The OCC-Capital Division meet is weeks away, but the Big Walnut High School girls track and field team already has a feel for some of its opponents.
The Golden Eagles competed against three league rivals when they opened March 30 in the Newark Invitational, where they finished second (80 points) of 15 teams, behind Olentangy Orange (132) and ahead of OCC-Capital opponents Newark (45), Canal Winchester (39.5) and Groveport (29.5).
"We got a good look at three other OCC-Capital teams, and even though we were all on spring break, I like how we held up against them," said 25th-year coach Joe Evener, whose team has won the past two OCC-Capital championships.
Big Walnut competed in a dual meet April 2 at Westerville Central, losing 93.5-79.5, and in the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays on April 6. The Golden Eagle Relays were held at Sparta Highland because of ongoing renovations at Big Walnut.
The Golden Eagles return a two-time Division I state qualifier in senior Kaley Rammelsberg and two regional qualifiers in junior Colbi Borland and senior Adelee Gartner.
Rammelsberg placed 11th at state in the high jump (5 feet, 2 inches) last season after finishing 12th in 2017 with the same height. She placed fourth (5-3) at regional a year ago after winning a jump-off against Hilliard Darby's Stacia Rispress for the final state berth.
Also at regional last year, Borland placed sixth in the 3,200 meters (11 minutes, 13.63 seconds) and joined Gartner and 2018 graduates Kaitlin Meade and Becca Bogantz on the eighth-place 3,200 relay (9:38.58). Meade also competed in the 800 (13th, 2:22.78).
In the Newark Invitational, Rammelsberg finished first in the high jump (5-2) and second in the 100 hurdles (16.3), Borland won the 3,200 (11:39) and finished third in the 1,600 (5:18.95) and junior Hanna Pinkston placed third in the 200 (28.44).
Pinkston is the team's top sprinter, Evener said.
Others key returnees include senior Hannah Unger (1,600 relay, 400) and sophomores Mackenna Ames (400 relay), Grace Unger (3,200 relay), Annika Anderson (pole vault) and Sierra Sanders (400).
"It's going to be interesting to watch how well we mesh as the season progresses," Evener said. "I am very pleased with the leadership and the work ethic this group has shown. They have really taken to the culture of what we are trying to do."
Boys team returns two regional qualifiers
Boys track and field coach Eric Myers still is learning about his team.
Big Walnut lost its two Division I state qualifiers from a year ago in 2018 graduates Brandon Mosher and Tim Rumas. Mosher placed third in the shot put (58-5 1/2) and 13th in the discus (155-6) and Rumas placed third in the 100 (10.76) and fourth in the 200 (21.47).
The Golden Eagles return three regional qualifiers in seniors Dante Chhuom and Caleb Ramey and junior Jackson Podraza.
Last year at regional, Ramey finished 10th in the long jump (19-10), teamed with Chhuom, Rumas and 2018 graduate Devon Bingman on the fifth-place 400 relay (43.31) and joined Bingman, Rumas and 2018 graduate Shane Swartzentruber on the sixth-place 800 relay (1:29.85), and Podraza tied for 14th in the high jump (5-8).
"We are still determining what are strengths will be," said Myers, who is in his 12th season. "It's early, and we're putting guys in different positions to see what we do have. We feel like we have some guys who we can run in anything."
The Golden Eagles opened April 2 by beating host Westerville Central 84.3-78.6 in a dual meet.
Podraza led the way by winning the 400 (54.24) and high jump (6-0).
Also finishing first were the 400 relay of Ramey, Chhuom, junior Mitchell Embaugh and freshman Shane White (45.78), the 3,200 relay of sophomores Austin Stewart, Jack Wood, Jacob Ross and Cole Matos (9:37.18), freshman Christopher Lee in the 1,600 (5:08.24) and sophomore Mark Ruffing in the shot put (43-3), while seniors Mitchell Truax and Nick Spangenberg tied for first in the pole vault (10-6).
"Our strength is really our numbers," Myers said. "We have 80 boys out again this year, which gives us the opportunity to build and create depth."
Tennis coach likes team's athleticism
The boys tennis team has returned its top two singles players and top doubles team.
Big Walnut opened April 1 with a 4-1 victory over Worthington Christian but lost to Olentangy 5-0 on April 2 and Delaware 3-2 on April 3. The Golden Eagles were 1-2 before a match against Marysville on April 4 and will open OCC-Capital action Tuesday, April 9, at home against Canal Winchester.
Last season, Big Walnut finished 7-9 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital, placing second to New Albany (5-0).
"We've got a lot more athleticism," seventh-year coach Ryan Balaz said. "The group is competitive and responds to what coaches tell them. They want to get better and compete at a high level. We just need to get them court time to raise their game. They're really fun to coach."
Seniors Gabe Mexicott and Matt Pushkin have returned at first and second singles, respectively, and freshman Grant Mudre is playing third singles.
Also back is the first doubles team of juniors Sebastian Kirkpatrick and Devon McCullough. Freshmen Charlie Jaeger and Andrew Grubb are playing second doubles.
Last season, Mexicott won three singles matches at a Division I sectional before losing in the district-qualifying match. Pushkin also competed at sectional in singles, while Kirkpatrick and McCullough competed in doubles.
"We lost a lot of close matches last year," Balaz said. "We talked about that and wanting to flip those. I think they're really motivated to have a winning season and possibly reach double digits."
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
*April 8 -- At Canal Winchester
*April 10 -- At New Albany
*April 12 -- Home vs. New Albany
*April 9 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*April 11 -- At Westerville Central
April 13 -- At Columbus Academy
*April 8 -- At Olentangy Liberty
April 10 -- At Centennial
*April 11 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
April 12 -- At Chaminade Julienne
April 8 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
April 9 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*April 10 -- At New Albany
*April 13 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*April 9 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
April 10 -- At Olentangy Liberty
*April 11 -- At New Albany
April 12 -- At Westerville South
TRACK & FIELD
April 9 -- At Marion Harding with Delaware
April 12 -- Hornet Relays at Licking Heights
April 13 -- Hank Smith Invitational at Heath