal, Burkhart, senior Paul Dillion and junior Michael Cornathan should lead in the throws. Junior Todd Pilkington and sophomore Zach Vent should join Toliver and Reynolds to lead the team in the jumps, and Vent also is the team's top pole vaulter.

"Dylan Litreal is a senior leader both by his demeanor and the example he sets," Fox said. "He will likely lead the team in throws and he could be one of the best overall throwers in the state.

"We are balanced and don't have to rely too heavily on a single-event group, but we are deep and strong in throws. During the indoor season, we had four boys ranked in the top 40 in the state in the shot put and have two of the top five discus throwers in central Ohio based on last year's marks. ... This group could challenge some throwing relay records."

Darby scored 89 points in its eight-team Panther Invitational on April 6 to place second behind Davidson (126).

Kowalski, Rispress to lead in girls track

The girls track and field team should be buoyed by four athletes who competed in the Division I state meet last season.

Sophomore Emma Kowalski placed eighth in the discus (126 feet, 1 inch) to earn one point for the Panthers, who tied eight teams for 54th behind champion Cincinnati Withrow (58) as 62 teams scored.

Junior Stacia Rispress and sophomores Zayna Hampton and Naomi Walters joined 2017 graduate Jillian Simpson on the 800 relay that placed 11th (1:42.83).

"Along with several of her teammates, Stacia really put in the time during the offseason," 10th-year coach Don Seymour said. "She was an indoor all-state performer in the high jump. Emma competed indoors as well and was state champion in the hammer and all-state in the shot put, so we're expecting more great things from them this season."

Last year at regional, Kowalski placed second in the discus (132-0) and seventh in the shot put (36-6 1/2) and the 800 relay was fourth (1:42.16), as the top four finishers in each event advanced to state.

Kowalski (discus, 125-1), Rispress (high jump, 5-3) and junior Maliyah Ellis (long jump, 16-10 3/4) all won titles in the 16-team district 3 meet.

Other key returnees are senior Abby Cannon and sophomore Daniella Santos in the distance events, senior Kaysi Morris in the pole vault and sophomores Zayna Hampton and Naomi Walters in the sprints.

Other expected contributors include Ellis, senior Bethany Alecusan and junior Aliyah Brletic in the sprints, Brletic, Hampton, Cannon and Santos in the middle-distance events, senior Anita Perie in the distance events and Rispress, Ellis, sophomores Jane Vulic and Joy Mak and freshman Gabrielle Hammonds in the hurdles.

In the field events, Brletic, Hammonds and senior Emma Konkus will lead in the jumps, Konkus, sophomore Haley Caudill and freshman Liz Silva will lead in the throws and sophomores Emma McDaniel, Mikenna Spring and Maddison Mason will lead in the pole vault.

Darby won its eight-team Panther Invitational on April 6, scoring 136 points as Davidson (103) placed second.

Boys volleyball team has new coach

Despite being under new leadership, the boys volleyball team will be seeking its 19th consecutive league title and another trip to the Division I state tournament this season.

"We are younger than usual, but our returnees are very experienced and will provide good leadership," first-year coach Evan Bell said. "Our young guys have a lot of skill, ball-control and high volleyball IQs."

Bell, a 2011 Darby graduate who has been with the program for three years, replaced Bryan Webb as coach in the offseason. During his eight-year tenure, Webb compiled a 179-39 record and guided the Panthers to two state titles (2013, 2015) and four state final appearances.

Last season, Darby finished 25-5 overall and reached the state final, where it lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-18, 26-24, 25-19. It was the Panthers' 12th consecutive appearance in the state tournament.

Darby went 12-0 in the OCC-Cardinal a year ago, ahead of runner-up Dublin Scioto (10-2).

"Our team chemistry so far this season has been outstanding," Bell said. "In addition, our will to win and competitiveness is a major driving force each day in practice. We have guys in our gym who hate to lose more than they like to win. When paired with volleyball skill and some experience, that combination is a recipe for success."

The Panthers have three returning starters in senior Collin Buelow (outside hitter), junior Dominic Melchiorre (middle hitter) and sophomore Noah Platfoot (setter). Also back are seniors Trey Byrd (middle hitter) and Caleb Hill (middle hitter), juniors Drew Geise (defensive specialist) and Nick Hermosilla (utility) and sophomores Adam Ansel (outside hitter) and Griffin Hart (opposite hitter).

"Our returning captain, Noah Platfoot, runs a great offense and demands competitiveness from the others," Bell said. "Passing and serving is the focus this season, though, as they are the two most important skills in the game. Especially with our youth, passing is going to be the X factor.

"If we can get the ball to the target, I'm very confident that our offensive weapons are going to hit at an efficient rate."

Completing the roster are senior Drew Dickmann (def-ensive specialist), junior Nick Ferko (setter) and sophomores Michael Beard (outside hitter), Jared Kish (middle hitter) and Payton Reed (defensive specialist).

The Panthers were 6-3 overall and 4-0 in the league after beating Dublin Jerome 25-18, 25-14, 25-19 on April 9.

Darby opened March 27 by beating Delaware 25-17, 25-12, 25-13. After going 2-3 in the Wheaton (Illinois) Warrenville Tiger Classic on March 29-31, the Panthers beat Worthington Kilbourne 25-10, 25-15, 25-21 on April 3 and Scioto 25-8, 25-8, 25-7 on April 5.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

TRACK & FIELD

March 24 -- Icebreaker Invitational at Watkins Memorial

March 31 -- Wildcat Premier at Davidson

April 3 -- at Dublin Jerome

April 6 -- Panther Invitational at home

April 9 -- vs. Gahanna

April 13 -- Elk Relays at Centerville

April 20 -- Fulton Relays at Lancaster

April 27 -- Olentangy Invitational

May 1 -- at Davidson with Bradley

May 4 -- Bradley Invitational

May 10, 12 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Dublin Coffman

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*March 27 -- at Delaware

March 29-31 -- at Wheaton (Ill.) Warrenville Tiger Classic

*April 3 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*April 5 -- at Dublin Scioto

*April 9 -- at Dublin Jerome

*April 12 -- at Thomas Worthington

*April 17 -- vs. Bradley

*April 19 -- vs. Delaware

*April 23 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

*April 24 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

*April 26 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

*May 3 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

*May 8 -- at Bradley

May 15 -- vs. Olentangy

May 12 -- at Clayton Northmont with Cincinnati Elder

May 15 -- vs. Olentangy

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Darby baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys tennis teams:

BASEBALL

*April 13 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto

April 14 -- Home vs. Holland Springfield

*April 16 -- At Dublin Jerome

*April 18 -- Home vs. Jerome

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 12 -- Home vs. Delaware

April 17 -- At St. Charles

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 12 -- At Delaware

SOFTBALL

*April 12 -- At Thomas Worthington

April 13 -- At Olentangy Liberty

*April 16 -- Home vs. Bradley

*April 18 -- Home vs. Delaware

BOYS TENNIS

April 16 -- Home vs. Liberty

*April 17 -- At Thomas

*League contest