There is a common goal among the members of the Westerville South High School girls track and field team.

There is a common goal among the members of the Westerville South High School girls track and field team.

After failing to qualify an athlete for the Division I state meet last year, the Wildcats hope to return to the event this spring.

"We want to go to states," said senior Alex Hall, who competes in the sprints and long jump. "We all have to work together, believe in each other, trust each other."

In addition to Hall, other key returnees include seniors Nikia Buckingham (sprints/high jump), Leija Harris (sprints) and Abbey McDonald (sprints) and sophomore Tara Thompson (middle distance).

That group nearly reached state last season.

In the regional at Pickerington North, Buckingham, Hall, Harris and McDonald finished fifth in the 400-meter relay (49.49 seconds) and Buckingham, Hall, Harris and Thompson were fifth in the 800 relay (1:44.26). The top four finishers in each regional event qualified for state.

The Wildcats received a glimpse of their early progress this season while competing March 24 in the opening Hammond Relays at Pickerington Central.

South finished third (63 points) in the seven-team field, behind Pickerington Central (84) and Pickerington North (83) and ahead of Canal Winchester (54), Reynoldsburg (54), Lancaster (51) and Marysville (40).

"We're so, so young," 29th-year coach Jim Gaul said. "I think the top kids that we have are going to compete really well, but with the depth that we have it's going to be difficult."

Others looking to contribute are seniors Sydney Brown (hurdles) and Tori Fout (throws), juniors Tiffany Pentello (throws), Keagan Richard (distance) and Olivia Watkins (hurdles/high jump), sophomores Dai'meer Bryant (middle distance), Aleah Carey (high jump/sprints), Amaria Estes (hurdles), Phoebe Nkansah-Wiafe (throws), Mariya Robinson (hurdles/jumps), Jada Smoot (sprints) and Caryn Snide (pole vault) and freshmen Paichence Carter (sprints) and Lauren Frank (distance).

While team members have set a goal of reaching state, Gaul said: "We really haven't thrown any goals out there like winning the league. Our goals are going to be specific week to week and it's going to be more individual goal-wise. We'll let the team part take care of itself."

Last season, South finished fourth (75.33) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet at Pickerington North behind Dublin Scioto (150), Olentangy (116) and Westerville North (78) and ahead of Olentangy Liberty (73), Westerville Central (65.33), Dublin Jerome (56) and Marysville (48.33).

The Wildcats were seventh (53.5) in the district 4 meet at Hamilton Township behind champion Hilliard Davidson (110) and tied Dresden Tri-Valley and Mount Vernon for 24th (8) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (88).

At district, Harris, Hall, Buckingham and McDonald won the 400 relay (49.88).

Boys looking to state meet

The boys team opened by finishing fourth (59) in the Hammond Relays behind Pickerington North (110), Pickerington Central (68) and Lancaster (66) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (58), Canal Winchester (50) and Marysville (23).

The team is looking to be represented at state after failing to qualify an athlete last season.

"We want all of our athletes to maximize their potential this spring and we have a solid group whose potential is all-state caliber," said fourth-year coach Jimmy Gaul, the son of Jim Gaul.

South returns several key athletes, including junior Myles Collier, who will compete in sprints and relays.

"We're looking good this year," Collier said. "Our whole (800 relay) is back and the (1,600 relay) should be good this year. We have most of the people back and the (400 relay) should be good, too. All the sprint relays should be good this year. We love the relays."

The senior class features Kelly Carter (sprints), Mitchell Gerhart (distance) and Charles McLemore (sprints/jumps).

Last year at regional, Carter was sixth (50.18) in the 400.

Others looking to contribute are juniors Kyle Arens (hurdles/jumps), Richard Dahome (hurdles), Jack Dunlope (distance), Kevin Lam (pole vault), Noah Prentiss (sprints), Jordan Rodriguez (throws) and West Wheeler (pole vault), sophomores Andrew Armstrong (hurdles), Jackson Bandy (distance), Torrodd Carter (sprints), Darien Miller (sprints) and Curtis Mitchell (throws) and freshman Murphy Coan (sprints).

Kelly and Torrodd Carter are brothers, and Paichence Carter is their sister.

Last season, the Wildcats finished sixth (66.25) in the league meet behind Westerville Central (126.5), Olentangy (104.5), Liberty (102), Westerville North (90) and Marysville (72.25) and ahead of Scioto (49.5) and Jerome (44).

South finished 10th (37) in the district 2 meet at Hilliard Bradley behind champion Hilliard Davidson (109) and tied Marietta and Vincent Warren for 32nd (3) at regional behind co-champions Thomas Worthington and Westerville North (37).

The Wildcats lost 16 athletes to graduation, including Ray Ball, who is playing football at the University of Wisconsin.