One of the most important issues for Pickerington High School North boys track and field coach Dave Spring has been preparation.

One of the most important issues for Pickerington High School North boys track and field coach Dave Spring has been preparation.

With 118 athletes, trying to remember names and getting to know newcomers has been a chore in itself -- but not one about which he's complaining.

"We have a real solid team," Spring said. "With our numbers, you've definitely got to be organized. We lost some great seniors from last year but we didn't lose a lot of guys who scored big points."

The top returnee is sophomore Michael Ballentine, who was 13th in the Division I state meet in the high jump (6 feet, 4 inches) after winning the OCC-Central Division title (6-4).

He is joined in the field events by seniors Jairus Campbell (shot put, discus), Matt Hatcher (high jump), Brian Lemaster (pole vault), John Pinkens (long jump) and Nathan Shumway (shot put, discus), sophomore Alex Huddel (shot put, discus) and freshman Demantis Okafor (long jump).

In the league meet last year, the Panthers scored 142 points to earn their fourth consecutive title as Lemaster was second in the pole vault (12-6) and Shumway was first in the discus (154-4).

Graduate Nathan Corder, now running for Alabama, was eighth at state in the 3,200 meters (9 minutes, 27.08 seconds). He scored North's only point as it tied for 68th behind champion Cleveland Heights (44).

Classmate Patrick Hazelwood was fifth in his heat in the 300 hurdles (39.62).

Back to lead the distance corps are seniors Blake Golden and Jeremy Lascola and juniors Greg Black, Daniel Garleb, Brian Green and Nick Hissrich. Garleb was second in the 3,200 (9:36.88) in the district 1 meet where North was second (74) behind Gahanna (142.5).

Seniors Ryan Hunt, Patrick Lee and Jon Tims are the leaders in the 400 and should run on the 1,600 relay. Last year at district, Tims was third in the 400 (49.87) and joined Lee, Hunt and graduate Pat Effinger on the second-place 1,600 relay (3:24.9). Effinger is running at Denison.

Seniors Sean Neal, Alfred Roberts and Justin Young are the top sprinters and juniors Chad Benson, Zack Justice, Shane O'Connell and Evan Wang are the top hurdlers.

North, which now is in the OCC-Ohio with Pickerington Central, Gahanna, Reynoldsburg, Groveport, Newark, Lancaster and Grove City, was eighth (25) in the regional behind champion Gahanna (77).

"I think we've got a lot of balance this year," Spring said. "We've got a nice freshman class, and some of them can make an impact."

•The girls team has about 90 athletes, including a group of seniors led by Emily Fetterman (distance), Shiara Robinson (sprints) and Amy Williamson (sprints, pole vault).

Sophomores Zena Kolliesuah and Bria Booker, who were among the state competitors last year along with Robinson, also are back.

"Our senior class last year was phenomenal," coach Jim Langenderfer said of a group that included state-competitors Samie Corbin (300 hurdles, 1,600 relay), Jordan Gardner (100, 400 relay, 800 relay), Meggie Hanzlik (pole vault) and Sam Iden (1,600 relay). "We lost a lot of experience, but I think we're a more athletic team this year. I would say our sprinters (are) the backbone of our team and our shot and discus girls are a stronger group this year."

Kolliesuah won the 100 (12.33) at the OCC-Central meet as North scored 170.5 points to win its third title in four years. At state, she competed in the 100 (fifth in heat, 12.62) and on the 800 relay (fifth in heat, 1:41.65) and 1,600 relay (seventh in heat, 3:59.7).

Kolliesuah was joinedÊon the 800 relay by Robinson and Booker and on the 1,600 relay by Booker. Robinson was sixth in her heat of the 200 (25.98).

Junior Emily Shevelow is another returning sprinter. Sophomores Julianne Ballog and Ani Manukian are among the hurdlers.

Leading the distance corps are freshmen Gabby Thacker and Meg Moledor, sophomores Kim Black and Morgan Grodesky and junior Kayla Byler. Juniors Caitlin Hughes and Katie Klopp are the leaders in the 800.

Also in field events are seniors Sarah Estep (pole vault), Jade Holmes (shot put), Mena Malimar (shot put, discus), Catherine Mathews (shot put) and Taylor Stitt (shot put), junior Savanna Swann (high jump) and sophomores Jordan Householder (high jump), Lindsey Logsdon (high jump) and Katie Rini (high jump).

Other seniors include Amy Williamson (sprints, pole vault), Rachel Snedegar (sprints, high jump) and Akina Tchalim.

Last year, North finished second (120.33) behind Reynoldsburg (135) in the district 3 meet and second (61) behind the Raiders (109) at the regional.

Hanzlik, who is competing at Ohio State, was fifth at state in the pole vault (11-8) to score four points for North as it placed tied for 50th behind champion Cleveland Heights Beaumont (62).

"I feel good about the season," Langenderfer said. "We're definitely going to be competing."

At a glance

•Coach: Boys -- Dave Spring, second season; Girls -- Jim Langenderfer, sixth season

•Opener: Saturday in Hammond Relays at Pickerington Central

•Key athletes: Boys -- Michael Ballentine, Jairus Campbell, Daniel Garleb, Blake Golden, Ryan Hunt, Pat Lee, Brian Lemaster, Nathan Shumway and Jon Tims; Girls -- Bria Booker, Emily Fetterman, Caitlin Hughes, Zena Kolliesuah, Shiara Robinson, Gabby Thacker and Amy Williamson