Adam Walters is normally an optimist, but the fifth-year coach has especially high expectations for his Olentangy Orange High School boys track and field team.
The Pioneers lost several key contributors from a squad that finished fourth (25 points) in the Division I state meet last season behind champion Thomas Worthington (36). However, they also return talented state performers and have younger athletes ready to replace those who graduated.
"We lost a lot, but this will be as strong of a senior class as we have had here," said Walters, whose team won OCC-Buckeye Division and district titles and was third at regional last spring. "They have been around a lot and have high goals for one another."
The senior class includes standouts such as Jayden Rodgers, who was state runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles in 14.09 seconds after setting a program record of 14.01 in his preliminary heat.
Rodgers also joined seniors Kevin Acheampong and Joel Sarpong and 2017 graduate T.J. Coates on the seventh-place 800 relay (1:29.27) at state.
Seniors Tommy Heiden and Tyler King joined Coates and junior Christian Wright on the sixth-place 1,600 relay (3:21.18). Heiden, King, junior Andrew Schroff and senior Tommy Wintering were on the seventh-place 3,200 relay (program-record 7:49.39).
Also, 2017 graduate Hunter Moore won the 3,200 in a program-record 8:58.47.
"I think we have a lot of young talent," said King, who owns the program record in the 800 (1:56.48). "We had a lot of good seniors last year and I think we will be able to replace them with some good younger kids who are ready to get after it."
Acheampong, Rodgers and Sarpong will lead the sprint corps along with senior Manny Anderson, junior Zach Harrison and sophomore Jaeschel Acheampong. Harrison, one of the top football recruits in the country as a defensive lineman, anchors the sprint relays.
"Zach is only a junior but he really is a senior because he's won't be running next spring," Walters said. "He will graduate early so he can be a part of spring football practice for whichever college he might choose."
Jaeschel Acheampong and Anderson lead the jumpers along with senior Jack Cowman. Seniors Jake Lawrence and Graden Martin will be two of the top pole-vaulters.
Sophomore Alex Kenish adds to the distance depth.
Throwers include seniors Tommy Ciaciura and Mike Schoenleb and juniors Braydon Davis, Ryan Duffy and Brant Kightlinger.
Girls track team returns top talent
The girls track team also graduated some talented athletes who helped the program grow to prominence, but Walters still expects the Pioneers to enjoy postseason success.
Last year, Orange won the OCC-Buckeye championship, placed second at district and finished fourth at regional before tying for 13th at state.
Leading a powerhouse junior class are Allie Guagenti and Grace Frye. Guagenti was third in the 1,600 (program-record 4:48.23) and Frye was 11th in the discus (120 feet, 4 inches) at state last spring.
"We lost Angel Frye, Brynna Johnson and Tiere Richardson to graduation and Anna Watson was a once-in-a-lifetime pole-vaulter, but just about everyone else is back," said Walters, who is in his sixth season with the girls program. "The girls team is strong and deep, and if we stay healthy we should do very well."
Joining Guagenti in the distance corps are senior Zoe Bond and junior Lindsay Ott.
Junior Brenda Agyekum and sophomore Ahtiona Carter are the top sprinters, with junior Elizabeth Schneider competing in anything from the 200 to 800 and on several relays. Senior Katie Priest and junior Mackenzie Blendick both run hurdles.
"I think we are super-motived and we all work so hard in practice," Priest said. "We also root each other on, which is important because we're such a big team (with more than 120 athletes)."
Junior Katie Shrader will lead the pole-vaulters and senior Megan Cochran is a top thrower. Junior Maya Patterson and freshman Noel Frye lead the jumpers.
Volleyball team starts fast in first season
Coach Karlie Foy knew the boys volleyball team had potential entering its inaugural season, but she never expected a 4-2 start and a trophy to boot.
The Pioneers defeated Briggs 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 15-9 in their opener March 27. They also won their first tournament title by going 3-0 in the Raider Classic on April 7 at Reynoldsburg.
"It has been really cool to start off with the first win in program history and to get our first trophy that we can put in the showcase," said Foy, who has been an assistant with the girls program the past three seasons. "Everything is a first for us and it's great to be able to set the culture for the coming years."
At Reynoldsburg, Orange defeated Whetstone 25-8, 25-13, Westerville North 25-18, 23-25, 25-22 and Cincinnati Walnut Hills 25-21, 25-23 in the final.
