Judging from early results, the New Albany High School boys track and field team expects to lean as much on its field events this season as its runners.
Although the Eagles finished last among 10 teams in the season-opening Panther Invitational on April 5 at Hilliard Darby, they got a first-place finish from junior Henry Zimmerman in the discus (154 feet, 11 inches) and second from junior Daniel Tolani in the high jump (6-0).
Both are in their first season with the team. Zimmerman moved in from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he placed third in the discus (145-10) and sixth (46-10) in the shot put at last year's Division 4 state meet to help Hackett Catholic Prep to its first state championship since 1930.
Tolani previously played basketball and recently took up track and field.
Zimmerman was third in the weight throw (66-3) and 16th in the shot put (47-1) in the Division I state indoor meet March 2 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva.
"Shot (put) and discus and high jump will definitely be some of our strengths," said third-year girls coach Amy Glenn, who like second-year boys coach Greg Flecher and the rest of the staff works with athletes on both teams. "We're excited with our energy and young with experience, but (the athletes) are very coachable and self-driven, led by our upperclassmen. This group is positive, team-oriented, focused and hard working."
New Albany scored 20 points at Darby as Olentangy Liberty won (88).
The Eagles lost both of their state qualifiers from last year to graduation in seven-time seated champion Michael Fenster -- who swept the 100-, 200- and 800-meter titles for the second consecutive season and won the 800 for the third year in a row -- and Kenny McDonald, who qualified in the long jump each of the past two years but did not place last season. McDonald was a district champion in the event as a senior.
Fenster now competes at Illinois.
Tolani hopes to fill the void left by the graduation of Gabe Glenn, coach Glenn's son, who was OCC-Capital Division high jump champion last season and finished 12th at regional.
Freshman Julian Meacham Dean jumped 19-4 1/2 in the long jump at Darby to finish seventh and also anchored the eighth-place 1,600-meter relay (3:43.09).
According to coach Glenn, other top contributors will include seniors Michiah Burton (sprints), Alex Cox (sprints) and Drew Watson (sprints), juniors Brody Kidwell (hurdles, sprints) and Eric Von Zastrow (distance) and sophomores Cade Helms (distance), Max Mathias (sprints), Victor Orsinelli (distance), Sebastian Ramirez (sprints) and Nathaniel Shnider (hurdles, sprints).
"Victor will be a major individual contributor to all distance events," Glenn said. "We will see big things with (Burton, Cox and Watson), especially in relays with (junior) Kingston (Mabatah)."
Girls team hopes to reload, improve
The girls track team is reloading in most areas after losing several key contributors to graduation, including OCC-Capital champions Grace Lowe (400) and Sophie Matt (800). Both were on the 1,600 relay that finished eighth at regional and graduated all four runners.
Sophomore Nicole Stewart was New Albany's top performer in the Panther Invitational, as she finished second in the 200 (26.53). The 3,200 relay placed fourth (10:45.01) with senior Monica Vale, junior Lindsey Neff and freshmen Carolyn Daly and Sammie Sika.
The Eagles finished last (17) of nine teams as defending Division I state champion Gahanna won (153).
"Long jump, hurdles, short sprints and middle distance are (the team's) strengths," coach Glenn said. "We're trying to find the right combination of athletes/runners to field a competitive team. With being young and inexperienced, it may take a few meets."
Joining the team is junior sprinter Mia Lachey, who helped the girls swimming team to the 400-yard freestyle relay Division I state championship Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
"Nicole will be our top girls sprinter, being able to run the 100, 200, 400 and all the relays," Glenn said. "(Lachey) will be a key component for our sprints."
Junior Mia Lobel was 11th in the long jump (15-8 1/4) at the Division I state indoor meet.
Other contributors will include senior Annette Opoku (sprints) and juniors Rachel Blais (jumps, sprints), Kristin Dressel (middle distance), Kora Dumpert (distance), Emily Flaherty (distance) and Scarlett Tischer (middle distance, sprints).
Boys volleyball coach sees improvement
Second-year boys volleyball coach Chris Bielby saw the results of increased commitment, some of which involved club play, from several players as the Eagles sought to build on a 1-16 record in their inaugural season.
Eleven of his 13 players were on varsity last year. The only exceptions are senior Apeksh Desai (right-side hitter) and freshman Carson Walters (libero/setter), the latter of whom has the most experience on the team, according to Bielby.
New Albany was 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Pickerington North on April 8.
"We're improving. We had a few guys play in the offseason and they are standouts on the team now," Bielby said. "(Walters is) strong on his club team. It makes a difference. He actually has the most experience on the team as far as years of volleyball and that shows on the court.
"It's a big jump from last year. We're much better. We still have a long way to go."
The rest of the nine-player senior class consists of Darrick Gray (middle hitter), Carson Hutton (outside hitter), Avery Jolly (setter), Nate Kebede (outside hitter), Troy Page (right-side hitter), Liam Records (outside hitter/defensive specialist/libero), Zach Short (setter) and Jonny Wong (setter/defensive specialist).
Also back from last year are juniors Paul Polta (right-side hitter) and Max Rathke (defensive specialist/libero) and sophomore Hayden Gray (middle hitter).
New Albany opened March 26 with a 25-18, 25-9, 25-16 home win over Whetstone and split a tri the next day at Thomas Worthington, defeating the Cardinals 24-26, 25-20, 25-20 and losing to Chillicothe 25-15, 25-18.
The Eagles began OCC-Ohio play with a 25-9, 25-14, 25-15 loss at Hilliard Davidson on March 28 and fell to visiting Upper Arlington 25-15, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20 on April 2 and host Gahanna 25-7, 25-7, 25-12 on April 4.
New Albany played an independent schedule last season.
"We want to be competitive in the OCC. Yes, it's just our second year, but we've raised our standards high," Bielby said. "I've really seen our court awareness improve and so (has) working the rotations we run. We're starting to put in some plays, more than we were able to last year. That makes it more exciting for the guys."
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 12 -- At Big Walnut
*April 15 -- At Groveport
*April 17 -- Home vs. Groveport
*April 11 -- Home vs. Westerville North
*April 16 -- At Olentangy
*April 17 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*April 11 -- At Westerville North
April 13 -- At Cincinnati Sycamore
*April 16 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*April 11 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
April 13 -- At Dublin Scioto with London
*April 15 -- At Groveport
April 16 -- At Delaware
*April 17 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
TRACK & FIELD
April 12 -- New Albany Invitational
April 13 -- Cruiser Invitational at Groveport
April 15 -- At Delaware with Marysville
April 17 -- Gahanna Relays
*April 11 -- At Dublin Coffman
April 15 -- At Briggs
*April 16 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
*April 17 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson. The Eagles lost to the Wildcats 25-9, 25-14, 25-15 on March 28.