Girls Track & Field: Columbus School for Girls Unicorns counting on junior, freshman classes

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Jen Bunker enters her fifth season as track and field coach at Columbus School for Girls.

The Columbus School for Girls track and field team will look to a large, but untested, junior class as well as a contingent of freshmen this season.

The Unicorns have 11 juniors and 10 freshmen on their roster of 28, but even the juniors have limited varsity experience. 

“Because we missed last season (because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic), we missed a year of maturity gained from competing,” fifth-year coach Jen Bunker said. “They have a desire to succeed and a strong work ethic, which will serve this ‘young’ team well. We have a big class of freshmen who are ready and able to contribute right away.”

The Unicorns have five seniors led by Nyah Funderburke (sprints, relays) and Jolien Kusi (throws).

The top juniors include Kayden Edwards (hurdles, relays), Tori Johnson (high jump), Sophia Nagy (sprints, hurdles), Carly Priest (400 meters, 800), Lauren Sloan (800, 1,600) and Emma Spangler (relays).

“Our strength this year is the depth of our middle-distance group,” Bunker said. “Many of the athletes could drop as low as the 200 and go up to the 1,600. We need to build on our group of sprinters.”

Sophomore Maya Carpenter will participate in the throws, and freshmen Ella Chomic (distance), Grace Chomic (distance), Fabi Corsi (distance), Jameson Pillifant (middle distance) and Sophia Uselman (middle distance, relays) also are expected to contribute.

“We have a large number of freshmen, but they didn’t have an eighth-grade season,” Bunker said. “Missing last year meant we missed the chemistry out on the track and the sense of what a meet feels like and what it takes to become a competitive team.

“A good thing is that we’ve had eight weeks of practice coming into the season because track started earlier than ever. We got a lot of work in, and we’re ready to see what we can do.”

INSIDE THE UNICORNS

•Coach: Jen Bunker, fifth season 

•Next meet: April 16 at Russ Owen-Bexley Relays

•Key athletes: Fabi Corso, Kayden Edwards, Nyah Funderburke, Tori Johnson, Jolien Kusi, Sophia Nagy, Carly Priest and Lauren Sloan

Lions to test talent

in Division I waters

Bexley coach Jamie Hayes wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of participation after the pandemic forced the cancellation of last season.

The Lions have an abundance of competitors, however, and that will be important as they will compete in Division I for the first time. The school has 287 girls in grades 10-12, which is the smallest number to be a Division I program. With 286 girls, the Lions would have been in Division II.

“We would have been Division I last year but we didn’t have a season, so this will be our first year in Division I,” Hayes said. “I want my girls to see they can run with anyone, no matter what the competition is. We have some younger girls that don’t know yet how well they can do.

“After last spring, we’re just grateful to be out there on the track. This is such a sense of excitement for this year.”

The Lions likely will be paced by distance and middle-distance runners, a group that includes several standouts from a cross country team that has qualified for the Division II state meet the last five seasons. 

They include seniors Ally Grieshop, Hannah Hayden, Karleigh Place, Maria Steinke and Leah Tadese, junior Claire McDonald and sophomores Rylee Barno and Lily Keller. Freshman Addison Helon was injured during cross country but also should be a contributor.

Sprinters include sophomore Sophia Sheridan and freshmen Isabel Niermeyer and Jenna Plank, while senior Selah Foster and Tadese will lead the hurdlers. 

In the field events, the Lions will feature Plank and Sheridan in the long jump, senior Hayley Heideman and junior Anna Hughes in the high jump and sophomore twins Ellie Smith and Sydnie Smith in the shot put and discus.

“We have a great mix of strong upperclassmen and a new group of freshmen and sophomores with a lot of talent,” Hayes said. “I’m really excited about this season. We have 54 girls out, and I didn’t know what to expect coming in. I was happy we retained almost everyone and still had a large group of freshmen come out.”

INSIDE THE LIONS

•Coach: Jamie Hayes, ninth season

•Next meet: April 16 at Russ Owen-Bexley Relays

•Key athletes: Hannah Hayden, Isabel Niermeyer, Claire MacDonald, Karleigh Place, Jenna Plank, Sofia Sheridan, Ellie Smith, Sydnie Smith and Maria Steinke

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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