South Saunders prepares to go ‘faster’

Despite a right hip injury, Westerville South Girls’ Athletics star Marissa Saunders has had a record-breaking 2021 season.

Ten days after winning the Division I state title in the 100-meter hurdles (program record 14.05 seconds) and placing eighth in the 300 hurdles (46.71), Saunders underwent surgery.

She entered her first year in great shape, determined to build on the success of last season.

“I had surgery and now I’m ready to go,” Saunders said. “I don’t know how much the injury held me back, but probably a good amount. The hurt is behind me. Looking forward to the season, new goals (and) hopefully faster times.

Following his surgery and a period of rehabilitation, Saunders competed in the Division I indoor state competition on March 4 at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, winning the 60 hurdles (8.7) and finishing 17th in the 200m ( 26.13).

Big things could be in store for Saunders in Jim Gaul’s 38th season as coach.

“I know she’s probably looking forward, like me and everyone else, to what a healthy year will really look like for Marissa,” said Jimmy Gaul, who oversees the boys and girls teams and is Jim’s son. . “Last year we were successful and the results were incredible and set records. We are excited to see what the outdoor season has in store for us.

Saunders also holds indoor program records in the 60 hurdles (8.65), 60 (7.9) and 200 (25.84).

His brother, Kaden, graduated early from South in December to enroll at Penn State and prepare for his first season of football.

South added reinforcements in the hurdles with second student Alexus Roberts transferring from Big Walnut. Roberts qualified for the region last season in the 100 hurdles, finishing sixth (15.29).

“(Roberts) was asking which school I thought she would be better at,” Marissa Saunders said. “As a hurdler, I told her she could come and train with me and it would help both of us better and I would have a hurdler training partner. We both know that we push each other to be better at every race. I don’t think we worry about who is going to do better. It’s just that racing against each other helps both of us.

Roberts also competed in the national indoor competition, finishing second to Saunders in 60 hurdles (8.97). Roberts also finished eighth in the long jump (16 feet, 4 3/4 inches).

“I’m not going to turn down someone that talented,” Jimmy Gaul said of Roberts. “I’m happy to have him. We are excited to start with her and Marissa in the fold. They had a full indoor season.

Also returning is senior Tiara Takyi, who won the OCC-Division Capitale title in the 400m (1:00.81) last season.

“You won’t find a single person in our building with a negative thing to say about Tiara,” Jimmy Gaul said. “She is a kind and compassionate friend and classmate. She is a wonderful part of our marching band and color party. our team, she is one of those children who make public education so rewarding.

Jimmy Gaul expects contributions from junior Nelia Guice (high jump, sprints, discus, shot put) and second Zoe Guice (sprints), who are sisters.

Sophomore Meghan Worch (distance) ran in the state cross-country meet in the fall, and sophomore Aubrey Paes is another key distance runner.

Junior Leanne Ngo will compete in the pole vault and long jump.

“When you have not only national-caliber but national-caliber athletes, and you have high-level competitors in other sports, the expectations are always high,” said Jimmy Gaul. “It’s exciting to work with a group of young women who hold themselves to a high standard and really want to push themselves and others to be their best.”

Senior Brooke Holloway, who finished sixth regionally in the pole vault (11-0) last year, has been traded to Worthington Christian. She holds South’s program records for both outside (11-8) and inside (11-6).

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•Coach: David Mentlow, second season

• High level athletes: Kylie Croushore, Deja Curry-Brown, Maria De Cunha, Taylor Hickman, Mallory Lewis, Kayla Napper, Olivia Pace, Taryn Stills, Allison Strosnider and Tara Will

• Key losses: Chi-Chi Guyo, Moriah Johnson and Skylar Themearas

• OCC-Ohio 2021 ranking: Gahanna (207), North Pickerington (114), New Albany (81), Westerville Central (76), Grove City (44), Westland (1)

• Post-season 2021: Fourth in district, seventh in regional, tied for 25th in state

•Outlook: Coach David Mentlow believes his team has the potential for a special season.

The Warhawks return a strong group, including senior Taylor Hickman (sprints), who joined 2021 graduates Moriah Johnson, Chi-Chi Guyo and Skylar Themelaras on the 800 relay in sixth place (1:41.42) at the state last season.

