With the return of several key athletes, Westland High School track and field coach Tim Eckard believes his boys team is looking at "good things" this season and beyond.

With the return of several key athletes, Westland High School track and field coach Tim Eckard believes his boys team is looking at "good things" this season and beyond.

The Cougars failed to qualify an athlete for the Division I regional meet last season, but Eckard believes they have the potential to get there this spring.

"We want to continue to get better, and we also want to continue to represent Westland and build respect in our league," said Eckard, who is in his 11th season. "We want people to respect us and they know they just can't walk over us anymore. I think we've established that. We want to continue to get better, and if we continue to build respect in the league, I think good things will happen."

Westland opened by competing March 31 in the Falcon Invitational at Fairfield Union. The Cougars will play host Tuesday, April 3, to Grove City Christian and Madison Christian.

Eckard expects senior Chris Butcher to be a key contributor. Butcher will compete in the sprints and relays.

Junior Justin Pettis will compete in the discus and shot put.

Juniors Ryan Weber (jumps) and Dayon Walton (sprints/hurdles/throws) also are expected to contribute.

Also returning are sophomore sprinters Kris Davis, Erick Martinez, Giann Martinez and Connor Scott. Erick Martinez and Giann Martinez are not related.

Davies, Scott, Erick Martinez and Giann Martinez comprised the 400- and 800-meter relays last season.

"They were the (400 and 800 relays) last year and we called them the 'Fab Four,'" Eckard said. "They're back. They're working hard and getting better."

Last season, the Cougars finished eighth (13 points) in the OCC-Central Division meet behind champion and host Hilliard Davidson (170.5), Dublin Coffman (158.5), Thomas Worthington (129.5), Hilliard Darby (96.5), Upper Arlington (49), Central Crossing (20) and Worthington Kilbourne (19).

Westland was 15th (2) in the district 2 meet at Hilliard Bradley behind champion Davidson (109).

The Cougars lost six athletes from a year ago to graduation, including Jose J. Rodriguez, who accounted for the team's points at district by finishing seventh (42.48 seconds) in the 300 hurdles.

Senior Jackie Barnhart, who specializes in the discus, should lead the girls track and field team.

"I expect good things from her," Eckard said. "She's been throwing really well this year. We're fine-tuning some of her things in the circle and it's really paying off so far. She'll definitely be a contender for making regionals."

Last season, Barnhart was third (95 feet, 10 inches) in the league meet and sixth (89-1) in the district 1 meet. The top four in each district event advanced to regional.

"A perfect ending would be hopefully getting to a state track meet and placing," Barnhart said. "I've never been to a state meet, but it's been my goal my four years to get there. We have a pretty good team this year and we all get along fairly well."

Other key athletes are seniors Esther Blamo (sprints) and Courtney Henderson (distance), juniors Kacey Hill (discus/shot put), Sydney Lutz (discus) and Odunayo Shobo (sprints) and sophomores Sasha Bouaroy (sprints/hurdles) and Haylee Brown (distance).

Last season, Westland was eighth (10) in the league meet behind Coffman (164.5), Davidson (131), UA (100), Darby (88), Thomas (84.5), Kilbourne (55) and Central Crossing (26).

The Cougars were 14th (3) at district behind champion Coffman (152).

"We've made strides and we continue to get better, and we represent Westland and the community in a very positive light," Eckard said of his teams. "That's the thing I've been the most proud of over my time is we've never disgraced the school or disgraced the west side. We've always represented ourselves with dignity, class and more than wins and losses for me. That probably says a lot."

•The boys tennis team is looking to improve on last season's 6-14 overall record.

Westland opened by losing to Whetstone 3-2 on March 27 and Ready 3-2 on March 28, both at home.

Against Whetstone, winners for Westland were seniors Stan Bilyk at second singles (6-2, 6-2) and Bogdan Lysyuk at third singles (6-4, 6-1).

Against Ready, winners were senior Dylan Clanin at first singles (6-1, 6-0) and Bilyk at second singles (6-3, 6-2).

Also back are senior Devante Stevens and juniors Tarrell Dixon and Mike Carrico.

Bilyk, Clanin and Lysyuk are four-year players. Clanin is the captain.

"After the seniors who have been with me for four years, it's pretty inexperienced," said coach Dan Witteman, who is in his 41st season.

Westland, which played Circleville on March 29, will open league play at home against Davidson on Monday, April 2.

"We've been having good practices, but it's still early," Witteman said. "I've been very pleased with the guys that have come out and the way they're playing, especially the seniors."

Last season, the Cougars won their final four matches and finished seventh (10 points, 1-6) in the OCC-Central behind UA (82, 7-0), Thomas (60, 6-1), Coffman (59, 5-2), Davidson (41, 4-3), Kilbourne (40, 3-4) and Darby (27, 2-5) and ahead of Central Crossing (1, 0-7).

Westland defeated Central Crossing 5-0.