The Olentangy Orange High School boys track and field team is ready to reload after losing an abundance of talent.
The Pioneers tied for fifth in the Division I state meet last spring, but lost seven athletes who competed at state to graduation, including Jayden Rodgers, who won the 110-meter hurdles in a program-record 13.83 seconds.
Sixth-year coach Adam Walters said the team could find continued success thanks to several athletes who have been waiting patiently for a chance to excel.
"We lost a really good senior class and (sprinter) Zach Harrison (graduated) early to play football at Ohio State," said Walters, whose team won OCC-Buckeye Division and district titles last season and was regional runner-up. "But we have had a lot of guys that were waiting in the wings to show what they can do. We have depth in all areas and should do well."
One athlete waiting for a chance to shine is Jaeschel Acheampong. The junior was a member of the third-place 1,600 relay (3:19.76) at state last season with senior Christian Wright and 2018 graduates Manny Anderson and Tyler King and was on the fourth-place 800 relay (1:28.22) with his brother, 2018 graduate Kevin Acheampong, as well as 2018 graduate Joel Sarpong and junior Max Stewart.
Jaeschel Acheampong also finished ninth at state in the long jump (22 feet, 10 1/2 inches), but expects to make his mark in the open sprints this spring.
"I expect us to do a lot more than people expect," he said. "We still have a lot of people that are willing to work hard.
"Coach (Walters) has been talking about focusing on the little things like eating well and sleeping well. If you do all of the little things, that allows you to do better in all areas."
Other key returnees include senior Andrew Schroff and sophomore Alex Kenish, distance runners who joined King and 2018 graduate Tommy Wintering on the third-place 3,200 relay (program-record 7:44.89) at state last year.
The Pioneers had a limited roster during spring break, when they finished sixth (61.5 points) in the 16-team Newark Invitational on March 30, behind champion St. Charles (85). They finished fifth (51) in the Stingel Invitational on April 6 at Pickerington North, behind champion Pickerington Central (111.75).
Sophomore Jonathan Peterson was runner-up in the pole vault (13-6) in the Stingel Invitational.
"Jonathan was one of the best freshmen in the state last year and has started strong for us," Walters said. "Andrew, Alex, Jaeschel, Max and Christian all did a great job for us in relays last year, and they should continue that success."
Walters said junior Ian Enders should help in the sprints and junior Pijith Kachana and sophomore Jadon Ampadu should excel in the hurdles, while juniors Connor Mathena and Eli Payne will lead the throwers.
Girls track team has high expectations
The girls track and field team is ready to take the next step, according to Walters, who has led the program for seven years.
Not that the Pioneers haven't been successful, but he said everything has been pointing to this season.
"This senior class has been the backbone of the team for the last four years," Walters said. "We not only have that, but an incredible freshman class to add to our depth. It should be a great season for the girls, much like the boys had last year."
The Pioneers return all four of their runners from the 400 relay that placed third (47.76) in the Division I state meet last season in seniors Brenda Agyekum, Grace Frye, Maya Patterson and Mackenzie Blendick.
Also at state last year, Frye, who is a Kent State signee, placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (program-record 44.19) and ninth in the discus (124-11), Agyekum finished ninth in the 100 (12.37) and Blendick was 11th in the 100 hurdles (15.12).
Senior Allie Guagenti, an Ohio State signee, is back to lead the distance corps after battling foot injuries last year. Senior Lindsay Ott is another standout distance runner.
"It's exciting for the team to have that many people back," Walters said. "We have a ton of depth to go with the experience. They have worked hard to get to this level, and now it will pay off."
Other expected key athletes include freshman sprinter Ava Musgrove and first-year junior high-jumper Anna Grabau.
The Pioneers won their first two meets, scoring 132 points in the Newark Invitational as Big Walnut (80) was runner-up and totaling 135 points in the Stingel Invitational to finish well ahead of runner-up Centerville (75).
In the Stingel Invitational, Agyekum, Frye, Patterson and Blendick won the 400 relay (49.46) and junior Camille Barron, freshman Abby Faulkner, sophomore Kylie Hanson and Musgrove finished first in the 800 relay (1:45.69).
Also in the meet, Frye won the shot put (38-10) and placed second in both the discus (127-1) and 300 hurdles (47.55), Guagenti finished first in the 3,200 (11:10.1), Grabau won the high jump (5-4) and sophomore Sara Borton was runner-up in the pole vault (10-6).
Senior high-jumper Celia Ritchie, an Ohio University signee, is expected to miss the season with a foot injury.
Boys tennis team has less experience
The boys tennis team has won two consecutive OCC-Buckeye titles, but the Pioneers don't have as much experience as they had the past two seasons.
Senior Alex Heiden returns at first singles after going 1-1 in doubles with 2018 graduate Jordan Phelps in the Division I state tournament last spring.
Also back are senior Zach Shaver and sophomore Pranav Krishnan, both of whom played doubles last season, as well as sophomore Nick Bardash, who split time between varsity and junior varsity.
"I really like our energy, especially with a lot of kids being brand new to varsity," said seventh-year coach Matt Rutherford, whose team finished 8-3 overall and 5-0 in the league last season. "We have 10 freshmen in the program and it's fun to watch them interact. They are so excited and want to learn. They are like sponges."
Freshmen Soham Pradhan and Parth Patel are playing second and third singles, respectively. Krishnan and Shaver are playing first doubles, and Bardash and sophomore Dillon Messick are at second doubles.
Messick attends Marburn does not have a tennis program. He is eligible to play for the Pioneers because he resides within Orange's territory.
Freshman Chris Kraynak also is on the team.
"Our focus is to get better every match," Rutherford said. "The wins and losses will take care of themselves. Really, a league championship is not one of our goals. We just want to continue to get better."
Orange opened April 1 with a 3-2 loss to Dublin Coffman before losing to Wellington 5-0 on April 3. The Pioneers defeated Franklin Heights 5-0 on April 4 before opening OCC-Buckeye play against Liberty on April 9.
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 12 -- At Westerville Central
April 13 -- Home vs. Cleveland St. Ignatius
*April 15 -- At Westerville South
*April 17 -- Home vs. South
*April 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy
April 13 -- Home vs. Whitehouse Anthony Wayne
*April 16 -- Home vs. Liberty
*April 11 -- At Olentangy
April 12 -- Home vs. DeSales
*April 15 -- At Liberty
*April 11 -- Home vs. Central
April 12 -- Upper Arlington at Fred Beekman Park
April 13 -- At DeSales
*April 15 -- At South
April 16 -- At Thomas Worthington
*April 11 -- Home vs. Central
April 12 -- Home vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier
*April 16 -- At South
April 17 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
TRACK & FIELD
April 12 -- New Albany Invitational
April 16 -- At Liberty
April 13 -- Home vs. Briggs and Cincinnati Walnut Hills
*April 16 -- At Olentangy