The girls at Withrow High School have been regulars at the Ohio state track and field meet and now join the Eastern Cincinnati Conference as a full competitor.
The Lady Tigers move over from the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference where they won every league title in existence.
Among Withrow’s standouts are Ayanna O’Neal, Destiny Pennington, Simone Mason, Niyah Carpenter and Mercedes Smith. Smith and Pennington return with state meet experience in relays and Pennington was the CMAC champion in the 200 meters.
Mason was the CMAC champ in the 800 with Carpenter leading in the long jump. Withrow swept the league in all relays. New this season is Texas transfer Ayanna O’Neal, who has run 14.4 in the 100 high hurdles and 43.4 in the 300 intermediate hurdles. Both times are close to current Withrow school records.
“We have a very strong, well-rounded team,” Coach Darren Braddix said. “Should be a state contender. There’s a good mix of youthful talent and veteran experience.”
Withrow will participate in the Middletown Showdown April 2 before hitting the road nationally to compete in the Florida Relays at the University of Florida April 3-4.
Walnut Hills has also been a consistent league trophy winner as the Lady Eagles have snared five straight between the old Fort Ancient Valley Conference and the Eastern Cincinnati Conference.
Starters returning for coach Amanda Robinson are seniors Hannah Schroeder, Taylor Darks, Arissa Freeman, Collier Summay, Kelly Coleman, Keira Hassel and Janae Trimble, junior Amari Hunter and sophomores Rachel Berndsen and Kahla Cornett.
Among the Walnut Hills accolades, Freeman is a four-time league champion in the 100, 200, 4×100 relay and 4×200 relay and has won ECC Runner of the Year two straight years. She qualified for regionals in all of her events.
Darks is heading to Furman for basketball and will try to run track. She was fifth at the Division I state meet in the 400 meters at 55.81 and could challenge the Walnut Hills record set by Ashley Liverpool in 2010. In addition to being district and regional champ in the 400, she was first team in the 4×200 and 4×400 relays.
“She is one of the most talented athletes I have ever coached,” Robinson said. “She decided to run track for the very first time her freshman year and has continuously improved her 400 time.”
Senior Hassel will lead the Lady Eagles in shot put and discus and newcomer Tai’Lynn Jones placed fourth in the long jump and sixth in the triple jump during Indoor Championships. She will also sprint and hurdle.
“We have not let off the gas pedal and aim to once again win the ECC team championship,” Robinson said. “After a few missteps at the 2014 district meet, we hope to once again challenge Mason for the top spot in Southwest Ohio.”
Incoming freshmen Jones, Chloe Shiff, Jeresa Anderson and Regan Anderson are expected to contribute and score, with Jones making an immediate impact in jumps and hurdles. Sophomore Cornett will be a sprint specialist and distance runners Skylar Bruggeman, Schroeder, Coleman, Summay and Shiff should score in the various longer events.
Berndsen is the lone pole vaulter and Hassel will also tutor Sydney Rhone and Hannah Freeman in discus and shot put.
Walnut Hills will be in the April 2 Middletown Showdown before appearing in the Coaches Classic at Winton Woods April 8-10.
Top returners for coach Fallon Lane at Purcell Marian are distance runner Kansas Greenwell and sprinters Annika Davis and TeAsia Gamble. The Lady Cavaliers were sixth in the Greater Catholic League Coed Division a year ago.
Greenwell is coming off a cross country season that saw her named first-team GCL Coed.
Purcell Marian’s girls will be in the Miamisburg Invite April 17 after the Coaches Classic meet March 31-April 1 at McNicholas.
After finishing fifth in the Cincinnati Hills League last year, the Mariemont Warriors are looking for improvement this year.
They will rely on sophomores Corrine Fanta and Carson Fields.
Fanta will run both the 1600 and 3200 and was a regional qualifier during the cross country season. Fields is both a sprinter and hurdler.
Assistant girls coach and boys head coach Jeff Timmers said she was excelling in the hurdles this preseason.