Hickman was fifth in the 200m (20.53) in indoor competition this winter, while runner-up Olivia Pace (sprints) won the 60m (7.49) and was seventh in the 200m (25.61 ).

Other main returnees are seniors Maria De Cunha (hurdles), Mallory Lewis (high jump, long jump) and Tara Will (distance), juniors Kylie Croushore (discus, shot put), Deja Curry-Brown (sprints ), Kayla Napper (high jump) and Allison Strosnider (hurdles) and runner-up Taryn Stills (high jump, long jump).

Napper was sixth (5-2) and Stills 10th (5-0) in the high jump during the indoor competition.

• Quoteable: “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores and we have a small group of seniors who are going to contribute a lot. We are really young and we have a lot of potential. —Mentlow

—Frank DiRenna


•Coach: Tim Jewett, third season

• High level athletes: Josie Dages, Katherine Dortmund, Mary McAllister, Marie Ndayishimye and Erica Offei

• Key losses: Cara Jewett, Hannah Pekarcik and Gracey Wilson

• CCL 2021 ranking: Watterson (214), DeSales (119), Hartley (117), Loan (33)

• Post-season 2021: 18th to arrondissement

•Outlook: Senior throwers Marie Ndayishimye and Erica Offei, who are the league’s reigning shot put and discus champions respectively, are among several comebacks from a team that won three CCL titles and earned three more second-place finishes but was not regional.

Junior Josie Dages, last year’s CCL champion in the 1600m, leads a distance unit that includes senior Audrey Callahan, second Mary McAllister – two-time regional cross country qualifier – and rookie Annie See. Juniors Bryn Klingbeil and Liz Meeker, sophomores Katherine Dortmund and Isabella Swallow and rookie Emma Figliola pace the sprinters.

Dortmund is also a hurdler.

Sophomore Kenyetietta Quinn won the high jump (5-0) at the season opener Upper Arlington Invitational on April 2.

• Quoteable: “We have some strength in the throws. … We have good competition at these particular events. Division I is a tough place to compete for the district and region here, and we’re in a good league as well. I think we have the chance to do good things. — Coach Tim Jewett

—Dave Purpura


•Coach: Johnny Jackson, 18th season

• High level athletes: Amanda Cooper, Kayla Curry-Brown, Ashley Kisor, Colleen Lynch and Erin Mayle

• Key losses: Autymn Briggs, Kellie Koch and Chrissy Widman

• OCC-Capital 2021 ranking: Big Walnut (144.4), Westerville South (142), Delaware (87.4), Westerville North (78.5), Winchester Canal (73.5), Worthington Kilbourne (71.2), Dublin Scioto (61) , Franklin Heights (3)

• Post-season 2021: 17th to arrondissement

•Outlook: Senior Ashley Kisor, who coach Johnny Jackson called “our best all-around athlete” on either the boys’ or girls’ teams, will run all the sprint races and the 800. She was a league runner-up in the 400 last year and paces a group that also includes seniors Hannah Hutto and Erin Mayle, junior Kayla Curry-Brown and freshmen Josie Gruber, Cyandra Harris and Lexy Lawrence.

Curry-Brown is also a horseman.

Junior Amanda Cooper, an OCC-Capital finalist in the 800m last year, is part of a group of distance runners that includes several cross-country teammates in seniors Paige Miracle and Emily Widman and junior Colleen Lynch. Mayle could also participate in events remotely.

Junior Tahira Johnson is among the team’s pitchers.

• Quoteable: “The women’s team is bigger with a good group of distance runners and some good young sprinters. By the end of the season we will be a bit stronger in a few more events and hope to cause some waves in the (league) and district. We are young and we will grow and get tougher. —Jackson

—Dave Purpura


•Coach: Jim Gaul, 38th season

• High level athletes: Nelia Guice, Zoe Guice, Leanne Ngo, Aubrey Paes, Alexus Roberts, Marissa Saunders, Tiara Takyi and Meghan Worch

• Key losses: Brooke Holloway, Taylor Hughes and Caroline Sheridan

• Post-season 2021: Eighth in district, tied for 13th in regional, tied for 19th in state

Denise W. Whigham