Ryan Aleshire hopes to maintain the Hilliard Davidson High School boys track and field program's commitment to excellence in his first season as head coach.

Aleshire spent the past 17 years as an assistant to Jim Smith, who moved to the Washington, D.C., area after coaching the Wildcats for 31 seasons.

"It's been a great transition," Aleshire said. "We have huge shoes to fill. I'm just trying to do the best we can and maybe all together we can fill those shoes. Replacing coach Smith is going to be hard to do and I don't think it can be done, but we're doing the best we can. We're getting kids out and trying to teach them track and field and have a good, positive year."

Davidson, which finished third (77 points) in the Panther Invitational on April 5 at Darby behind champion Olentangy Liberty (88) as 10 teams scored, returns several key athletes, led by three state qualifiers in seniors Christian Gillilan (high jump, long jump), Conner Johanssen (distance) and Max LeClair (distance).

In the Division I state meet last season, Gillilan placed fifth in the high jump (6 feet, 5 inches), LeClair finished 11th in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 19.21 seconds) and Johannsen was 15th in the 3,200 (9:42.02).

Other key returnees include seniors Jack Altman (distance), Isaac Bailey (sprints, long jump), Jacob Bauer (sprints, 400), Josiah Ezirim (throws), Cole Kazmerzak (sprints), James Keen (pole vault), Nick Sauvey (distance) and Adam Upperman (throws), juniors Xavier Gallo (distance), Jamil Hallak (hurdles, sprint relays), Gage Keys (throws) and Mitchell Messer (distance) and sophomores Rafael Gonzalez (sprints), Kaden Griffin (pole vault) and Noah Pease (distance).

"We have a lot of improve on," Bailey said. "Overall, we're in a good spot. I'm hoping to (better) 21 feet for the long jump."

Senior Timmy Sanford (sprints) also should contribute.

Davidson is looking to repeat as OCC-Central Division champion after scoring 159 points in last year's league meet to finish well ahead of runner-up Upper Arlington (117).

"We want to just keep competing and keep getting better at practice and try to go out and do the best we can in invitationals," Aleshire said. "We want to represent Hilliard Davidson in the league meet, district and regional, and just go out and have fun."

Girls track team features solid group

The girls track and field team also returns a solid nucleus, which includes a good blend of sprinters, distance runners, jumpers and throwers.

"We have a good group and everybody knows what they should be doing," 14th-year coach Matt Beatty said.

Among the key returnees is sophomore distance runner Lindsay Stull, who set the program record in the 800 last season when she placed second in 2:09.47 at the Division I state meet. She also joined senior Sophie Lewis, junior Sophia Hoersten and 2018 graduate Meghan Sculli on the fourth-place 3,200 relay (9:02.11).

Three other state qualifiers return in seniors Lydia Baumgartner, Klaire Kazmerzak and Sydney Ryan, who were part of the 12th-place 800 relay (1:43.11). Lewis and Stull also were members of the 12th-place 1,600 relay (3:58.66).

Other key returnees include seniors Maddy Bennett (hurdles, long jump), Emilee Fecht (throws), Alyssa Markarian (sprints), Haleigh Spencer (sprints) and Ellie Tighe (distance) and sophomore Emma Conrad (hurdles).

Davidson, which finished second (107) in the Panther Invitational behind Gahanna (153) as nine teams scored, is seeking its third consecutive OCC-Central title. Last season, the Wildcats scored 201 points in the league meet to finish well ahead of runner-up UA (124).

"The first goal is to win the OCC," Beatty said. "We want to keep doing what we've been doing. We want to get a couple more girls to the district finals and if we can do that, we'll be in a good spot. The goal is to get to Ohio State (for the state meet)."

Volleyball team seeks another OCC title

The boys volleyball team is aiming for its third consecutive OCC-Central title.

The Wildcats were 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the league before playing Pickerington North on April 9.

"Our expectations every year are to be competitive in our league, successful in our league," fifth-year coach Rusty Herring said. "We are poised for a three-peat this season. We have the potential."

Davidson lost 10 players to graduation and returns just three from last season, when it finished 16-10 overall and 10-2 in the OCC-Central.

"We're fortunate that our cupboard is full," Herring said. "We had a highly competitive j.v. team last year and some of those guys moved from j.v. to varsity. We have great guys with great skills and great spirits, so even with graduating 10, we fully expect to be competitive in our league."

The returnees are juniors Sean Hall (libero), Jackson Lightfoot (outside hitter) and Armand Sherzai (setter).

Also on the team are seniors Hari Khalsa (middle blocker), Cameron Lilly (opposite hitter), Austin Lydon (setter) and Tariq Rasul (outside hitter) and juniors Graden Cushnie (opposite hitter), Justin Hood (middle blocker), David Ortman (opposite hitter), Matthew Potts (outside hitter), Gabe Simon (defensive specialist) and Zach Woo (defensive specialist).

Tennis team aiming for winning season

The boys tennis team is hoping for another winning season after finishing 8-6 last year.

The Wildcats are out to a slow start, however, as they were 1-3 after defeating Darby 4-1 on April 8. They opened OCC-Central play April 9 against Coffman.

"I like the team," eighth-year coach Steve De Dent said. "We're young. We're going to take some lumps in the first part of the schedule. For me, the biggest thing is they're good kids. That's all I care about."

Among the returnees is senior Ethan Clark, who replaced 2018 graduate Noah Elliott at first singles.

Also back is junior Jack Kamnikar, who is playing second singles.

"Ethan and Jack could switch. They're that close," De Dent said.

Senior Uday Patel and junior Timothy Liou also return and are playing first doubles. Another returnee, senior Collin Lam, is expected to split time at second doubles along with juniors Abel Ruehle and Nikhil Supanekar and sophomore Isaac Gayetsky.

Freshman Hayes Houseworth is playing third singles.

"Hayes has good strokes. He just has to learn to hit," De Dent said. "He'll be OK."

Davidson opened April 2 with a 4-1 loss to Liberty 4-1 and lost to Dublin Jerome 5-0 on April 3 and Olentangy 5-0 on April 4.

Patel and Liou won 7-6, 6-4 at first doubles against Liberty.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Davidson baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:

BASEBALL

*April 12 -- At Upper Arlington

April 13 -- At Olentangy

*April 15 -- Home vs. Central Crossing

*April 17 -- At Central Crossing

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 11 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central

*April 15 -- Home vs. Pickerington North

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 11 -- At Pickerington Central

April 13 -- Wooster and Hudson Western Reserve Academy in Hannigan Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington

*April 16 -- At Pickerington North

SOFTBALL

*April 11 -- Home vs. UA

April 13 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin and Whetstone

*April 15 -- Home vs. Central Crossing

*April 17 -- At Westland

BOYS TENNIS

*April 11 -- Home vs. UA

April 15 -- At Grove City

*April 16 -- Home vs. Central Crossing

April 17 -- Home vs. Wellington

TRACK & FIELD

April 13 -- Joe Lenge Dublin Classic at Dublin Coffman

April 15 -- At Coffman

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*April 11 -- Home vs. UA

April 13 -- Spike for Tykes at Mount Union

*April 16 -- At Gahanna

*April 17 -- At New Albany. The Wildcats defeated the Eagles 25-9, 25-14, 25-15 on March 28.

*League contest