In 2016, when its current group of juniors were in eighth grade, the Dublin Jerome High School softball team went just 4-17.
The Celtics improved to 10-14 the next season and posted a winning record last spring by finishing 11-10.
After winning four of six games March 25-27 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Jerome's progression has continued in central Ohio.
The Celtics were 8-6 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Hilliard Bradley on April 10.
"In Florida, we actually worked really well together, and that's because we've been playing together for three years," shortstop Kendall Sestili said. "We're getting there."
Jerome, which went 6-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division last season and opened league play this spring with a 12-6 victory over Thomas Worthington on April 3, has just two seniors in Lauren Belu (RF) and Whitney Karg (1B/3B).
Sestili, who batted .305 last season, is part of a junior class that also features Julia Burch (LF), Holly Harris (1B/P), Alie Intihar (C), Sissy Monte (CF) and Jenna Watts (P/2B).
Last season, Burch hit .306 with 21 runs scored and Intihar batted .324 with 21 RBI, while Watts went 6-7 in the circle with a 2.63 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 88 innings.
Freshman Amaris Lowery is starting at second base, while freshmen Diana Bishopp (1B/P), Shelby Craig (1B/3B), Rachel Jarrett (C) and Kylin Smith (C/RF) are others looking to contribute.
"We've got a lot of returners, and our junior class has started since they were freshmen," fifth-year coach Alyssa Kelley said. "We're pretty excited that things are finally starting to fire on all cylinders."
Tennis team again strong in depth
There were 40 players who tried out for the boys tennis team this spring, including several from what fourth-year coach Ken Berlin believes is a strong freshman class.
All three of the players Jerome lost to graduation competed in doubles during last year's postseason, meaning that there was plenty of competition for singles spots heading into this season.
The Celtics opened April 2 with a 5-0 win over Worthington Kilbourne in an OCC-Cardinal match and beat Hilliard Davidson (5-0 on April 3) and Thomas Worthington (4-1 in a league match April 4) before splitting two matches April 6, beating Hunting Valley University School 3-2 and losing to Cincinnati St. Xavier 4-1.
Jerome continued league action April 9 at home against Olentangy Berlin.
"We've got a couple guys that were on the (junior varsity) last year that have improved and ended up making the team and three freshmen that made the team," Berlin said.
The top returnees are seniors Dylan Cai and Daniel Utkin and juniors Andrew Dvorkin, Chris Knight and Anish Patel. Patel lost in a quarterfinal in singles at the Division I district tournament and Dvorkin and Utkin each lost in the first round at district in singles. Cai teamed with 2018 graduate Dhruva Gurushankar to lose in the first round at district in doubles.
Juniors Stanley Cao and Sahil Madan and freshmen Max Fickas, Kevin Liu and Tanish Pairu also are on the team. Fickas has been seeing action at first singles.
Last season, Jerome went 13-2 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Cardinal to win its fourth consecutive league title. The Celtics lost to Upper Arlington 3-1 in a semifinal of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district tournament.
"It's a large and very talented freshman class that came out, so this was by far the most competitive it's been since I've been there," Berlin said. "Our strength again is going to be our depth, from one down through the rest of the lineup. I normally keep nine on varsity, but because there was so much talent, I elected to keep a 10th full-time varsity guy this year. Most everybody is as good in doubles as they are in singles, so that versatility is going to be key in most matches."
Numbers build for boys track team
The boys track and field team has returned two of its six athletes who competed at the Division I regional meet last season.
The Celtics also have a group of experienced athletes back as well as a large group of newcomers.
"We have quite a few back from last year," third-year coach Kalvin McRae said. "We have a lot of kids in general, which is kind of hard to navigate and keep up with, but the kids have been working hard. We've been pleased with the results we've seen."
The Celtics finished ninth (21.33 points) in the 10-team Panther Invitational on April 5 at Hilliard Darby behind champion Olentangy Liberty (88). Earning third-place finishes were sophomore Silas Kayuha in the 110-meter hurdles (16.62 seconds) and senior Ross Stevenson in the pole vault (12 feet, 6 inches).
