A deep sophomore class and the hunger for better finishes than a season ago are among the biggest driving forces for the Dublin Jerome High School girls track and field team this spring.
The Celtics, who finished last in the seven-team OCC-Cardinal Division and didn't have any athletes qualify for the Division I regional meet, have the makings of what 10th-year coach Randi Beatty believes should be an "interesting" season.
"With 97 girls, this is one of largest (groups) we've had in a long time," Beatty said. "Each of the classes are pretty even. Our senior class is our smallest, but our freshman, sophomore and junior classes are pretty equal. I'm really hopeful about (the season). We have seniors that are good leaders and some really strong juniors, so from the leadership side, they understand what we're looking for. It's just a really positive, fun group of sophomores that I think are also really talented."
Jerome finished sixth (37 points) in the eight-team Panther Invitational on April 6 behind champion and host Hilliard Darby (136).
At last year's district 1 meet, Kat Willette placed fifth in the 1,600 meters (5 minutes, 19.62 seconds) and joined Rachel Ferguson, Larkin Thomas and Madison Weigle on the 3,200 relay that also was fifth (9:56.5).
In addition, Emily Oiler placed sixth in the 400 (1:00.65) and finishing seventh were Hayley Jacobs in the long jump (16 feet, 8 1/2 inches), the 400 relay of Katie Lenz, Alex Dean, Michele Lee and Nadia Coalter (52.16) and the 1,600 relay of Oliver Lacy, Oiler, Thomas and Manaka Yamauchi (4:10.47).
The only athletes lost to graduation from that group were Ferguson, Lacy and Lenz.
Willette returns to lead a senior class that also includes Dean and Lee, while Jacobs and Thomas are now juniors and Coalter, Oiler and Weigle are now sophomores.
Lauren Scheurle (shot put, discus) is another sophomore returnee.
"The girls team is looking pretty strong on the distance and sprinting side, as well as field events," Willette said. "As far as distance goes, we worked hard during the winter in order to get a solid base heading into the spring season and I think we've begun to see some of that work paying off, which is really exciting for us. We're a pretty tight-knit team, and we try to focus on the fun of running in order to keep the mental part of the sport as easy as possible."
Seniors Halle Bentley (distance), Jessica Blake (hurdles), Claire Dunlea (sprints), Paige Elder (shot put, discus), Abby Emmett (sprints) and Tanya Humphreys (shot put, discus) are others looking to contribute.
Beatty also is excited about a freshman class that includes cousins Ellie Browning and Sydney Browning, both of whom compete in sprints.
Jerome opened March 31 in the Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson by placing last (15) of 11 teams, behind champion Gahanna (134).
"The girls team is starting out really strong this spring," Dean said.
"We have many returning upperclassmen and some strong freshmen that I expect to contribute a lot to the team this season. We've been training hard."
Depth a strength for boys tennis team
The boys tennis team is looking to continue a run that includes going 13-2 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Cardinal last season to win its third consecutive league title.
The return of five of the Celtics' top seven players should make that a possibility.
Jerome opened April 5 by beating Columbus West 5-0 in the second round of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament.
The Celtics then defeated Worthington Kilbourne 5-0 on April 6 in their league opener.
"We're pretty deep with guys that can play singles and doubles, so we'll play a lot of different lineups early on," third-year coach Ken Berlin said.
Sophomore Anish Patel, who spent most of last season at second or third singles, could end up being the regular at first singles this spring.
Senior Dhruva Gurushankar and junior Daniel Utkin are other returnees with singles experience.
Last season, Patel lost in a quarterfinal of the Division I sectional at Pickerington Central, while Utkin and 2017 graduate Michael Lin lost in the first round of the district tournament in doubles.
Sophomores Andrew Dvorkin and Christopher Knights are others who could see action in singles.
Seniors Nate Meadors and Pranav Murali teamed up to reach a district quarterfinal in doubles last season and likely will be at first doubles.
Junior Dylan Cai and sophomore Sahil Madan are others who should see time in doubles.
The only other player the Celtics lost to graduation was first singles player Ryan Worthen, who lost in a district quarterfinal in singles and is now playing for Ohio State's club team.
Senior Noah Schneider, who lost in the second round at sectional in singles, has been battling injuries, according to Berlin, and is not back with the team.
