With an abundance of multisport athletes coming out for the program, 14th-year coach Johnny Jackson is happy about the turnout for his Westerville North High School boys track and field team.
The Warriors have 60 athletes, and Jackson believes he has more depth than in the past.
"This will be the largest amount of football and basketball players that I have ever had," he said. "We have a larger group than normal because the coaches have been sharing the athletes and they are buying in and wanting to do something to help themselves.
"With the addition of the football and basketball players and some wrestlers, track is their third sport, but that's OK. (Getting them out) is what we have been trying to do for years."
One of the football players who has been around for a while is senior Rondale Smith, who is in his fourth season with the program. The sprinter said Jackson only asks that all of the athletes give maximum effort.
"We all work hard and push each other in practice," Smith said. "Coach always says to just give 100 percent effort and you'll be fine."
Jackson is impressed with the additions from the basketball program in senior Philip Alston and juniors Charles Perkins and Chace Perkins.
"One of the Perkins (Charles) is a thrower and the other (Chace) is a jumper and sprinter," Jackson said. "(Chace) doesn't look like he's running, but he's deceptively fast. He's very smooth.
"Philip will be able to go over 6 feet in high jump and over 20 feet in the long jump, and he's fast in the 100 (meters). He has a quick first step. He's into the learning aspect of things and he's a really good athlete. All of the basketball players should help us and they are really hard workers."
Senior Cyrus Neville will be a key hurdler and senior Ryan Cooper is a top sprinter. Sophomore Isaiah Hutcherson leads what Jackson calls "a good young group of distance runners who are going to be moving up."
The Warriors lost their top returnee in senior Jeremiah Burton, who moved to Reynoldsburg. Last season, he placed 13th in the Division I state meet in the shot put (53 feet, 1/2 inch).
Jackson likes the promise of his girls team, which features strong performers in all areas.
Senior Riley Welsheimer, junior Jaiden Stokes and sophomore Autymn Briggs lead the sprint corps along with junior Jalyse Cornley, who should be ready to compete later this month after recovering from knee surgery.
Junior Lynn Burton is a top thrower, and senior Erica Mobley, juniors Grace Blanchong and Sam Gages and freshman Paige Miracle lead the distance runners. Senior Katie Koch excels at middle distance.
"We are probably more well-rounded than we have been in the past," said Jackson, who is in his 16th season leading the girls team. "We have maybe a couple superstars in every area that can do well rather than having a solid team. Our jumps should be good as well as our throws and sprints, and maybe our best area is our distance.
"(Senior) Mikayla Martin is out for the first time and should help us in the jumps. I have been trying to get her to come out for years, but I think she wants to be in tip-top shape when she steps on the field to play soccer in college, wherever she chooses to go."
Boys volleyball team remains 'coachable'
The boys volleyball team returns three starters and gains another who missed last season with injury.
Senior Amrit Adhikari returns as a defensive specialist and senior Nick Thompson returns at middle hitter. Sophomore Collin Cook has moved from outside hitter to middle hitter, and senior setter Austin Hayes is back after missing his junior season with a knee injury.
"It's a good group that is positive, and they are all very coachable and want to do well," said second-year coach Eva Opitz, whose team finished 11-9 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Buckeye Division a year ago. "We're working on building fundamentals and being consistently competitive. We graduated eight seniors and people might write us off, but we're working to build things at North."
Junior Taweh Hunter (middle hitter/outside hitter) and sophomore Nathan Gillenwater (outside hitter/setter) also expect to play key roles.
Juniors Abdou Keita (right-side hitter/middle hitter) and Brandon Lam (defensive specialist/outside hitter) and sophomores Logan Dowling (defensive specialist/outside hitter), Nathan Sharpes (outside hitter/setter) and James Touzinsky (outside hitter/defensive specialist) round out the roster.
"Some of the sophomores are doing well for not having varsity experience," Opitz said. "We have guys who could play multiple positions. We have good athleticism."
The Warriors won their opener, defeating DeSales 13-25, 23-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-10 on April 1, before losing their OCC-Buckeye opener to Westerville Central 21-25, 25-16, 25-20, 25-20 on April 4. They face Olentangy in a league match April 9.
Boys tennis coach excited about players
Jim Chellis, who has coached baseball, basketball and tennis at the prep and collegiate levels, is excited about leading the boys tennis program.
He replaced Uy Nguyen after one season in which the Warriors finished 3-11 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"I enjoy coaching tennis and it's one of my favorite coaching jobs," said Chellis, who has coached at DeSales and Watterson as well as at Xavier, Central Florida and Charleston. "We have fantastic kids and we're fairly young, but they are enthused and want to learn."
Sophomore Carter Jones will play first singles with senior Ervan Rodgers and junior Jeffrey Evans also seeing time on the singles courts.
Senior Harry Passerello will play doubles and some singles. He will be joined at first doubles by freshman Alex Workman.
Senior Gaaid Ahmed and sophomore Logan Conrad will play second doubles.
Sophomores Tim Alston and Logan Conrad and freshmen Aiden Drake and Matthew Lake round out the roster.
"We want to make it fun," Chellis said. "Regardless of our record, I want them to feel they are better at the end of the year than they were at the start."
The Warriors opened with a 4-1 loss to Lancaster on March 27 before defeating Groveport 4-1 on March 28. They lost to the Upper Arlington B team 5-0 on April 2, Olentangy Berlin 3-2 on April 3 and Dublin Coffman 5-0 on April 4.
North lost to Delaware 5-0 on April 8 before opening league play against Central on April 9.
Morris steps down as swimming coach
Coach Rich Morris has resigned after four seasons leading the boys and girls swimming and diving teams.
This season, both teams finished second in the OCC-Buckeye meet. In the Division I state meet, senior Andrew Bernsdorf of the boys team placed third in the 200-yard individual medley (1 minute, 49.29 seconds) and fifth in the 500 freestyle (4:33.6).
"Rich has resigned for personal reasons, but he does so with an outstanding program set for his replacement at North," athletics director Wes Elifritz said. "Our swimmers achieved countless personal bests (and) finished second in a very loaded OCC-Buckeye Division this past season, but most importantly, they carried themselves with class wherever they were. This is a testament to the culture that coach Morris built in our swim program at North. He will be greatly missed."
Last season, Morris helped coach 2018 graduate Jason Mathews to a state title in the 100 breaststroke (54.76). Mathews also was third in the 200 IM (1:50.43)
Below are the coming schedules for the North baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 12 -- At Olentangy
*April 15 -- At Olentangy Liberty
*April 17 -- Home vs. Liberty
*April 11 -- At New Albany
*April 16 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*April 11 -- Home vs. New Albany
*April 15 -- At Central
*April 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*April 15 -- At Liberty
*April 17 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*April 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy
April 12 -- At Marysville
April 15 -- Home vs. Bexley
*April 16 -- At Liberty
April 17 -- Home vs. DeSales
TRACK & FIELD
April 17 -- Gahanna Relays
*April 11 -- At Liberty
April 13 -- Spikes for Tykes at Mount Union