Senior Tony Gyimah and junior Elliott Cook are among the top returnees.
Last season, Cook was the Celtics' lone representative at the Division I state meet, placing fifth in the 1,600 meters (4:13.1), while Gyimah was 13th at regional in the shot put (45-7 1/4) and is the program's record-holder in the event, according to McRae.
Joining Cook in the distance events are senior Andrew McPherson and junior Arjun Dhankani.
Sophomore Ezra Strickland is leading a sprint corps that also includes seniors Alex Smythe and Andy Kloss and juniors Blake Hara and Sam Muhleman. Strickland also competes in the high jump.
Freshman Isaiah King competes in the high jump and in middle distance, senior Omari Kiss competes in hurdles and senior Alex Budde and freshman Garrett Cicci compete in the long jump.
Joining Gyimah in the throwing events is senior Chris Zhao.
Senior Cam Craig, who has committed to play football for Purdue, is new to the team but also could contribute in the shot put.
Girls track team infused by freshmen
The girls track and field team has a strong freshman class, according to 11th-year coach Randi Beatty, to support a roster that includes nine seniors.
"What I like about this freshman class is not only that there's some talent, but that they also seem excited about track, which is providing a cool energy," Beatty said. "A junior was saying to me that they love this freshman class because they're excited about track. There are some things we want to change in our culture, and we can do that now."
The Celtics finished eighth (18) in the nine-team Panther Invitational on April 5 at Darby behind champion Gahanna (153).
Junior Emily Oiler placed fourth in the 400 (1:03.12), junior Madison Weigle was fifth in the 800 (2:35.7) and freshman Maya Fuller placed fifth in the 200 (27.34) to lead the Celtics.
The senior class features distance runners Nicole Bowen, Sowbhagya Gosangi, Joy Guo, Olivia Kamlet, Abby Lenz, Sam McDonald, Camille McDonald and Larkin Thomas and middle-distance runner Emma Ryan.
Joining Oiler in the junior class are Olivia Bentley (hurdles), Abigail Damewood (pole vault, sprints), Shrea Kumar (sprints), Lauren Scheurle (sprints), Macy Weeks (pole vault) and Manaka Yamauchi (hurdles).
Sophomores Ellie Browning (sprints), Sarah Coleman (high jump), Kelly McLoughlin (sprints, middle distance), Samantha Melican (sprints), Lauren Metzger (distance), Robyn Reinhart (distance) and Hailey Watson (sprints) and freshmen Audrey Cook (800), Raegan Ernst (hurdles, high jump, sprints), Maya Fuller (sprints), Shara Huber (shot put, discus), Meryl LaRue (sprints), Ashley Westerheide (sprints) and Caroline Zimovan (sprints) are other key competitors.
"In distance, we have a couple juniors and seniors stepping up and who have been working really hard in the offseason," Beatty said.
"We've got a couple young sprinters coming through who are interested in the program and excited about track in general."
Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 12 -- At Thomas Worthington
April 13 -- Home vs. Briggs (DH)
*April 15 -- Home vs. Thomas
*April 17 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
*April 11 -- Home vs. Thomas
April 13 -- Home vs. Indianapolis Cathedral
*April 16 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
*April 11 -- At Thomas
April 13 -- Louisville (Ky.) Eastern and Cincinnati Indian Hill in Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas
*April 11 -- At Delaware
April 12 -- At Lancaster
*April 15 -- Home vs. Scioto
*April 17 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*April 11 -- At Hilliard Darby
April 15 -- Home vs. Waverly
*April 16 -- Home vs. Bradley
April 17 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
TRACK & FIELD
April 13 -- Joe Lenge Dublin Classic at Coffman
April 16 -- At Jonathan Alder with Marysville
*April 11 -- At Delaware
*April 16 -- Home vs. Scioto