Although he didn't know it at the time, Avery Heath of the Upper Arlington High School boys track and field team was .24 of a second slower in the 200 meters during the Panther Invitational on April 6 at Hilliard Darby than he was in the same event at the same meet a year ago.

But last year, Heath wasn't running in a meet that started with sunny skies and a temperature of 50 degrees and ended with steady rain and a stiff north wind that dropped the wind chill into the 20s within a few hours -- nor was he running with the motivation that a Division I regional berth can provide.

Heath placed third in the 200 (23.91) at Darby to help lead the Golden Bears, who scored 44 points to finish seventh of eight teams, behind champion Hilliard Davidson (126), in their first invitational of the season.

Heath placed third in the 100 and fourth in the 200 in the district 2 meet last year at Darby, but finished 15th and 16th, respectively, in those events at regional. He was the Bears' only regional qualifier.

"I am not exactly where I want to be, but I am making faster progress this year than I was last year," said Heath, a senior who also plans to run the 400 and 800 relays and possibly the 400. "Conditioning-wise, I am doing the same things, but I have been better in the weight room and I'm more flexible this year, which is what my coaches have been pushing me to do. I am starting to see that help a lot.

"(Getting to regional) was a huge confidence boost. I have high expectations for myself and it's made me push myself a lot harder."

First-year coach Bryan Ferres expects points to come from across the board as contributors return in several events. Returnees include seniors John Castetter (throws), Eddie Greenlee (throws), Dexter Lewis (jumps, sprints), Dylan Lewis (jumps, sprints) and Garegin Soghomonyan (pole vault), juniors Jack Amling (distance) and Max Czerwonka (hurdles, jumps) and sophomore Ben Crespo (distance).

Soghomonyan was the OCC-Central Division champion last year in the pole vault.

Ferres, who was UA's throws coach last year, threw for Miami University from 2005-08. He replaced Otis Winston, who coached the Bears for one season.

"We have nice strength in numbers," Ferres said. "Our student-athletes are competing to get better each day against one another. Our field events and distance teams will score a lot of points, but our sprints are much improved from last year. At the end of the season, we should be at the top competing for a league championship."

UA opened March 27 by finishing first (85) in a home tri-meet ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (59) and St. Charles (19).

Other expected contributors include seniors Josh Greve (sprints), Thomas Harper (throws) and Colin Isenbarger (sprints), junior Thomas Richter (distance) and sophomore Sean McRae (throws).

McRae, whose father is former NFL offensive lineman Charles McRae, threw 47 feet, 3 inches in the shot put in the Panther Invitational.

Girls team returns two regional qualifiers

The girls track and field team returns both of its Division I regional qualifiers from a year ago in junior distance runner Heidi Heuerman and versatile sophomore Adrienne Wachtman, whose production will be especially important as the team gets healthy.

Senior Emma Zid won the 400 (1:01.37) and placed second in the 200 (27.51) in the Panther Invitational to lead UA, which scored 75 points to place fourth of eight teams as host Darby won (136).

Heuerman helped the distance medley relay place second (13:35.31) with senior Madeline Nichols, junior Elizabeth Clingan and freshman Sofia Sivilotti and finished fourth in the 800 (2:40.25) and fifth in the 3,200 (12:02.43).

"That is definitely not a time I am aiming for this season (in the 3,200), but after doing the 800 and the 1,600 (in the distance medley relay) in these conditions, I am just happy to finish and put it all out there," Heuerman said. "This is the most events I've ever done, but one of the reasons I am doing this is because we have some girls injured, so we are trying to fill the events and build a good aerobic base. It's not necessarily about getting great times right now. We are just trying to do the best we can in as many events as we can."

According to Heuerman, junior distance runners Eileen Dunn and Mallory Sharp are sidelined by various injuries but are expected to return within the next few weeks.

Wachtman, who was runner-up in the discus last year in the district 2 meet and finished 10th at regional, placed second in the discus (107-11), third in the high jump (5-0) and fourth in the shot put (31-11) in the Panther Invitational.

Heuerman finished 13th in the 3,200 at regional a year ago.

UA opened March 27 with a 99-56 win over Kilbourne.

