With another strong turnout for both the boys and girls teams, 14th-year Grove City High School track and field coach Jane Taylor again is optimistic about her program.

"The kids have been working extremely hard," she said. "We have about 75 kids out. We lost some key people last year that graduated, but we have a solid group back."

The top returnees for the boys are senior distance runners Jared Ellis and Adam Meister, who were part of the 3,200-meter relay that set a program record of 8 minutes, 13.62 seconds last season. The other two runners, E.J. Rondez and Evan Whitaker, graduated.

Also returning is senior Luke Capehart, who is a key hurdler, high-jumper and long-jumper.

"I'm trying to make it far this year," Capehart said. "My goal this year is to try to make it to regional; I came up a little short last year. It's going to be a hard season; it's going to be rough. It's good competition, though. It pushed me to work harder in the weight room (and) on the track. It pushed me to push my teammates, too."

Other key returnees are seniors Evan Kaising (throws) and Kingston McKinstry (sprints), juniors Spencer Markham (distance), Ben Rutledge (distance), Nate Smith (throws) and Nate White (sprints) and sophomores Caden Gordon (sprints) and Logan Lefors (hurdles).

"We're pretty young, but the kids have been really good about my upperclassmen working with the younger ones," Taylor said. "They're showing good leadership and being a good role model. The kids have really started to improve time-wise."

Grove City opened April 2 at Canal Winchester and will compete in the Golden Eagle Relays on Saturday, April 6, at Big Walnut.

"That's a huge meet," Taylor said.

Another early season highlight is competing in the Best of the South-West meet April 12 at Franklin Heights. The boys and girls teams won the event each of the past two seasons.

"We had a really good year last year and it was nice to win the Best of the South-West for the second year in a row, so that's really our focus now," Taylor said. "These seniors have talked about it. They want to make that a three-peat going out as seniors."

The Greyhounds will compete in the OCC-Ohio Division meet May 9 and 11 at Groveport.

"I enjoy (the league meet)," Meister said. "It's a lot of competition and it pushes me to perform better as an athlete overall and it makes me excel."

Lemponen leading girls track team

The girls track team is led by senior Morgan Lemponen, who holds the program record in the pole vault of 9 feet, 7 inches.

Taylor said Lemponen will be a walk-on at High Point University in North Carolina.

Senior Sumer McWilliams (distance) returns after missing most of last season with an ankle injury.

Other key returnees are seniors Skylar Todd (sprints) and Madeline Zezuto (distance), juniors Lindsay Donaldson (middle distance), Olivia Reed (throws), Gwen Sebring (throws), Lexie Tatum (high jump), Nevaeh Whittier (pole vault) and Gracie Yates (sprints, long jump) and sophomores Brooke Armbrust (sprints), Laney Hoyt (distance) and Jenna Slabaugh (sprints).

Zezuto will run at Capital.

Last season, Grove City was sixth (7) in the league meet behind champion Gahanna (164).

"The (boys and girls) know that they really have to step up and work hard to be able to compete with those OCC-Ohio teams," Taylor said. "It's like a state meet. Those times at OCC are usually better than the times at the district meet. It helps them do better. In order to get better, you have to run against the best."

Chandler takes over boys tennis team

The boys tennis team has a new coach as Josh Chandler has replaced Ronald Smith, who stepped down after 16 seasons.

Grove City opened April 2 against Central Crossing and begins OCC-Ohio play Tuesday, April 9, at Lancaster.

Chandler, 29, is a 2007 graduate of Central Crossing. He played tennis for the Comets, but does not have any experience coaching the sport.

He recently completed his third season as a freshman and assistant varsity boys basketball coach at Central Crossing. He previously coached junior varsity boys basketball for the Comets and was a volunteer boys basketball coach at Grove City.

"I'm so excited," Chandler said. "Tennis was always my favorite time of the year when I was in high school because it was so much fun. It was a little less stressful than basketball was and you get to take care of yourself in tennis. It's one-on-one if you're in singles. I loved that one-on-one competition and that's what I've been preaching to these guys."

Senior Tyler Sander will play first singles. Last season, he teamed with 2018 graduate Noah Bungart to finish 1-1 in a Division I sectional in doubles, falling one win shy of qualifying for district.

"I couldn't ask for a better senior leader," Chandler said. "He's been at every lifting (and) conditioning (session). He's been at every practice. ... He's been absolutely phenomenal. I have confidence that he's going to win a lot of matches for us."

Also back are juniors Brayden Smith (second singles) and Kaleb Coakley (third singles).

"(Smith) worked a lot in the summer," Chandler said. "He's been putting in a lot of work. He's really improved a lot."

Junior returnees Tyler Fulk and Corbin Nickoloff will play first doubles.

Chandler said sophomores Nicholas Bungart and Jesse Stevens will begin the season at second doubles, but he expects Bungart and junior Eddie Stevens to eventually play that court.

Other players are juniors Chase Baisden, Paul Gosu, Holden Shea and Dominik Smith.

Last season, Grove City went 7-6 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Ohio as Gahanna, Pickerington Central and Pickerington North shared the league title at 4-1.

"I'm really excited about the league," Chandler said. "I know the Pickerington teams were really good from what I saw last year. We have five of those matches and I'm hoping to get out of there with a winning record against the OCC this year. Obviously, the goal is to win all of them, but having a winning record in the OCC would be awesome."

Chandler said assistant coach Joran Braughton has remained with the program and has been a key in the coaching transition.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:

BASEBALL

*April 5 -- At Lancaster

April 6 -- At Marysville

SOFTBALL

April 4 -- Home vs. New Albany

April 5 -- Home vs. Marysville

April 8 -- Home vs. Olentangy

*April 10 -- At Lancaster

BOYS TENNIS

April 5 -- Home vs. Marysville

*April 9 -- At Lancaster

TRACK & FIELD

April 6 -- Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at Big Walnut

April 9 -- At Westland with Teays Valley

*League contest