Timmers also said to keep an eye on freshman Jaxie Brokamp. She and Fields push each other in the hurdles events and have done so since they were in middle school.
The Warriors are coached by Emily Tyminski.
The Clark Montessori girls coached by Nia Baucke will feature sophomore Marie Claire Fibbe , freshman Renesha Griffin and senior Marihelen Gallagher. Baucke said Griffin and Gallagher are capable of breaking some school records.
After the Coaches Classic meet March 31-April 1, Clark will work the kinks out as they approach the MVC Championships at CHCA May 12-14.
When looking at St. Ursula Academy’s track and field team, the discussion must start with Annie Heffernan.
The decorated senior will lead the Bulldogs once again this season.
She specializes in the 1,600, 3,200 and 4×800 and took home titles in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and ran the anchor leg of the 4×800 in last year’s Girls Greater Catholic League meet.
She won the gold in the 1600 at state last year.
Fifth-year head coach Dan Bird will also look for good seasons from Danielle Springer, Maria Weisgerber, Alexandra Goss and Caitlin Kelly.
Kelly and Weisgerber will run the 1,600, 3,200 and 4×800 along with Heffernan. Springer will compete in the high and long jumps. Goss will participate in the 100 meter hurdles.
She won the event as a junior at last year’s GGCL meet.
“We have a talented senior and junior class to lead the team, and very large sophomore and freshmen classes which have the potential to help the team this year,” Bird said.
Seven Hills returns only two upperclassmen from last year’s team in Alayna Choo and Nia Page, but head coach Tana Luckie said the lower numbers shouldn’t hinder good individual performances.
Choo, a senior, was a regional qualifier and district champion in the long jump. Page, a junior, qualified for regionals in the 800.
Luckie said to also look for contributions from new additions Alexis Tucker, Lindsey Finn and Claire Tiorkowski.
Tucker will participate in the shot put and discus. Finn will be a hurdler and Tiorkowski will run in the 800 and 1,600.
While a league championship might be out of the question for a team such as the Stingers, it’s not out of reach for Summit Country Day.
A Miami Valley Conference championship and getting as many athletes as possible to the state meet is what head coach Kim Horning is looking for this season.
“I think we can win the league meet and win the district on both sides,” Horning said.
A couple top returners include Margo Dailey and Jodie Hutchins.
Dailey qualified for the state meet as a member of the 4×800 relay team. Hutchins will run the 300 meter hurdles and has assumed captain’s duties.
Horning also expects some freshmen to step in and contribute. In particular, she pointed to Sydni Brooks.
“She could become a leader on this team,” Horning said. “She had good times in middle school.”
Mount Notre Dame’s track team seeks improvement after finishing at the bottom of the Girls Greater Catholic League. The Cougars return a GGCL-second team 4×100 relay with juniors Sophie Sikora, Anna Rosenthal, Cahse Bauer and senior Carley Kline. Sikora also was honorable mention in the long jump.
Mike Sickles is the Cougars’ head coach.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Withrow’s Destiny Pennington and Mercedes Smith: Sprinters for the Lady Tigers with state experience.
Walnut Hills senior Arissa Freeman: Two-time ECC Runner of the Year and a four-event league champion.
Walnut Hills senior Taylor Darks: District and regional champion in the 400 last season and finished fifth at the state meet.
Purcell Marian senior Kansas Greenwell: Distance runner with postseason experience in track and cross country.
St. Ursula senior Annie Heffernan: Specializes in the 1,600, 3,200 and 4×800, won the gold in the 1600 at state last year.
Seven Hills senior Alayna Choo: Was a regional qualifier and district champion in the long jump last year.
Clark Montessori senior Marihelen Gallagher: Versatile, reliable performer for coach Nia Baucke.
Mariemont sophomore Corrine Fanta: Will run both the 1,600 and 3,200 was a regional qualifier during the cross country season.
Mount Notre Dame junior Sophie Sikora: Veteran sprinter and long jumper for MND.