Westland Roundup: Sprinters to pace Cougars boys track and field squad

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Westland Cougars

Westland track and field coach Tim Eckard believes a potentially talented group of sprinters will lead the boys team this spring. 

Senior Jose Villanueva, who was part of the team in 2019, should be among the top performers. Villanueva and Westland didn’t get a chance to compete in 2020 after the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

Senior Derrick Bogay is in his first season on the team and will be another key sprinter. He also will compete in the high jump and in relays. 

Other key sprinters should be sophomores Blake Bilger and Zane Gibbs and freshman Johnothon Dyce. 

“We’re pretty sprint-heavy on the boys side,” said Eckard, who is in his 19th season. “Our strength is going to be our sprinters. We should get some points from our sprint relays.”

Westland’s early season schedule includes competing in the Best of the South-West meet April 16 at Franklin Heights. 

While Eckard is looking for strong showings from his sprinters, he said the team’s throwers are relatively inexperienced. 

“This is the first time since I’ve been around that we’ve been really down on our throws side,” said Eckard, who also is the program’s throws coach. “My throwers are usually our strength. We had a lot of seniors last year.”

In his first season with the program, senior Colton Bogle will compete in the discus and shot put. 

Senior Drew Hutchinson, who was on the team in 2019, should lead the distance group. 

“I’m just trying to live in the moment, running as fast as I can and as much as I can,” Hutchinson said. “Our team definitely isn’t as big as it used to be, but the kids who are on the team this year care about what they’re doing and will work hard to see each other succeed and see themselves succeed, so I’m pretty proud and happy to finish out this season.” 

Other key distance runners should be senior Harrison Jones and sophomores Andrew Ackerman and Thomas Emhuff. 

Westland is competing in the OCC-Ohio Division with Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westerville Central. 

Girls team looks 

to gain experience 

Eckard said the girls track team lacks experience and depth, but should be led by its sprinters. 

Senior sprinters Brenna Gilliam and Sofia Rodriguez are returnees, while sophomore Kiera Bonds will compete in the sprints and long jump. 

“Kiera Bonds with her speed is going to be really special for us,” Eckard said. 

Freshmen Mikajalita Bailey and Takayah Coleman should be other key sprinters. 

Rodriguez also will compete in the long jump. 

Junior Taylor Gullion, another returnee from 2019, should be the top distance competitor. 

Sophomore Leea Walker will compete in the throws. 

There are only 11 girls on the roster, which could hamper the team’s ability to fill all four relays. 

“When you have a smaller team, you end up cutting events,” Eckard said. “A small team definitely hurts when you’re against stronger competition. It’s more of a challenge this year, but it’s probably one of the hardest-working teams I’ve had. It’s small, but it’s a lot of high-character (athletes). It’s a very committed team.” 

TRACK & FIELD

Coach: Tim Eckard, 19th season 

Next meet: April 13 at Grove City with Teays Valley 

Key athletes: Boys — Derrick Bogay, Zane Gibbs, Drew Hutchinson and Jose Villanueva; Girls — Kiera Bonds, Brenna Gilliam, Taylor Gullion and Sofia Rodriguez

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank