The Groveport Madison High School girls track and field team may have the athletes to make a run for the OCC-Capital Division title this season.
"This is the deepest and most complete team that I have had in my 14 years of coaching," said Aaron Fenzel, who is in his fifth season as head coach. "We are well-balanced.
"Our strength is definitely our sprints. The amount of talent that we have in sprints is going to be really exciting to watch."
The Cruisers have returned all of their top scorers from last season, when they finished fourth (81 points) in the league meet behind champion Big Walnut (137).
Expected to lead the way for Groveport are seniors Emily Allen, Victoria Williams, Toni Woods and Madi Young.
Last year, Woods was a Division I regional qualifier in the long jump despite being hindered by a strained left quadriceps in the final month of the season, and Allen and Young were on the regional-qualifying 1,600-meter relay along with sophomores Atanna Gunnell and Chenise Smith.
"Woods enters her senior season looking better than ever," Fenzel said. "She had a great indoor season, placing third (16 feet, 10 1/4 inches) in the long jump in the indoor state meet (March 2 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva) and also was a part of the (800 relay) that (finished 13th in 1 minute, 48.8 seconds) at (the indoor) state (meet)."
Woods was joined on the 800 relay at the indoor state meet by Gunnell, Young and Allen.
"Gunnell won the league title in the 100 last year and she's also on the (800 relay) with Madi and Emily," Fenzel said. "Madi will run the 400 and be on the (800 and 1,600 relays). She had a great indoor season and is already ahead of where she was last season at this time.
"I am looking for a standout year from Atanna in the 100 and 200. She has continued to get better every day. Her work ethic is tops among her peers, which I know will translate onto the track."
Williams, junior Cherub Clarke and sophomore Gracia Musa are expected to lead the Cruisers in the middle-distance events and junior Melanie Torres returns as the team's top distance runner after placing second in the 3,200 in the league meet last spring.
Senior Alexis Green is expected to lead the team's hurdlers, with help from Smith.
Sophomore Isabella Burholt and freshman Kalista Milne will compete in the high jump. Burholt, who finished 19th (31-1 1/4) in the triple jump in the indoor state meet, also will compete in the pole vault with junior Breanna Chan.
Senior Asya Mosley and junior Madison Newsome return as the team's leaders in the throws.
Looking to contribute in the distance events are senior Sophia Barros and sophomore Jasmine Hylton, and adding depth in the sprints are juniors Makalia Boston and Hapsatou Seck and sophomores Emani Anthony, Amara Towns and Danasha Winfield.
Sophomore Laney Michael and Seck will contribute in the hurdles.
Groveport opened March 30 at the Newark Invitational, finishing 11th (29.5) behind champion Olentangy Orange (132) as 15 teams scored.
Boys track team expects to be improved
First-year boys track and field coach Vincent Gay is hoping the offseason work and indoor season pay off for his team.
Gay replaced Jason Brooks, who stepped down after 12 seasons as coach.
"We're getting strong leadership," said Gay, whose team opened at the Newark Invitational, finishing fifth (63) behind champion St. Charles (85) as 16 teams scored. "Our seniors really stepped up during the offseason to set a new mentality on how we practice. That has already begun to pay off. Our athletes have been very dedicated and motivated to improving themselves and the team."
Gay, who also serves as boys cross country coach, expects the success from the indoor season to carry over to the outdoor season.
"We are looking to build off of the success of having (junior) Keimare Burnett and our (1,600 relay) qualify for the Division I indoor state meet," he said. "We have had a lot of interest and have a large team this season that is ready to compete at every meet."
In the indoor state meet, Burnett fouled each attempt in the long jump, while the 1,600 relay of sophomore Kahari Davis, seniors Tahzmere Givens and Peyton Baker and junior Rafael Soler finished 22nd (3:38.69).
Burnett and sophomore John Motton are expected to form a solid duo in the long jump, and the two will join Givens in the hurdles.
"Tahzmere looks primed for a strong season after spending the entire offseason working to increase his speed and endurance," Gay said. "Look for him to go for our school record in the 300 hurdles. Keimare and John already have personal records in the long jump this season, both (20-6)."
Junior Raychaun Whitfield and freshman Harris Musungu will compete in the high jump, senior Isaac Butler and junior Jacob Williams will compete in the pole vault and junior Darrell Smoot and sophomore Jashaun McGraw are expected to lead the team in the throws.
"We have a lot more depth in our field events and our relays look much stronger and deeper across the board, but our strength is in sprints, as usual," Gay said. "The development of some of our freshmen and sophomores really helps. I believe we are ready to take the next step as a team and compete for an OCC title."
Expected to lead the sprint corps are seniors Naseem Bowers and Andre Harrison, junior Tyrell Floyd and freshman Carl Allen.
"Carl has already made a name for himself in the 200 and 400 and Harris surprised everyone at our first meet by placing third in the high jump (5-8) and we expect both freshmen to help us a ton moving forward," Gay said.
Baker and junior Illyaas Haji are back to lead the Cruisers in the distance events, with assistance from sophomore Kaleb Wilson, while Givens and Soler should lead the team in the middle-distance events.
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 4 -- At Bexley
*April 5 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
April 6 -- Home vs. Hartley (DH)
*April 8 -- At Franklin Heights
*April 10 -- At Canal Winchester
April 4 -- Home vs. Lancaster
April 8 -- At Central Crossing
*April 10 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
April 4 -- At Lancaster
April 8 -- Home vs. Hartley
*April 9 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
TRACK & FIELD
April 6 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North