With just six seniors in his program, Westland High School track and field coach Tim Eckard hopes his underclassmen gained valuable experience this spring in preparation for future seasons.
The Cougars closed their season in the Division I, district 2 meet May 18 at Hilliard Darby, as they were unable to advance anyone to regional.
"It's tough not going to practice any longer," Eckard said. "We thought at the beginning of the season we had some kids that could possibly make regional and not to be there definitely causes you to reflect and think what you could do different as a coach and as a program to move these kids closer to the elite level. We have a lot of good athletes."
The girls team was led at district by a promising freshman.
Rylea Bott, who also plays on the girls volleyball and basketball teams, finished sixth in the discus (101 feet, 2 inches). She also was 19th in the shot put (25-10 1/4).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional May 22 and 24 at Pickerington North.
"Rylea Bott was close to making it (to regional) as a freshman," Eckard said. "That was definitely one of the highlights of the year. That was exciting. ... She can be really elite."
Bott accounted for three of the Cougars' four points, as they tied Whetstone for 13th behind champion Gahanna (186) as 14 teams scored.
Senior Aja Nathans, sophomore Lisette Sevilla and freshmen Jordyn Anderson and Taylor Gullion scored the other point by finishing eighth in the 3,200-meter relay (11 minutes, 42.77 seconds).
Nathans was the only senior on the girls team.
"It's going to be hard to replace Aja," Eckard said. "She scored a ton of points for us this year. She's such a good kid, too."
Other key athletes eligible to return include junior Jemiere Wyatt (sprints) and sophomores Brenna Gilliam (sprints) and Sofia Rodriguez (sprints).
Eckard, who completed his 18th season leading the program, announced that assistant coach Allie Miller will take over the girls team next spring. He will continue as the overall coordinator of the program and as boys coach.
"I have done boys and girls for a long time," Eckard said. "Allie being young, being a female, being energetic, she can attract more girls (to the program). We have to build up our girls numbers. It was something I felt was the right move to let her take the lead on our girls team. She does a great job. The kids like her."
Artie Washington, who was one of five seniors on the boys team, joined junior Dareece Holton and freshmen David Chambers and Jackson Little on the 10th-place 800 relay (1:35.78) at district.
Senior Abdi Aden was 13th in the long jump (20-0) and 19th in the 300 hurdles (44.84). Junior Bakar Dabo was 14th in the shot put (42-9).
The boys did not score at district.
Other key athletes eligible to return include juniors Darius Lightfoot (throws) and Kyle West (sprints), sophomores Drew Hutchinson (distance), Nathan Mechling (throws) and Jose Villanueva (sprints) and freshman Tim Smith (sprints).