Judging by her performances early this season, Ariana Coleman of the Canal Winchester High School girls track and field team is eager to make up for lost time -- and distances.
The junior missed all but the Indians' first few meets last season because of a sprained left hip flexor but already is back to within eight inches of the long jump school record she set as a freshman. Coleman leapt 16 feet, 10 3/4 inches in the season-opening Hammond Relays on March 26 at Pickerington Central and has her sights set on bettering the mark of 17-6 she reached in consecutive weeks as a freshman at both the OCC-Cardinal Division and Division I, district 1 meets.
She was undefeated as a freshman until placing seventh at regional.
"We're better than last year so far with our times and distances. I'd give myself a 'B' so far," said Coleman, who was recovered enough this winter to play basketball. "I'm still coming off my injury and I'm nervous about that. I haven't been 100 percent, but I think I can get there."
Coleman, who also said she will compete in the 100 meters as well as the 400 and 1,600 relays, will be counted on as one of the leaders of a team fifth-year coach Darren Avery said features balance in several events and all four classes.
"We focus a lot on trying to build team chemistry, and it is taking effect. They're excited about what they are doing," Avery said. "I can't pick out a specific class (that stands out). We're seeing good stuff out of every grade level. We have great new kids and some solid veterans coming in strong. We're healthy at this point, too."
Senior Erica Babusci, a University of Pittsburgh recruit, returns in the hurdles as well as sprints and jumps. Babusci finished 10th at state in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore but did not qualify as a junior.
Led by wins from its 800 relay (1 minute, 47.55 seconds) and shuttle medley relay (1:54.39), the Indians scored 78 points in the Hammond Relays to finish third of seven teams, behind champion Lancaster (112).
Canal Winchester defeated Lancaster 66-52 in a home dual March 27. The Indians won the 400 relay (56.7), 800 relay (1:59.5) and 1,600 relay (4:37.8) as well as six individual events, including victories for freshman Avery Huntzinger in the 100 hurdles (18.4) and 200 (29.8).
Avery also is encouraged by early performances from senior thrower Emily Clubb as well as the distance unit that includes seniors Katelyn Genther and Kassidy Pastor, sophomore Cassie Kolonchuk and freshmen Bonnie Butler and Allena Klamorick.
"They are working their tails off," Avery said. "It's great to see some good starts from them."
Other expected contributors include seniors N'Daia Hamilton (sprints) and Kaitlyn Swearingen (pole vault), junior Alexis Johnson (jumps, sprints), sophomores Shalea Byrd (sprints, jumps), Taylor Davie (hurdles, sprints), Jasmond Elious (sprints), Jaedyn Johnson (jumps, sprints) and Angela Postage (hurdles, sprints) and freshman Christiana Jordan (sprints).
"We have a lot of fast sprinters. They will definitely give us an advantage, and we have some solid distance runners," Coleman said. "We'll be good in a lot of events."
Boys track team seeking leaders
With a record 67 athletes in his program, sixth-year boys track and field coach Kurtis Robinson said he is not depending on any one person to replace the production lost to graduation from Lonzell Feagin, who singlehandedly placed the Indians third in last year's Division I state meet.
Feagin won state titles in the 100 and 400, was runner-up in the 200 and placed eighth in the long jump to score 29 points, seven behind champion Thomas Worthington. Feagin now competes at Pittsburgh.
"No one will be able to reach what Lonzell did, at least not yet," Robinson said. "He's probably one of the most prolific sprinters in Ohio track history. The responsibility will be spread among everybody. Everybody will have to help pick up the slack."
Early leaders have emerged, however, including seniors Gibby Cornett (sprints), Clayton Howard (sprints), Harrison Landis (distance) and Torrance Thomas (hurdles, jumps, sprints), junior Zack Akarri (sprints) and sophomores Dom Davis (hurdles, sprints, jumps) and Tyler Toledo (sprints).
Davis placed second in both the high jump (5-10) and long jump (18-9 1/4) at the Hammond Relays and helped the 440 shuttle hurdle relay to first place (1:10.36) as Canal Winchester finished sixth (53) of seven teams, behind champion Gahanna (100).
Davis also will compete in the 300 hurdles and 400 this season.
"I'm about where I want to be at this point of the season, so I can push myself later on and get closer to the school record," Davis said of the high jump. "We lost a great runner in Lonzell, but we have a lot of talent and a lot of speed coming in that we just have to get into track shape. We're all getting faster and stronger in general.
"We always want to win the OCC (-Capital title) and get everybody we can past district. Sometimes I put pressure on myself, but I am here to have fun and do what I do, so there's not really a lot of pressure."
The program's high jump record of 6-10, set by Rhen Blais, has stood since 1977.
Robinson said he has a young, inexperienced group of throwers seeking to replace Danny Jones, who now competes at the University of Cincinnati. They include juniors Jared Bulluck, Raymond Pugh and Wally Kalinowski and sophomores Hunter Allen and Nathan Howard.
Other contributors will include seniors James Moore (distance) and Evan Young (distance) and juniors Will Butler (distance) and Denzell Feagin (jumps, sprints).
"We're deeper than we've ever been and we're still trying to figure out how the pieces will fit together," Robinson said. "It's probably going to take all season to figure that out. Right now, we're very young and we're a team that's only going to get better every week. The fact that they're bringing these positive attitudes all the time is only going to help us grow."
TRACK & FIELD
March 26 -- Hammond Relays at Pickerington Central
March 27 -- vs. Lancaster
March 31 -- Newark Invitational
April 3 -- at Grove City with Central Crossing
April 7 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North
April 10 -- at Hamilton Township with Bloom-Carroll
April 14 -- Hank Smith Invitational at Heath
April 17 -- vs. Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg
April 21 -- Elmo Kallner Invitational at Hamilton Township
April 24 -- Gene Cole Invitational at Lancaster (freshmen and sophomores only)
April 27 -- Milt Will Relays at home
April 30 -- at Pickerington North with Teays Valley
May 4 -- Hilliard Bradley Invitational
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Capital at Olentangy Orange
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester baseball, softball and boys tennis teams:
April 5 -- Home vs. Hartley
*April 6 -- At Groveport
April 7 -- Home vs. Wadsworth (DH)
*April 9 -- Home vs. Groveport
*April 11 -- At Franklin Heights
April 5 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
April 6 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
April 10 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
*April 11 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
*April 5 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
April 9 -- At Reynoldsburg
*April 10 -- Home vs. Groveport