The Thomas Worthington High School boys track and field team is coming off its third Division I state championship.
The Cardinals also won regional, district and OCC-Cardinal Division titles last season.
That squad included several 2017 graduates who left their marks on the program.
"We lost a lot of talent off of last year's state championship team," fifth-year coach Bill Darling said. "We do, however, have a lot of young talent that we have faith in. We expect to be a very competitive team once the championship season comes around."
The Cardinals scored 36 points in the state meet at Ohio State to edge runner-up Gahanna (31) as 80 teams scored. They scored in seven of the eight events in which they competed.
Among the key returnees are seniors Arjun Jha, Khalil Jones and Andy Payne.
Last year at state, Jha teamed with 2017 graduates Ty Banks, Joshua Allen and Andrew Morgan to win the 3,200-meter relay in a school-record 7 minutes, 39.86 seconds and placed second in the 1,600 (4:09.09). Jones finished fifth in the long jump (23 feet, 3 inches) and Payne placed seventh in the 3,200 (9:20.02).
"Arjun holds school records in the 1,600 (4:09.09), the 3,200 (9:11.8) and is one of the best (distance) runners in the state, and Andy is one of the best two-milers in central Ohio," Darling said. "We know we will be strong in the distance area with Andy and Arjun and they will be among our top scorers.
"Khalil is trying to come back from a torn ACL in football. He was out for indoors, but we are counting on him to be a big contributor. He has been working very hard with our trainers to get ready. (In addition to) the long jump, he was all-regional in the 300 hurdles. We really need to have Khalil back."
Thomas also is counting on senior DeKarey Williams to step up in the sprints and sophomore Zubin Jha to add depth in the distance and middle distance events.
"DeKarey is going to be very important to us this year," Darling said. "He's always been a hard worker and contributor, but this year we need him to help lead the sprint crew. This is his year to shine.
"We really need our sprinters to develop. Our coaches are very impressed with the young talent we have. They need to keep working hard and they will be capable of great things."
Darling also expects sophomore James Gaiters to be a key contributor in the sprints.
"He was a state qualifier in the (1,600 relay) this winter and he is going to be a big part of our program for the next few years," Darling said.
Other key athletes include seniors John Kennedy and Kevin Schlichting in the pole vault, junior Devin Houdek in the throws and sophomore Keegan Ballantyne in the middle distance events.
Napoleon to lead girls track team
The girls team track and field team returns two Division I state qualifiers in junior Gia Napoleon and sophomore Cassidy Shaver.
Last year at state, Napoleon won the 800 in 2:07.47, marking the fourth-fastest time in Division I state-meet history. The Cardinals totaled 11 points at state to tie three teams for 19th behind champion Cincinnati Withrow (58) as 62 teams scored.
Andy Cox, who is in his sixth season as girls coach after guiding the boys program for 15 years, is excited about this season.
"(Napoleon) will continue to work toward defending (the 800) in the postseason," he said.
Napoleon also was on the 3,200 relay that placed eighth (9:14.63) at state with Shaver and 2017 graduates Christina Nash and Hannah Moulton.
"We are hoping to continue to improve on last year's successes," Cox said. "The goal is always to qualify all four relays to the state championships. We gained valuable experience during the indoor season for our newest team members."
Other key returnees in the distance and middle distance events are senior Haddie Lawler, junior Olivia Burrell and sophomores Chloe Engel and Lydia Miller. Freshmen Morgan Edwards and Carina Napoleon also are expected to be significant contributors.
"Carina will join her sister in the 3,200 and 1,600 relays and continue to showcase her ability in the 1,600 after a strong cross country season," Cox said.
Senior Jazzlynn Gaiters will lead the sprint corps and receive help from classmate Kyndal Williams, juniors Sarah Charley and Allyicia Diggs-Hall and freshman Anasia Parks-Morris.
"Jazzlynn is our school record holder in the 400, is coming off her best season in basketball and is hoping to continue that during the outdoor season this spring," Cox said. "Sarah has taken our team theme this year of 'Focus, Believe, Achieve' to heart. She continues to challenge herself in multiple events, including long jump and all three sprint relays."
Other key athletes include junior Bre Beatty, sophomore Hannah Scott and freshman Emma Christensen in the hurdles, senior Lauren Hitt and sophomore Rylee Cannon in the throws, Charley, Williams junior Tylisha Roy, sophomore Mia Jablonski and freshman Jada Stephens in the jumps and Jablonski and senior Alix Steele in the pole vault.
Also expected to be a major contributor is junior Chase DeGraffinreed.
"Chase is a newcomer who continues to impress the coaches with her versatility in the sprint events," Cox said. "The team is building on the depth of the sprint corps, which should combine with the experience of the distance team and hopefully that will be evident in the postseason."
Britz back to lead boys tennis team
Junior Kai Britz is looking to take the next step this season for the boys tennis team.
Britz lost in the second round of the Division I district tournament last season. He had reached district by placing second in the sectional at Reynoldsburg.
Britz was the lone district qualifier a year ago for Thomas, which finished 9-7 overall and went 2-4 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Kilbourne and Bradley for fourth behind champion Dublin Jerome (6-0).
"We've got a handful of guys back and that should help, although our strength of schedule is as high as any team in central Ohio," second-year coach Andrew Sinclair said. "Kai is going to be even better this year, as are several of the boys."
Also returning are juniors JunSung Park and Aaron Zeller and sophomores Deep Gupta and Steve Jackman.
Britz is at first singles, freshman Will Newberry is at second singles and Jackman is at third singles. Zeller and Gupta are paired at first doubles and Park is expected to be a staple at second doubles, where he will play with junior Xander King, sophomore Mitch Button or freshman Ryley Briones.
The Cardinals lost two postseason starters from a year ago to graduation in Luke Bobay and Myung Ho Chung.
Thomas was 3-2 overall before playing Gahanna on April 11 and is 2-0 in the league.
The Cardinals defeated Whetstone 5-0 in their opener March 23, lost to St. Charles 4-1 on March 26 and fell to Wellington 5-0 on April 2 before defeating Delaware 4-1 on April 5 and Bradley 5-0 on April 6.
Their league match against Jerome on April 3 was postponed because of bad weather.
March 23 -- vs. Whetstone
March 26 -- at St. Charles
April 2 -- vs. Wellington
*April 3 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*April 5 -- at Delaware
*April 6 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
April 11 -- vs. Gahanna
*April 12 -- at Dublin Scioto
April 16 -- at Westerville Central
*April 17 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*April 19 -- at Kilbourne
April 21 -- Hilliard Davidson Doubles Classic
April 24 -- at Olentangy Orange
April 26 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 28 -- Worthington Cup at home
May 1 -- vs. Columbus Academy
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Newark Invitational
April 7 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North
April 14 -- Dublin Classic at Dublin Coffman
April 28 -- Gary Smith Invitational at home
May 1 -- at Kilbourne
May 3 -- Wildcat Invitational at Westerville South
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Dublin Coffman
Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys volleyball teams:
April 14 -- At Upper Arlington with Pickerington Central
April 17 -- Home vs. Watkins Mem-orial
*April 12 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
*April 17 -- At Dublin Scioto
*April 12 -- At Jerome
April 14 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame
*April 18 -- Home vs. Scioto
*April 12 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
*April 16 -- At Kilbourne
*April 18 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*April 12 -- Home vs. Darby
April 16 -- Home vs. Eastmoor Academy and Whetstone
*April 17 -- At Kilbourne
April 18 -- Home vs. Licking Heights and Olentangy Orange