Although his team lacks depth and experience, Westland High School boys track and field coach Tim Eckard believes some of his athletes have the potential to deliver in the postseason.
Eckard began his 18th season when the Cougars competed in the Newark Invitational on March 30.
"I love this time of the year," he said. "I'm excited every year because you have new kids. You want to see what their potential is. There are veterans that you count on. A lot of our kids are building off really good years last season, so it's exciting. A lot of these kids are four-year athletes, so it's really neat to see their growth from the time when they first came in as young freshmen to where they are now."
Westland is seeking its first state qualifier since 2016 when Ivan Suazo finished fifth in the 110-meter hurdles (14.44 seconds). Suazo is a junior hurdler at Eastern Michigan.
"It's been a few years and I think we have some kids who have potential," Eckard said.
Leading the way should be senior Abdi Aden, who competes in the hurdles and high jump. Last season, Aden led the Cougars in the Division I, district 3 meet by finishing seventh in the 300 hurdles (42.03) and eighth in the long jump (19 feet, 11 inches).
"He really has some potential," Eckard said.
Sophomore Christian Placencia, who is a distance specialist, was part of the ninth-place 3,200 relay (9:43.14) at district.
Another key returnee is senior sprinter Artie Washington, who should be a big part of Westland's sprint relays.
"The same people keep coming out and giving it their all and every year we just keep getting better and better and closer to our goals," Washington said. "We want to make it out of district and make it to regional, get (personal records) and just do the best we can."
Also back is senior Caleb McManaway, who should be a key contributor in the discus.
"I think Caleb is going to have a really good year for me," Eckard said.
Senior Tim Wotring (hurdles) also returns.
Other key contributors in the discus and shot put should be junior Darius Lightfoot and sophomore Nathan Mechling, a transfer from Central Crossing. Junior Bakar Dabo will compete in the shot put.
Other key athletes include juniors Dareece Holton (sprints) and Kyle West (sprints), sophomore Jose Villanueva (sprints) and freshmen David Chambers (sprints) and Jackson Little (sprints).
"We have a sprint crew that is going to be pretty good," Eckard said. "We're putting some of those guys together."
The Cougars' schedule includes the Best of the South-West meet April 12 at Franklin Heights. Westland finished third (46 points) last season behind Grove City (110) and Central Crossing (66) and ahead of Franklin Heights (39).
The Greyhounds have won the meet the past two seasons.
Westland will compete in the OCC-Central Division meet May 9 and 11 at Hilliard Davidson. Last season, the Cougars finished sixth (15) behind champion Davidson (159).
"We're always in a tough league," Eckard said. "What we try to do is be the best team we can be and roll them out as prepared as possible. I'm more concerned with are we making steady improvement so we peak at league and district and we try to get some individuals to regional and possibly state."
Girls team features promising athletes
The girls track team also lacks depth, according to Eckard, but has some potentially talented athletes.
Distance specialist Aja Nathans, who also was a key runner on the cross country team, is hoping for a solid senior season.
Nathans helped account for the team's two points in the district 2 meet last season, as she was part of the seventh-place 3,200 relay (11:15.35).
"Most of it centers around Aja," Eckard said. "She's a four-year contributor."
Eckard expects sophomore Sofia Rodriguez to be one of the team's top sprinters.
"Every year it's always harder and harder to get girls out, so it takes the girls who are here more determination to get things done and perform the best for our team," Rodriguez said.
Other key returnees are junior Jemiere Wyatt (sprints) and sophomore Brenna Gilliam (sprints).
The roster also includes freshmen Jordyn Anderson (distance), Rylea Bott (discus, shot put) and Taylor Gullion (hurdles).
"We're really excited what Rylea Bott is going to bring to the table," Eckard said.
Westland finished fourth (28) in the Best of the South-West meet last season behind Grove City (121), Franklin Heights (53) and Central Crossing (46). Grove City has won the meet the past two seasons.
The Cougars finished fifth (6) in the OCC-Central meet behind champion Davidson (201).
"We definitely need some more girls," Eckard said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland baseball, softball and track & field teams:
April 2 -- At Grandview
April 4 -- At Briggs
April 6 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights (DH)
April 1 -- At Groveport
April 2 -- At Centennial
April 5 -- At Franklin Heights
April 6 -- At Whetstone (DH)
TRACK & FIELD
April 2 -- Home vs. Ready and Reynoldsburg
April 6 -- Falcon Invitational at Fairfield Union