Upper Arlington High School boys track and field coach Bryan Ferres' first impression of his team this season was simple.

"Strength in numbers," he said.

Ferres was not joking, as his team has 153 athletes and the boys and girls teams combined have a total of 266, which the Golden Bears' second-year coach said is an increase of 63 athletes from a year ago and "by far the largest team in school history."

"This season we will be competing for a (OCC-Central Division) title. We surprised a lot of people and finished second last year in both the boys and girls," Ferres said, citing that the boys team has not won a league championship since 1992. "We have a chance to end that drought this year. We want to build off of last year's success and leave a legacy, continuing to build toward the future."

UA lost its only Division I state meet qualifier from a year ago in 2018 graduate Garegin Soghomonyan, who did not score in the pole vault after winning the event at the league and district meets and finishing third at regional to become the boys' first state qualifier since 2010.

Two regional qualifiers return in juniors Sean McRae (throws) and Chris Schweisthal (sprints). Senior Thomas Richter placed seventh in the 3,200 meters (9 minutes, 29.53 seconds) at the indoor state meet March 2 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, while senior Max Czerwonka and junior Isaac Perry were 17th (8.44) and 20th (8.51), respectively, in the 60 hurdles.

The Bears opened March 26 by finishing first (61 points) in a tri-meet at Worthington Kilbourne ahead of the host Wolves (49) and St. Charles (27).

"One of our strengths is that across the board, we have evenly distributed talent," Ferres said. "Our goal is to get better each and every day and to have our peak performances at the end of the year. If that happens, we can compete for (some) individual and team championships."

According to Ferres, other top contributors will include seniors Chibuike Ibe (throws), Brandon Isenbarger (jumps, sprints) and Tynan Matthews (jumps, sprints), juniors Ben Crespo (distance), Corey Jones (throws), Mason McHugh (pole vault), Nick Mullins (jumps, sprints) and Pedro Olvera (sprints), sophomores Coleman Kegler (hurdles, jumps, sprints), Charlie Nowinski (distance) and George Shade (jumps, sprints) and freshman Alex Nicol (distance).

Because of construction at the high school, UA will not have any home meets this season. The Bears' annual Larkin/Crosten Invitational will be held May 3 at Thomas Worthington.

The varsity team is practicing at Jones Middle School and junior varsity athletes practice at Hastings Middle School.

"(We have) had our difficulties in planning, but it sure makes those individuals that want to be at the varsity practice work harder to get better," Ferres said.

Heuerman returns to lead girls track team

Senior distance runner Heidi Heuerman of the girls track and field team will try to finish her prep career with consecutive Division I state appearances after finishing 15th in the 3,200 last year. Heuerman, a Wisconsin recruit, was the first UA runner to make state since 2015. Last month, she finished ninth in the 3,200 (10:58.26) at the state indoor meet.

Two other Bears qualified for the state indoor meet, both in the high jump. Junior Ellen Sneed placed 10th (5-0) and freshman Ellie Ford was 19th (4-10).

Junior Adrienne Wachtman also returns after qualifying for regional last year in both the discus and high jump.

"We have a few others who are running and jumping well (and) time will tell how they contribute as we get into the season," eighth-year coach Latisha Wilder said. "We've only had (three) meets so far, so we'll know a lot more about where we are as a team soon."

UA opened with a 74.5-61.5 win at Kilbourne on March 26.

Other returnees include seniors Caroline Beery (pole vault) and Elizabeth Schueler (hurdles, sprints) and juniors Juliana Mustric (hurdles) and Abbie Sells (sprints).

According to Wilder, potential contributors also include sophomore Hailie Clark (sprints) and freshman Evie Sanford (throws).

UA is seeking its first league championship since 2004.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington baseball, crew, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, track & field and boys volleyball teams:

BASEBALL

*April 12 -- Hilliard Davidson at Grandview

April 13 -- At Grove City with Massillon Jackson

*April 15 -- Westland at Fred Beekman Park

*April 17 -- At Westland

CREW

April 13 -- Cincinnati High School Invitational at Harsha Lake

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 11 -- At Pickerington North

*April 16 -- At Newark

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 11 -- Pickerington North at Tremont Elementary

April 13 -- Hannigan-Galipault Invitational at Thomas Worthington

April 17 -- At Olentangy Liberty

SOFTBALL

*April 11 -- At Hilliard Davidson

April 12 -- Olentangy Orange at Fred Beekman Park

*April 15 -- Westland at Fred Beekman Park

April 16 -- Bloom-Carroll at Fred Beekman Park

*April 17 -- At Marysville

TRACK & FIELD

April 13 -- Joe Lenge Dublin Classic at Dublin Coffman

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*April 11 -- At Hilliard Davidson

*April 16 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central

*League contest