With only three seniors last spring, the Watterson High School girls track and field team won the CCL championship but didn't have any athletes advance to the Division I state meet.
Defending the league title is only part of the Eagles' plans this season, as they are much more experienced despite still being young overall.
"I've got a lot of high expectations for these girls, and they also do for themselves," second-year coach Adam Kessler said. "Obviously, the CCL is something they want to win again this year, but looking at the bigger picture, we want to get a few more athletes to regionals in a few more events and potentially want to see what we need to do to get someone to the state meet. We have the potential to get more athletes to regionals."
Returning intact after finishing ninth at regional in 4 minutes, 3.85 seconds is the 1,600-meter relay, which consists of senior Jane Porter and sophomores Erin Connors, Anna Kessler and Cailin O'Reilly.
The Eagles opened March 26 with a sixth-place finish (38 points) in the 12-team Hamilton Township Booster Invitational, behind champion Gahanna (151), and followed with a fourth-place finish (55) in the 15-team Newark Invitational on March 30, behind champion Olentangy Orange (132).
Kessler won the 100 (13.02) and was runner-up in the 200 (28.05) at the Newark Invitational and also could compete in the 400 this season.
Other key seniors are Emily Latshaw (distance) and Logan Paeglis (sprints, long jump, high jump).
Junior Bridget Dougherty and sophomore Brooklyn Brush also are returning runners.
At the district 3 meet last season, the 800 relay that included Connors, Kessler and O'Reilly placed fifth (1:48.36), the 400 relay that included Kessler, O'Reilly and Paeglis was sixth (51.28), the 3,200 relay of Connors, Latshaw, Dougherty and Brush finished sixth (9:53.33) and Porter was sixth in the 400 (1:00.91).
Juniors Natalie Garrett (shot put, discus), Sarah Heink (distance) and Julia Walling (hurdles) and sophomores Clare Mackin (hurdles) and Olyvia Kennedy (shot put) are others looking to contribute.
"The mile relay has a good chance of getting back (to regional) and advancing on," coach Kessler said. "One of our other sprint relays will have a chance, but it will depend on the development of our freshman sprinters. If we can start building the depth, I think we can see some good things from these kids."
Boys track team out to develop depth
The boys track and field team has 24 athletes, and coach Kessler is hoping to utilize as much of his roster as possible.
The Eagles opened with an eighth-place finish (31) in the 12-team Booster Invitational behind champion Gahanna (154) and then finished 13th (13) in the 16-team Newark Invitational behind champion St. Charles (85).
Two sophomores who gained regional experience last season have returned in Nick Youell and Will Garey.
Garey placed fourth in the 1,600 (4:44.91) at the Newark Invitational.
At the Division I regional last year, Youell was on the 10th-place 1,600 relay along with 2018 graduates Tony Rogner, Matthew Hartel and Matthew Lamb (3:34.46) and Garey was on the 10th-place 3,200 relay along with Hartel, 2018 graduate Nick Kuraly and Lamb (8:21.24).
The Eagles didn't have any state qualifiers last season. Rogner had their best finish, placing sixth in the 400 (50.9).
Drew Davis, who was sixth in the shot put (40 feet, 1/2 inch) in the district 1 meet last year, and sprinter Quang Nguyen are returning seniors.
Senior Callen Daily, who is new to the sport, is also a sprinter.
Seniors Grant Holsinger (shot put) and Will Sullivan (discus), sophomores Carson Blank (hurdles) and Spencer Manzak (sprints) and freshmen Cris Kubatko (distance) and Max Latshaw (distance) are others looking to contribute.
"We lost a lot of seniors and lost a lot of leadership from last year," coach Kessler said. "(Youell and Garey), in particular, are going to have to step up and make improvements in their times. The goal is to try and develop them and see how successful we can be this season, but also set ourselves up for the next couple years. It'll be our job as coaches to keep them positive and point out the bigger picture."
Tennis team returns experienced lineup
The boys tennis team has six of its seven postseason competitors back from last season, including senior Chris Finissi.
Finissi lost to Columbus Academy's Arie Tuckerman 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the Division II district tournament in singles last season after spending all of last season at first singles.
Watterson opened April 1 with a 5-0 loss to defending Division II state team champion Wellington, beat Whetstone 5-0 on April 2 and lost to Bexley 3-2 on April 4. The Eagles played Logan Elm on April 8 before opening CCL action April 9 at Ready.
Last season, Watterson went 6-6 overall and 3-1 in the CCL to place second behind St. Charles (4-0).
"We had no seniors last year and this year we've got four, so it's going to be interesting," third-year coach Ryan Schwieterman said. "I like their optimism in that they're hoping to beat St. Charles. They're definitely shooting to win (the league) this year."
Sophomores Johnny DiOrio and Nick Geelan also are playing singles.
The other seniors are Sam Barklay, Jacob Devendra and Dylan Tucker and rounding out the roster are sophomores Adam Pavliga and Cole Petrilla.
The only player not back from last season is sophomore Luke Ritchie, who transferred to Dublin Coffman.
At sectional last year, Finissi placed fourth in singles to advance to district, DiOrio and Ritchie each lost in the second round in singles, the doubles team of Devendra and Pavliga lost in a quarterfinal and the doubles team of Geelan and Petrilla lost in the second round.
Watterson is not competing in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state team tournament this season.
"Johnny and Nick played a lot over the summer and were both in some tournaments, so that's good to see," Schwieterman said. "Adam Pavliga is really athletic and coming off the hockey season, so it's nice to have kids like that that are going from sport to sport. He's a competitive kid.
"Given that most of them are returning, they all know each other. Last year, we were talking about having so many freshmen and they were so young and everything was so new. This year, you can tell they're used to it, so they've got real goals of winning so many matches."
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
April 11 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
*April 12 -- At DeSales
April 13 -- At Westerville Central
April 16 -- Home vs. Johnstown
*April 17 -- Home vs. Ready
April 12 -- At Cincinnati Summit Country Day
April 13 -- At Cincinnati Indian Hill
April 15 -- At Granville
*April 11 -- DeSales at Fortress Obetz
April 13 -- Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington
*April 16 -- At Granville
April 11 -- At Teays Valley
April 12 -- At Hilliard Darby
April 13 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*April 15 -- At Ready
April 15 -- At Dublin Scioto
April 17 -- At Thomas Worthington
TRACK & FIELD
April 13 -- Hank Smith Invitational at Heath
April 16 -- Hammond Relays at Hilliard Darby
April 17 -- Gahanna Relays
*April 11 -- At St. Charles