"Every rally we have, we are learning and growing," Foy said. "We keep getting better every set we play."
The Pioneers' two losses came in OCC-Buckeye action. They lost to Liberty 25-11, 25-14, 25-22 on April 3 and Westerville Central 25-15, 25-20, 25-22 on April 5.
Starting for Orange are seniors Nick Cutler (middle hitter) and Garrett Runyon (right-side/outside hitter), junior Mason Sears (middle hitter) and freshmen Sam Cochran (setter/outside hitter), Lawton Hinley (libero), Luke Little (outside/middle hitter) and Jake Smith (setter/outside hitter).
Rounding out the roster are junior Alex Manngard (defensive specialist), sophomores Eduardo Franke de Oliveira (defensive specialist/setter) and Jake Mattingly (defensive specialist/setter) and freshmen Arman Faghihi (right-side hitter), Alex Heffner (defensive specialist), Zach McDonald (defensive specialist), Drew Morman (defensive specialist) and Cole Weisheimer (defensive specialist).
Boys tennis team aims to defend league title
The boys tennis team won the OCC-Buckeye title last spring, and sixth-year coach Matt Rutherford said his close-knit group should be in the mix for another championship.
The Pioneers finished 13-3 overall and 5-0 in the league last year.
"We have some guys who have played a long time and some guys who are learning to play varsity," Rutherford said. "They get along well and the more experienced players have been welcoming to the younger players."
Senior Jordan Phelps and junior Alex Heiden went 1-1 in doubles in the Division I district tournament a year ago. Heiden is at first singles with Phelps at second, while senior David Cavote and junior Zach Shaver also are playing singles.
In the doubles mix are senior Tejas Venkatachalam, junior Ben Thompson and freshmen Nick Bardash and Pranav Krishnan.
Also on varsity are seniors Mrugank Deodhar and Cameron Glassburn.
"I think we have some of our tougher matches coming up," Rutherford said. "We have had some good play from some of our younger players, and we weren't sure if they would play this well."
The Pioneers were 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Central on April 10. They defeated Liberty 4-1 on April 5 in league play, beat Hilliard Davidson 5-0 on April 6 and edged Pickerington Central 3-2 on April 9.
*April 5 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
April 6 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
April 9 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 10 -- at Westerville Central
*April 12 -- vs. Westerville South
April 16 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 17 -- vs. Olentangy
*April 19 -- at Westerville North
April 23 -- vs. Upper Arlington
April 24 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
April 26 -- vs. Columbus Academy
March 30 -- at Big Walnut
May 1 -- at Dublin Scioto
May 3 -- at Watterson
May 8 -- vs. Wellington
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Newark Invitational
April 4 -- vs. DeSales and Franklin Heights
April 9 -- vs. Olentangy
April 13 -- Elk Relays at Centerville
April 16 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
April 20 -- Freedom Relays at Liberty
April 23 -- at Delaware
April 27 -- Olentangy Invitational
April 30 -- vs. Dublin Scioto and Reynoldsburg
May 4 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at home
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at home
March 27 -- vs. Briggs
*April 3 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 5 -- at Westerville Central
April 7 -- Raider Classic at Reynoldsburg
*April 10 -- vs. Westerville South
*April 12 -- vs. Olentangy
April 13 -- vs. New Albany
*April 16 -- at Westerville North
April 18 -- at Thomas Worthington with Licking Heights
*April 19 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 21 -- vs. DeSales
*April 24 -- vs. Westerville Central
April 25 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy
*April 26 -- at Westerville South
*May 1 -- at Olentangy
May 2 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*May 3 -- vs. Westerville North
May 9 -- vs. Upper Arlington
May 10 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
May 15 -- OCC Challenge at Hilliard Darby
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and softball teams:
*April 13 -- At Westerville South
April 14 -- At Lakewood with Liberty Union
*April 16 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*April 18 -- At Olentangy
*April 12 -- At Olentangy
April 14 -- Home vs. Centerville
*April 17 -- At Olentangy Liberty
*April 12 -- Home vs. Olentangy
April 13 -- At Pickerington Central
*April 17 -- Home vs. Liberty
*April 12 -- At Westerville Central
April 14 -- At Marysville with DeSales
*April 16 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*April 18 -- Home vs. Olentangy