Olentangy Liberty High School girls track and field coach James Dingus always is watching out for what he calls "diamonds in the rough."

With about 120 girls in the program this spring, it would be easy to miss athletes who could be ready to emerge if Dingus didn't keep his eyes open.

"Our numbers are not dwindling at all, but that's good," said Dingus, who is in his ninth season. "Our depth keeps improving and has always been one of our strong suits. With the depth we have, it allows for competition all year."

The Patriots finished fifth (55) in the nine-team Panther Invitational on April 5 at Hilliard Darby behind champion Gahanna (153) as freshman Ava Howski won the pole vault (10 feet).

Liberty is the defending OCC-Buckeye Division champion, and there are four returning athletes who competed in the Division I state meet last spring in seniors Carrie Lawal, Gracie Sprankle and Brea White and sophomore Nicole Tonetti.

Lawal, Tonetti and White all were on the 800-meter relay that was fifth (1 minute, 41.96 seconds), and Sprankle was fifth in the 3,200 (10:39.07).

Senior Madeline Ailes and sophomore Divya Patel also are among the team's top 800 runners and could end up on the 3,200 relay along with Sprankle. Sophomore Audrey Piero is another key middle distance runner and freshman Sarah Gilbert is competing in distance.

Joining Lawal, Tonetti and White in sprints are seniors Jessica Barna and Sienna Sakich, sophomore Sydney Reed and freshman Sami Sincek.

Senior Reagan Smollen is among the team's top hurdlers. Senior Mollie Kunar leads Liberty in the shot put, and senior Niki Kirkham is competing in shot put and discus.

Sophomores Taylor Weiss and Sophie Culver are in the high jump, and Tonetti and junior Emily Williams are in the long jump.

Sophomore Halle Deericks is another pole vaulter.

"We're kind of showing we're going to be pretty well-rounded this year," Dingus said. "When you look at my sprinters, I have a stable of really quality girls. We rely heavily on multisport athletes."

Boys track team has right approach

Staying focused hasn't been an issue for the boys track team, and that could set up the Patriots for a strong season.

"It's a very committed group," fourth-year coach Nate Cikach said. "I've coached a lot of teams in a lot of sports, and this team is at the top of the list in terms of being athlete-led and being self-accountable. We have the opportunity to do some good things. They're focused on maximizing the moment. I don't know how good we can be, but we'll get the most out of what we can be."

The top returnee is senior Luke Bendick, who finished seventh in the pole vault (14-6) in last year's Division I state meet. His brother, 2018 graduate Andrew Bendick, was 10th in the 200 (22.29) as the Patriots' other state qualifier.

Luke Bendick won the pole vault (14-0) on April 5 as Liberty scored 88 points to capture the title in the 10-team Panther Invitational at Darby.

Seniors Adam Clark, Drew Folwarczny and Joseph Johnson return from the 3,200 relay that was 10th (8:01.87) at regional.

Seniors Gavin Smith and Ubby Suligavi and junior Aidan McClure are back after running on the 400 relay that placed seventh (43.44) at regional.

Smith also is competing in the long jump with senior Alex Adams, and Johnson is running in distance events along with junior Jack Humenay.

Seniors Kwab Ayesu-offei, Justin Chrisman, Hank Hoffman and Chase Miley and junior Matthew Onate are other top sprinters, with seniors Tasker Brown, Tyler Lackey and Zach Yamokoski and juniors Holden Devassie, Camden Wegner and Benton Wishart among the middle distance runners.

Seniors Drew Boggs and Jake Zody and junior Jacob Feldmaier also are running distance, and seniors Mitchell Reitz and Jake Sincek are the top hurdlers.

Junior Jadin Mumaw is the top returnee in the shot put and discus, senior Alec Monnin and junior Max Miller are in the high jump and junior Nick Ruppe is another in the pole vault.

"It's a fun group," Cikach said.

Tennis team building with young players

Of the eight players expected to contribute for the boys tennis team, none are seniors.

The top returnee is sophomore Vishnu Bodavula, who played doubles with 2018 graduate Adithya Nair in the Division I district tournament last season. Bodavula played first singles for most of the 2018 regular season and is in that spot again.

Liberty opened with a 3-2 loss March 26 to Worthington Kilbourne, beat Hilliard Davidson 4-1 on April 2 and lost to Dublin Coffman 4-1 on April 3.

The Patriots opened OCC-Buckeye action April 9 at home against Orange.

"We're extremely young with no seniors," third-year coach Josh Matusky said. "We're very, very hard working. They were hitting throughout the offseason, working out three times a week and everybody is eager and excited. We were doing morning conditioning at 6 a.m. We're going to improve throughout the season."

Juniors Marcelo Aguilar and Tarun Nandakumar and sophomore Arvind Nair are others who have returned after competing in the postseason last spring.

Junior Srihar Chakravarthy and sophomores Nandha Srivenkateswaran and Matt Bu also are returnees, and sophomore Saketh Chirumamilla is another looking to contribute.

"All these kids know each other," Matusky said. "They played throughout the last couple years and played together in the offseason in open courts, but we obviously have a young team. The biggest thing is learning how to play higher-level tennis. If we continue to grow as we have been, we have a chance to compete for (a league title)."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

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

BASEBALL

*April 12 -- Home vs. Westerville South

April 13 -- Home vs. Kimberly (Wis.) and Mount Vernon

*April 15 -- Home vs. Westerville North

*April 17 -- At Westerville North

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 11 -- Home vs. Westerville South

April 13 -- Home vs. Carmel (Ind.)

*April 16 -- At Orange

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 11 -- At Westerville South

April 13 -- At Thomas Worthington

*April 15 -- Home vs. Orange

April 17 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington

SOFTBALL

*April 11 -- At Westerville South

April 12 -- At Mount Vernon

*April 15 -- Home vs. Westerville North

*April 17 -- At Westerville Central

BOYS TENNIS

*April 11 -- At Westerville South

April 15 -- At Upper Arlington

*April 16 -- Home vs. Westerville North

April 17 -- At Bexley

TRACK & FIELD

April 16 -- Home vs. Orange

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*April 11 -- Home vs. Westerville North

*April 16 -- At Westerville Central

*League contest