"We've got a good mix of leadership and some new guys," Berlin said. "We're going to give some guys opportunities to see some good match experience that they haven't gotten yet and it'll be good for them to get up to speed pretty quickly. I just want these guys to improve, starting from day one until the end of the year, and just let the rest take care of itself."
Boys track team feeling optimistic
A pair of Division I regional qualifiers in field events and much of the sprint corps has returned for the boys track and field team as it looks to continue to take steps forward under second-year coach Kalvin McRae.
The Celtics, who improved from fifth in the OCC-Cardinal in 2016 to fourth last season, opened March 31 by placing 10th (57) in the 11-team Wildcat Premier behind champion Gahanna (108.5).
On April 6, Jerome finished sixth (53) in the eight-team Panther Invitational behind champion Hilliard Davidson (126).
"The team is coming together nicely," senior Max Darrow said. "We return most of our team from last year so we have some high hopes. As a team, the goal is always to qualify for states, and this year I think we have a couple events that have a real possibility."
Darrow is leading a sprint corps that also includes senior returnee Cade Kacherski and sophomore Blake Hara. At last year's district 1 meet, Kacherski placed fifth in the 200 (22.91) and Darrow was fifth in the high jump (5-10) as both fell one spot shy of advancing to regional.
Other sprinters include seniors Anthony Alvarez, Lucas House and Steven Tejeda and juniors Tony Gyimah, David Reinhart and Alex Smythe.
Jerome had three regional qualifiers in senior Kellen Posacki, who placed sixth in the 3,200 (9:29.68); senior Alec Scheurle, who was 10th in the discus (130-4); and senior Carson DeCarlo, who didn't record a height in the pole vault.
Posacki elected to compete for the boys lacrosse team this spring but Scheurle and DeCarlo are returnees.
Senior Blake Erickson and junior Ross Davidson also are competing in pole vault. At the Wildcat Premier, Stevenson and DeCarlo tied for second (11-6).
Senior Chris Viola is expected to be one of the team's top middle distance runners along with sophomore Elliott Cook, who could run anything from the 400 to the 3,200, according to McRae.
Sophomore Arjun Dhankani is another who should compete in middle distance.
Seniors Andrew Reese and Alex Sanders and freshman Kyle Von Cannon are members of the team's distance corps, which likely won't include senior Jeremy Coad because of an injury that could keep him out all season.
Junior Joey Pinney, sophomore Scott Sonnanstine and freshman Silas Kayuha are among the team's top hurdlers.
Freshman Ezra Strickland should be among the team's top competitors in the high jump and also could factor in the long jump. Senior Koh Takamasa is a long jumper who has been out with an injury.
"I'm really excited about this team," McRae said. "I don't know how well we'll do, but we have a lot of potential. We need to get some races under our belt. We're building depth and I'm super excited about what we have and am just looking forward to getting stronger."
*April 3 -- at Thomas Worthington
April 5 -- vs. Columbus West
*April 6 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*April 10 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*April 12 -- at Hilliard Bradley
April 14 -- vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier
April 16 -- vs. Columbus Academy
*April 17 -- vs. Delaware
April 18 -- vs. Coffman
*April 19 -- at Scioto
April 21 -- at Hudson
April 24 -- at Hilliard Davidson
April 25 -- at Gahanna
April 26 -- vs. New Albany
April 28 -- New Albany Invitational
May 1 -- at Wellington
May 3 -- at Olentangy
May 8 -- vs. St. Charles
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson
April 6 -- Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby
April 10 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 14 -- Dublin Classic at Coffman
April 17 -- at Marysville with Delaware and Jonathan Alder
April 20 -- Freedom Relays at Olentangy Liberty
April 24 -- at Reynoldsburg
April 27 -- Marion Harding Night Invitational
May 1 -- at Coffman with Upper Arlington
May 4 -- Jaguar Invitational at Hilliard Bradley
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Coffman
Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys volleyball teams:
April 12 -- Home vs. Ready
*April 16 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
*April 18 -- At Darby
*April 12 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
April 13 -- Home vs. Coffman
*April 17 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*April 12 -- Home vs. Thomas
April 14 -- Home vs. Coffman
*April 17 -- Home vs. Bradley
*April 12 -- Home vs. Delaware
April 13 -- At Upper Arlington
April 14 -- At Olentangy Liberty (DH)
*April 16 -- Home vs. Scioto
*April 18 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*April 12 -- Home vs. Delaware
April 14 -- Spike for Tykes at Hiram College
*April 17 -- At Scioto