Big Walnut Athletic Director Brian Shelton said he is annually impressed with the dedication of his student-athletes in an seemingly ever-expanding season.
“Every time I come up to the fields, kids are working hard, trying to make themselves the best they can be,” Shelton said.
Nearly forty percent of the student population participate in the district’s fall sports, a figure that rises to more than 50 percent if the marching band is included.
“Our band is 140 members strong and they really get after it every day,” