Despite losing its three Division I state qualifiers to graduation, the Watkins Memorial High School boys track and field team expects to be deep and balanced this season.
“We were a balanced team last year and we are balanced again,” 36th-year coach Marty Dahlman said. “We can score in almost every event at almost every level of competition.”
Seniors Gerald Brewer (sprints), Jacob Gero (distance) and Daniel White (distance) are expected to lead the way.
The trio will be looked upon to help replace the points scored by 2016 graduates Andrew Jordan, Desmond Melson and Bobby Broomfield. After winning Division I regional titles in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 13.25 seconds) and 3,200 (9:05.36) a year ago, Jordan won the state title in the 3,200 (8:40) but chose not to compete in the 1,600 at state.
Melson placed third in the 400 (48.33) and Broomfield was 11th in the high jump (6 feet, 4 inches) at state, as the Warriors totaled 16 points to tie Lima Senior and Toledo St. John’s for 13th behind champion Cleveland St. Ignatius (52) as 72 teams scored.
At regional, White finished seventh in the 3,200 (9:29.75), Brewer placed eighth in the 300 hurdles (40.93), sophomore Bryce Small was ninth in the 800 (1:58.63) and the 1,600 relay of Brewer, senior Matt Eader, Melson and Small finished 14th (3:30.63).
“Gerald had a great indoor season, reaching the indoor state meet in the 110 hurdles and in the 400,” Dahlman said. “Daniel was an indoor state qualifier in the 3,200, and Bryce returns after a great freshman season.”
Small won a district title in the 800 (1:58.95) and Brewer and Eader were members of the 1,600 relay that ran a league-record 3:21.57 when the Warriors won 12 events to cruise to the LCL-Buckeye Division title.
Other sprinters include seniors Drew Taylor and Andrew Cornelius. In addition to both hurdles events, Brewer will compete in the 400. Joining Small in middle-distance events will be senior Jeremy McIntire.
Taylor and freshman Kyle Smith are expected to lead the Warriors in the long jump, senior Austin Burkhart will lead the team in throws and sophomore Austin Ballenger should be the team’s leader in the pole vault.
“Austin Burkhart was an indoor state qualifier in the weight throw and has already thrown personal bests in the shot and discus,” Dahlman said. “Austin Ballenger has inherited the Watkins pole vault tradition as a sophomore and has already cleared 12 feet.”
Distance corps, jumpers
to lead girls track team
The girls track and field team is expected to be led by its distance corps and jumpers this season.
Sophomore Andrea Kuhn has returned after finishing 12th in the 3,200 (11:10.53) in the Division I state meet last year. Seniors Raechal Schoenberger and Samantha Hyme and junior Chloe Cortes also are back in distance events.
Last season, Schoenberger placed ninth in the 1,600 (5:17.36) at regional after winning a district title (5:13.35), while Cortes was 11th in the 800 (2:26) at regional.
Another key returnee is senior Lindsey Finnegan, who finished 13th in the high jump (4-10) at regional.
“We’ve got a bunch of distance girls who should score regularly and then I’m guessing Lindsey and (junior) Karissa Hyme will score in jumps,” ninth-year coach Nathan Corum said. “I think our strength lies in the jumps and the distance group. We have a lot of talent and depth in these areas. Hopefully, we will complement that well in other places on the track.”
Senior Emily Cox will provide depth in the jumps, senior Theresa LaGreca has returned in the pole vault and junior McKayla Biniker is expected to lead in throws.
Finnegan also will compete in middle-distance events along with senior Hastings Marek and junior Makenzie Westbrook, while Karissa Hyme also will compete in hurdles along with freshman Kenzie Robinson.
Senior Lynor Wilson and juniors Tomea Abbitt and Jessie Frierson are expected to lead the Warriors in the sprint events.
“We are a young team in general, but we have some individuals with a lot of experience to help lead the overall team,” Corum said. “I am excited to see how the team grows over the course of the season.”
Baseball team relying
on pitching depth
The baseball team is relying on pitching and defense in an effort to bounce back from last season, when it finished 7-14 overall and 5-8 in the LCL-Buckeye.
