Sophomore Anna Kessler of the Watterson High School girls track and field team made it to the second day of the Division I state meet.
That was among the biggest positives from a growing season for the Eagles, who expect to return most of their roster after winning the CCL championship and competing in four events at regional.
Kessler placed ninth in the 100 meters in 12.69 seconds at state June 1 at Ohio State after running a 12.48 in her preliminary heat the day before.
Her preliminary time matched her time when she placed second in the regional meet that concluded May 24 at Pickerington North.
"I thought it was a pretty good race (in the state preliminary)," Kessler said. "I felt the pressure really helped and gave me adrenaline. I could feed off of that. I was hoping to get in the 12.3 area. ... It's a good way to start next year, a good morale boost."
According to her coach and father, Adam Kessler, getting to state for the first time was an important barrier to cross.
"I didn't know if she was going to make it to day two," he said. "We were just happy to be here. The competition was pretty tough."
According to coach Kessler, setting program records this season were the 1,600 relay and sophomore Erin Connors in the 300 hurdles.
Anna Kessler, who was district 3 champion in the 100 (12.48) and 200 (26.28), and Connors are expected to lead a large group of returnees from a team that tied for 17th (12) at regional.
Also competing at regional were the 3,200 relay of junior Bridget Dougherty, Connors, sophomore Brooklyn Brush and freshman Claire Sugar (sixth, 9:38.15), Kessler in the 200 (eighth, 26.03) and Connors in the 300 hurdles (10th, 46.84).
Others eligible to return include juniors Natalie Garrett (shot put/discus), Sarah Heink (distance) and Julia Walling (hurdles), sophomores Julia Flanagan (long jump), Olyvia Kennedy (shot put), Clare Mackin (hurdles) and Cailin O'Reilly (sprints) and freshman Riley Connors (sprints/middle distance), Leah Hetteberg (distance), Jordan Morales (sprints), Amelia Moreland (high jump), Erica Offei (discus) and Rachel Ohlin (sprints).
"We ended up getting fifth at district, which was an improvement over last year," coach Kessler said. "We lose a few seniors that obviously we'll need some people to replace with, but overall the season went pretty much as I was hoping it would."
The boys team didn't have any state qualifiers and didn't score at the Division II regional that concluded May 25 at Lexington.
Competing at regional were senior Callen Daily in the 100 (11th, 11.37) and sophomore Will Garey in the 1,600 (11th, 4:39.9).
Sophomore Nick Youell, who placed fourth in the 400 (52.77) at the district 1 meet that concluded May 16 at Westerville North, and sophomore Spencer Mandzak, who placed seventh in the 200 (24.47) at district, also should be among the top returnees.
Others eligible to return include juniors Zach Kubatko (long jump) and Jimmy Racher (sprints), sophomores Carson Blank (hurdles), Patrick Jesse (discus) and Colin Thomas (sprints) and freshmen Cris Kubatko (distance), Alex Spiers (distance) and Jake Vanausdle (sprints).
"We took our lumps a little bit this year, but this is laying the groundwork for next year," coach Kessler said. "The biggest thing is that I need more bodies. We had 18 runners and six throwers, and it's tough to make competitive lineups with those numbers. If we can get more bodies, it'll definitely help."
Changes coming for baseball team
In addition to losing seven seniors who were instrumental in three consecutive Division II district runner-up finishes, the baseball team is looking for a coach after the retirement of Scott Manahan.
The Eagles went 21-7 overall and 6-2 in the CCL to earn a share of the league title with DeSales and Hartley. They closed the season May 23 with a 7-4 loss to Granville in a district final.
Manahan completed his 34th season coaching at the prep level, including two stints with the Eagles (1992-2007 and 2011-19). He retires with a career record of 640-283 with one state, four regional, 12 district and 19 league titles.
"(We received) a (district runner-up) trophy, but we've done it three years in a row and that's not acceptable," Manahan said. "Hopefully, they can get that gold again (next season) because it's been a while."
Seniors Adam Fallon (INF/P), Grant Horvath (C/DH) and Drake McAninch (P/1B) and junior Noah Truax (INF/P) were named first-team all-league and seniors Sam Greiner (OF/C) and Ryan Roark (P/INF) were second-team all-league.
McAninch went 8-2 on the mound with a 1.27 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings and batted .406 with 15 RBI. Fallon batted .394 with two home runs, 29 RBI and 30 runs scored and Horvath had two home runs and 17 RBI.
Senior Stephen Garrett, who has committed to play for Walsh, went 4-3 with 3.50 ERA.
Truax, who batted .329 with 14 RBI and was 3-0 with a 0.22 ERA, is expected to be the top returnee.
Other top returnees should include juniors Luke Delbert (OF/P), Mason Graney (INF/P), Ian Simone (INF/C/P) and Michael Vondran (P/OF) and sophomores Noah Grayem (INF/P) and Tyler Young (OF).
Grayem hit .308 with 19 RBI and pitched in three games and Graney pitched in nine games out of the bullpen, striking out 10 in 14 innings and posting a 2.00 ERA.
Others eligible to return include juniors Murphy Carroll (C), Steven Chillog (P/INF) and Zach Yates (INF/P) and sophomore Matt McClements (OF).
"I love these guys," Manahan said. "They work exceptionally hard. My coaching staff ... I've got guys driving from all over the place to coach these kids."
Boys lacrosse team to return solid group
The boys lacrosse team took a big step forward under second-year coach Chris Sauter, improving from a 10-7 overall record in 2018 to finish 17-3 and reach a Division II regional final this spring.
Watterson, which lost in a regional semifinal last season, was the No. 1 seed for the Region 7 tournament and had its season end May 23 with a 10-6 loss to second-seeded DeSales at Westerville South.
"We're greatly disappointed, for sure, but (DeSales is) a great team and these games all come down to who's got the ball more and who's got the ball at the end of the game," Sauter said.
Watterson went 2-0 in the CCL, including an 11-10 overtime win over DeSales 11-10 on April 25, and reached a regional final for the second time in three seasons.
The Eagles are losing six seniors in goalkeeper Max Balyeat, defenders Barrett Baur and Adam Grden, midfielders Nick Jannot and Cam Stellar and attacker Patrick Hall.
Juniors Dominic Dean (attacker), Max Graham (faceoff midfielder/attacker) and Max Ritchey (midfielder) and sophomores Andrew Bettendorf (midfielder/attacker) and Henry Blevins (long-stick midfielder) should be the top returnees.
Baur, Blevins and Dean were named Player of the Year for their respective positions in the region. Balyeat, Graham and Ritchey also were first-team all-region and Grden, Hall and Jannot made the second team.
Dean had 71 goals and 43 assists.
Others eligible to return include juniors Preston Barnes (defender) and Ben Wilson (midfielder), sophomores Tanner Mercer (midfielder/attack-er) and Keegan Whitacre (midfielder/attacker) and freshmen Jack Henry (midfielder/attack-er) and Brady White (goalie).
"Our team chemistry really brought us together," Ritchey said. "The senior leadership has been top-notch."