Tony Rogner believes the transition period the Watterson High School boys track and field team went through this season will prove beneficial for its future.
One of a slew of competitors who competed for the Eagles at the Division II regional meet May 24 and 26 at Lexington, Rogner came the closest of any athlete in the program to advancing to the state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
It was the Eagles' first season under coach Adam Kessler, who works in the fitness industry.
"The overall season went very well because of the new coaches' abilities to train the athletes," Rogner said. "We were well-prepared for each meet and, for the most part, it showed. We tried our hardest, and in the end it resulted in a lot of (personal-best times) towards the end of the season. As for the regional meet ... we did well. We might not have gotten the best times, but most of us had never been to a meet of that caliber. ... Both the athletes and coaches were able to see what we will be competing with in the upcoming years."
Rogner, who was part of an eight-member senior class, placed sixth in the 400 meters at the regional in 50.9 seconds to miss earning an at-large state berth by .04 of a second. As a result of his three points, Watterson tied for 35th at regional behind champion Sandusky Perkins (70) as 45 teams scored.
Also competing individually at regional were senior Nick Kuraly, who finished 11th in the 3,200 (10:16.65), and senior Erik Placke, who was 14th in the discus (120 feet, 6 inches).
The 1,600 relay of Rogner, seniors Matthew Hartel and Matthew Lamb and freshman Nick Youell (3:34.46) and the 3,200 relay of Hartel, Kuraly and Lamb and freshman Will Garey (8:21.24) both placed 10th.
"Obviously, being new, you don't know quite what to expect and how a team will respond, but the kids we had were great," Kessler said. "They left it all out on the track and, for the seniors, we finished up their careers with a great, positive note. For the rest of the kids, it's kind of about building the culture of the program."
Watterson finished fourth (78) in the CCL meet that concluded May 10 behind DeSales (138), St. Charles (126) and host Hartley (113) and ahead of Ready (33). The Eagles then finished seventh (53) at the 12-team district 1 meet that concluded May 19 at Westerville North behind champion Hartley (120).
Garey and Youell are expected to be among the top returnees along with juniors Drew Davis (shot put), Quang Nguyen (sprints) and Will Sullivan (discus), sophomores Spencer Mandzak (sprints, hurdles) and Jimmy Racher (sprints) and freshmen Carson Blank (hurdles), Charlie Nowinski (middle distance) and Dylan Nowinski (sprints).
At district, Davis placed sixth in the shot put (40-1/2), Garey was sixth in the 1,600 (4:49.95), Youell was sixth in the 400 (53.72), Dylan Nowinski, Racher and Youell joined senior Holden Jones on the sixth-place 800 relay (1:37.45) and Nguyen and Racher ran on the eighth-place 400 relay along with Jones and senior Yahir Sarmiento (47.22).
All four members of the girls team who competed in the Division I regional held May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North are eligible to return.
The only seniors were Kelsi Connors (distance), Sarah O'Brien (distance) and Chloe Pi (sprints).
The Eagles did not score at regional, as their 1,600 relay of junior Jane Porter and freshmen Erin Connors, Anna Kessler and Cailin O'Reilly was ninth (4:03.85).
"The (1,600 relay) ended up setting the school record in the regional prelims and missed (qualifying for) the final by (.01 of a second behind New Albany)," coach Kessler said. "From my angle, I couldn't tell who (finished eighth). At the beginning of the season, I told these girls I thought they had a shot to get the school record, so they were pretty happy with that."
The Eagles won the CCL title, scoring 175.5 points to finish ahead of Hartley (116), DeSales (107), Ready (47.5) and Columbus School for Girls (45). They then finished ninth (24) in the 14-team district 3 meet that concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby behind champion Pickerington North (109) as the 1,600 relay was third (4:05.89).
Falling short of advancing to regional were the 800 relay of Erin Connors, Anna Kessler, O'Reilly and freshman Kilyn McGuff (fifth, 1:48.36), the 400 relay of Anna Kessler, McGuff, O'Reilly and junior Logan Paeglis (sixth, 51.28), the 3,200 relay of Kelsi Connors, junior Emily Latshaw, sophomore Bridget Dougherty and freshman Brooklyn Brush (sixth, 9:53.33), Porter in the 400 (sixth, 1:00.91), McGuff in the long jump (sixth, 16-2 1/2) and Paeglis in the long jump (eighth, 15-9 3/4) and high jump (eighth, 4-10).
Others eligible to return include sophomores Natalie Garrett (discus, shot put), Sarah Heink (distance) and Julia Walling (hurdles) and freshmen Olyvia Kennedy (shot put), Clare Mackin (hurdles) and Isabella Roscoe (discus).
"We've got a lot of talent coming back," coach Kessler said. "It starts with our two junior captains, Emily Latshaw and Logan Paeglis. Jane Porter is also a junior and was on (1,600 relay). We just have tons of freshmen that will be able to score points for us."
Boys volleyball team vastly improved
The boys volleyball team nearly doubled its win total from last season and came up just one win away from reaching the Division II state tournament.
The third-seeded Eagles beat fifth-seeded DeSales 25-15, 20-25, 25-17, 29-27 on May 19 to open the East Region tournament and then upset second-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 17-25, 26-24, 25-17, 25-21 in a regional semifinal May 22 before losing to top-seeded St. Charles 25-20, 25-19, 25-11 in a regional final May 25 at Westerville Central to finish 15-7 overall.
Watterson finished 8-14 a season ago.
"We've exceeded every single goal we had this season," coach Ryan Thompson said. "We thought just getting to a winning season would be phenomenal and we ended up getting to a regional final."
Watterson went 2-2 in the CCL to place second behind St. Charles (4-0) and ahead of DeSales (0-4).
The Eagles are losing just one senior in Luke Lawson (right-side hitter).
Junior Jack Brinkman (middle hitter) and freshman Jake Maziarz (setter) both were named honorable mention all-state.
Juniors Rob Agan (middle hitter), Jake Page (outside hitter) and Jared Sommer (libero) also were among the team's top players.
Others eligible to return include juniors Ethan Burchard (middle hitter/setter), Brendan Foley (libero), Lucas Mariotti (outside hitter) and Zac Pardi (outside hitter).