“I believe our overall strength will be arms we have for the mound,” 14th-year coach Don Schone said. “We have not proven that yet this season, but I am confident that our arms will help us down the road.”
The Warriors have five seniors, including pitchers Hunter Mills, Jake Hulse and Trey Bauer.
Junior pitcher Austin Dzierwa also has returned and is joined on the mound by classmates James Bailey, Drake Bauer, Thomas Gallant, Zach Schone and Ben Sexton and sophomore Jeremiah Cangelosi.
Zach Schone, the coach’s son, was named second-team all-league last season and Bailey was honorable mention all-league.
Watkins Memorial was 1-4 overall and 1-0 in the league after beating Utica 5-0 on April 5.
“I feel good about our team even with the slow start,” coach Schone said. “We will play good defense and we will get good quality starts from our pitchers. The hitting will come and the energy is high from this team, which is very good. I am very encouraged by the work ethic this team brings every day.”
Softball team boasts
Despite losing three key starters to graduation, the softball team has returned a lot of experience.
“We’ve got six or seven seniors who will contribute daily and four of them (will be) fourth-year letterwinners,” fourth-year coach Mike Jellison said. “They’ve been here long enough and can show the leadership to the younger girls, especially how to live the motto of winning the day. We need to compete hard day in and day out and focus on going 1-0 that day. Yesterday and tomorrow don’t matter.”
Jessica Sargeant (2B/SS), Baylee Small (3B/OF), Miranda Warner (C/2B) and Kelli Wright (OF/C) are three-year returning letterwinners. The other seniors are Rachel Abel (OF/2B), Brooke Houston (1B/designated player) and Katie Kirk (OF).
Junior Carly Brandon (P/SS) returns to the circle and classmate Sidney Williams (designated player/3B/1B) is expected to be a big offensive producer once she returns from an early-season injury.
Key newcomers include freshmen Chiane Davis (P/3B), Emily Irwin (OF) and Hannah Moore (2B/OF).
“Carly is our No. 1 pitcher and our best hitter,” said Jellison, whose team was 3-2 overall an 1-0 in the LCL-Buckeye after beating Utica 9-3 on April 5. “She’s going to have a big season. She will keep us in games and we expect to have a lot of low-scoring games. We also have a phenomenal defense behind our pitchers.
“Chiane is a very good pitcher, player and a great hitter, too. It’ll be exciting to see how our freshmen develop and mix in with our great senior leadership.”
Clear twins to lead
boys tennis team
Sophomores Braden Clear and Bryce Clear have returned to lead the boys tennis team and will fill the top two singles positions, respectively.
“Bryce and Braden are identical twins and very similar players,” 13th-year coach Shawn Walter said. “They are improving on groundstrokes and volleys and have huge serves. When they are serving well, they can compete with many of the top players around.”
Braden Clear went 16-6 last season and Bryce Clear was 15-7.
Walter has toughened the schedule, meaning the Warriors could have trouble matching last year’s 16-3 finish, which set the program record for victories.
“With our depth and what we accomplished last year, we have put more challenges in the schedule,” Walter said. “Our No. 1 goal is to be the best team in Licking County. We also want to win both doubles tournaments that we play in and get at least one player to (the Division I) district (tournament).”
The Warriors split their first two matches, defeating Hartley 3-2 on April 3 and losing to Westerville North 5-0 on April 5.
Watkins Memorial did not have any district qualifiers last season. Junior Gavin Hollett and Sergio Santalla, an exchange student, reached a district-qualifying match in doubles before losing. Santalla has since returned to Spain.
Also returning are juniors Michael Cisar and Aaron Burd and sophomore Asa Jessup.
In the first two matches, sophomore Simon Blum played at third singles, Hollett and Cisar were at first doubles and Jessup and junior Murphy Weller played second doubles.
“We’ve got good depth, we go at least eight strong, and our Nos. 9-16 would have played some varsity for us in years past,” Walter said. “This also is one of the most athletic teams I have coached.”