Other expected contributors for seventh-year coach Latisha Wilder include seniors Kaila Borgards (throws) and Claire Schuler (throws), juniors Caroline Beery (pole vault) and Elizabeth Schueler (hurdles, sprints), sophomores Julianna Mustric (hurdles) and Ellen Sneed (jumps, sprints) and freshmen Adiah Bonham (jumps, sprints) and Addy Jay (hurdles, sprints).

Boys volleyball team out to fast start

Fourth-year boys volleyball coach Greg Holowchak hoped his team could get off to a strong start before OCC-Ohio play began.

Holowchak got even more than he expected, as the Bears were 6-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Gahanna on April 10.

With five returning starters leading a 10-member senior class, UA defeated Chillicothe 25-14, 25-21, 25-11 in its season opener March 28 and followed that up with a 25-12, 25-6, 25-12 win over New Albany two nights later.

The Bears then defeated Northland 25-16, 25-18, 25-12 on April 2 and Watterson 25-23, 25-18, 25-18 on April 4 before beating Dublin Coffman 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 27-25 in their league opener April 5 and Reynoldsburg 25-21, 25-12, 25-19 on April 9.

Seniors Chris Acock (middle hitter), Mark Bruns (right-side hitter/setter), Gage Giller (outside hitter), Peter Hoffmann (outside hitter) and Blake Swingle (right-side hitter) are back from last year, when the Bears finished 7-12 overall, went 1-9 in the OCC-Ohio and lost to Olentangy 25-13, 25-9, 25-19 in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament.

"We have a lot of seniors, so they know what to expect," Holowchak said. "Hopefully, they get some rust out of the way and get some confidence going. It's nice (to have older guys) because they know what's going on and they can help bring everybody else along."

The Bears resumed league play April 10 against Gahanna. Last season, UA finished sixth in the OCC-Ohio behind champion Hilliard Davidson (10-0).

Rounding out the roster are seniors Collin Crigger (outside hitter), Chandler Frenken (setter), Youssef Negm (libero), Grant Watson (libero) and Cam Williams (middle hitter) and juniors Omar Alghothani (outside hitter), Michael Edgington (right-side hitter) and Andrew Shapiro (right-side hitter).

"We've been passing better, especially on serve-receive and free balls. That's a big positive," Holowchak said. "We had some early (matches) we should have won, and we need to build off those. We need to maintain intensity, too.

"Hopefully, we can cut down on our mental errors. All in all, it's been a good start. We're back in the speed of the game and it's hard to mimic that in practice."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

TRACK & FIELD

March 27 -- vs. St. Charles and Worthington Kilbourne

April 6 -- Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby

April 10 -- at Thomas Worthington

April 14 -- Dublin Classic at Dublin Coffman

April 17 -- Hammond Relays at Hilliard Darby

April 20 -- Fulton Relays at Lancaster

April 27 -- Olentangy Invitational

May 1 -- at Dublin Coffman with Dublin Jerome

May 4 -- Larkin/Crosten Invitational at home

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

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

March 28 -- vs. Chillicothe

March 30 -- vs. New Albany

April 2 -- at Northland

April 4 -- vs. Watterson

*April 5 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

April 9 -- at Reynoldsburg

*April 10 -- vs. Gahanna

*April 12 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 17 -- at Pickerington Central

*April 19 -- vs. Pickerington North

April 23 -- vs. Northland

*April 24 -- at Dublin Coffman

April 26 -- vs. Reynoldsburg

*April 27 -- at Pickerington North

*May 1 -- at Gahanna

May 7 -- vs. DeSales

*May 8 -vs. Pickerington Central

May 9 -- at Olentangy Orange

*May 10 -- at Hilliard Davidson

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington baseball, crew, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and softball teams:

BASEBALL

*April 13 -- At Westland

April 14 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central and Thomas Worthington

*April 16 -- Home vs. Marysville

*April 18 -- At Marysville

CREW

April 14 -- Cincinnati High School Invitational at Harsha Lake

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 12 -- Home vs. Pickerington North

April 14 -- At Worthington Kilbourne

*April 17 -- Home vs. Newark

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 12 -- At Pickerington North

April 14 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Sycamore

SOFTBALL

*April 12 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

April 13 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome

*April 16 -- At Westland

*April 18 -- Home vs. Marysville

*League contest