Coming off a season in which the New Albany High School girls track and field team had its best performance in the Division I state meet, coach Otis Winston already seems just as excited about this year's possibilities.

Coming off a season in which the New Albany High School girls track and field team had its best performance in the Division I state meet, coach Otis Winston already seems just as excited about this year's possibilities.

"I believe this is going to be my youngest team, but these girls are very talented and they're going to take us places," said Winston, who is in his fifth season. "It's a special group."

Still, last season will be a challenge to top. After signing with the University of Miami (Fla.), Taneisha Cordell capped her career by winning the 800 meters at state in a meet-record time of 2 minutes, 7.35 seconds. She also won the state title in that event as a sophomore at Reynoldsburg.

Cordell and fellow 2011 graduate Mycah Mason led the 3,200 relay to a fourth-place finish (9:15.7) as the Eagles tied for 11th (15 points) at state behind champion Reynoldsburg (47), and Mason was 11th in the 300 hurdles (45.18).

The Eagles finished seventh (29) in the regional meet behind champion Reynoldsburg (88) and were fourth (72) in the district 2 meet won by Pickerington Central (126). They finished third (86) in the OCC-Capital Division meet behind Watkins Memorial (152.5) and Big Walnut (119) and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (85), Mount Vernon (64), Franklin Heights (63.5), Olentangy Orange (59) and Delaware (27).

"As always, we expect to start off maybe a little slow, but we're hoping to finish strong again," said Winston, whose team opens Saturday, April 7, in the Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North. "We're seeing a lot of growth already."

Junior Mirra Galbreath returns from the 3,200 relay and appears to be healthier than she was a year ago, Winston said. Sophomore Eliza Matt was an alternate on that relay and ran with the regional-qualifying 1,600 relay (sixth, 4:00.97). Junior Hannah Inman and sophomore Alex Dunn were part of the regional-qualifying 800 relay (sixth, 1:44.48).

Winston said he has 49 girls out and that the competition for relay spots is expected to be fierce, especially with a large group of freshmen expected to contribute. One in particular to watch is sprinter Karrington Pettiford-Winters, who placed third in the 400 (57.03) and eighth in the 200 (26.27) in the indoor state meet March 17 at the University of Akron. The Eagles also are expected to be strong in the distance events, and sophomore Catherine Ralston is in that mix.

"No spot is secure," Winston said of his relays.

Other contributors are expected to include seniors Kaci Gundin, Olivia Gundin, Lakshmi Dasari and Stephanie Zhong, juniors Erica Blankemeyer and Cynthia Cox and sophomores Ama Karanteng, Christina Shoemaker, Dena White and Kelci Pettiford-Winters. Winston said senior Bryana Zuiderweg and junior Haley McLellan are dealing with injuries but that he is hopeful they both will be able to compete at some point.

Boys team has 'the horses' to win

The boys team also had a state champion last spring when 2011 graduate Drew Windle won the 800 meters (1:51.94) as the Eagles tied for 22nd (10) behind champion Cincinnati LaSalle (36). Windle now is competing at Ashland, where he earned two All-American honors during the indoor season. Also departing were 2011 graduates Blake Taneff, who was 11th at state in the 3,200 (9:54.29) and Travon Bodrick, who was 11th in the long jump (21 feet, 8 1/4 inches).

"When you lose three quality kids like them, it's huge," fourth-year coach Chad Olinger said. "But we probably have the most talent top to bottom we've ever had. I've been telling the boys there are 17 events, but that we have the horses to win 15 of them at the conference meet."

The Eagles finished second (155) in last year's OCC-Capital meet behind Watkins Memorial (156) and ahead of Big Walnut (103), Bradley (82), Orange (60), Franklin Heights (41), Mount Vernon (36) and Delaware (27). They were fourth (64) in the district 1 meet behind champion Thomas Worthington (87) and tied for third (33) at regional as Thomas and Westerville North (37 each) shared the title.

Senior Kraig Manion returns from the regional-qualifying 3,200 relay (fifth, 8:02.04) while senior Adam Bodrick and junior Alan Watson return from the regional-qualifying 400 relay (sixth, 43.56). Senior Sebastian Matt was a regional qualifier in the 1,600 (ninth, 4:27.17).

Senior Daniel Emery also competes in the sprints and sprint relays, classmate Chad Guy is among several strong high jumpers, sophomore Alex Frye is the top hurdler and sophomore Daniel Plescia is the top thrower. Frye placed third in the high jump (6-4) in the state indoor meet.

The Eagles have 76 boys on this year's team led by a deep group of juniors. Others expected to contribute include juniors Austin Bach, Jacob Gigliotti, Darren Lee and C.J. Stringer, sophomore Leslie Anokye and freshman Zack Buck.

"We did pretty well indoors, so we're ready to go," said Olinger, whose team opened April 4 at DeSales and will join the girls in the Stingel Invitational. "We're very excited to get going."