Since enduring a 4-21 finish in 2017, the Hartley High School softball team has stressed rebuilding its "culture."
More wins gradually have started to come, considering the Hawks improved to 7-12 last season, and they've been competitive while battling through a difficult non-league slate to start this season.
Some of Hartley's biggest successes, though, have come off the field, according to second-year coach April Wooten.
"Compared to the last few seasons, it's night and day," Wooten said.
"The girls are having fun. We have three 'Cs,' which are courage, commitment and conviction. In everything we do, we try to stress those things, so having courage in being there for your teammates, selling out for them on the field, commitment in showing up every day, fighting when you're down and the conviction to come back."
The Hawks were 3-8 overall and 0-1 in the CCL before playing Watterson on April 8. They lost to DeSales 7-0 on April 3 in their league opener.
The top returnees are sophomore Kami Kortokrax (SS/P), senior Lauren Barclay (C/OF) and juniors Sophia Cegledy (P/CF), Tori Garey (3B/C) and Audrey Smith (RF). Barclay has committed to Muskingum University.
Kortokrax pitched a no-hitter and hit a two-run home run as Hartley beat Independence 19-0 in the first round of the Division II district tournament last season.
Senior Dayna Shoulders (designated player/1B) and juniors Bella Hoffman (P/INF), Aidan Poliseno (1B) and Allyssa Thompson (3B/1B) are other key returnees.
Junior Donna McMillen, a Pickerington North transfer, is playing in left field.
Others in the program include senior J'Anna Rogers (OF), sophomores Caroline Berger (2B/OF), Emily Kirk (courtesy runner) and Abbey Tipton (OF) and freshmen Riley Mann (utility) and Emily Thompson (utility).
"We're having a blast," Wooten said. "Especially with girls, it's so important to have good chemistry. This team, because we have so many upperclassmen, we're starting to jell."
Boys track team out to build on title
The boys track and field team returns a strong group of sprinters after scoring 120 points to win the 12-team Division II, district 1 meet last season.
"The guys won the district last year, so we're trying to repeat and we'd like to take a good shot at the CCL (title)," seventh-year coach Reggie Osborne said. "I've got probably the largest team the school's had in a long time. We've got a lot of freshmen. We've got 96 (athletes in the boys and girls teams) altogether, and I probably had another 17 come out and then say they didn't want to do it. (To have) about 90 is very good for us. It helps a lot."
The Hawks scored 58 points to finish fourth in the 12-team Hamilton Township Booster Invitational on March 26 behind champion Gahanna (154).
Senior Patrick Scurlock won the 300-meter hurdles (42.26 seconds) in the meet and also runs the 400.
At last year's state meet, junior Miles Fleming placed eighth in the 100 (11.06) and 13th in the 200 (22.45), and joined 2018 graduate Ben Dankow and sophomores Kason Sunderland and Cameron Thomas on the third-place 1,600 relay (1:29.54).
The 400 relay of Dankow, Fleming, Sunderland and Thomas reached state as well but was disqualified during the preliminary, and Dankow was 11th in the 400 (50.31).
Other seniors include T.J. Johnson (sprints, long jump), Troy Fowler (sprints) and David McBrown (sprints).
Junior Chase Orndoff and sophomores Luke Vautour and Eayuel Gebrtsadik are among the distance runners, while junior twin brothers Jason Steward and Juston Steward and junior Daniel Walker run middle distance.
Junior Angelo Evans and freshmen Richard Kenny and Trey Saunders are others in the sprint corps.
Junior Dion Drake leads the Hawks' throwers, while sophomore Shawn Saunders is competing in the long jump and high jump.
Girls track team also looking strong
Several key athletes return for the girls track and field team, which scored 115 points to share the Division II, district 2 title last season with Jonathan Alder.
At the Booster Invitational, the Hawks scored 57 points to place fourth of 12 teams behind champion Gahanna (151).
"We were district co-champs last year, so that's kind of our goal for the year, to kind of repeat at that level," Osborne said.
"We always try to compete as well as we can."
Junior Bailey Smith and sophomore England Ladd joined 2018 graduates Amaiah Jones and Liana Burk on the ninth-place 400 relay (51.3) at last year's regional.
Senior Hannah Thompson, who was a regional qualifier in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, is out indefinitely with an injury.
Also at regional last year, senior Bailee Zacovic finished 12th in the 1,600 (5:54.95), junior Abby Rhodes was 11th in the long jump (15 feet, 4 3/4 inches), Smith placed 14th in the 100 (13.21), junior Alexis Wade was 12th in the 100 (13.19), Ladd placed 11th in the 200 (27.74) and sophomore Ellie Kitsmiller competed in the high jump (no height).
Seniors Emma Kitsmiller, Cara Luallen and Kayla Williams and sophomores Pailyn Groene and Anna Woods are competing in the distance events.
Junior Hope Matfield (shot put, discus), sophomore Julia Reinker (sprints) and freshmen Mia Martin-Fuller (hurdles, sprints, high jump), Zaria Robinson (sprints, hurdles) and Jaiden Stratton (sprints) are others looking to contribute.
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley baseball, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
*April 12 -- At Ready
April 13 -- Home vs. Johnstown (DH)
*April 15 -- At St. Charles
April 17 -- Home vs. Heath
*April 11 -- At Columbus Academy
April 13 -- TBA in Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington
*April 16 -- Home vs. DeSales
April 17 -- At Hilliard Bradley
April 11 -- Home vs. Granville
April 12 -- At Olentangy
April 13 -- Home vs. Johnstown and Twinsburg
*April 15 -- At DeSales. The Hawks lost to the Stallions 7-0 on April 3.
April 11 -- At Centennial
April 12 -- At Grove City
April 15 -- At Canal Winchester
*April 16 -- Home vs. Ready
April 17 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
TRACK & FIELD
April 12 -- Licking Heights Invitational
April 17 -- Gahanna Relays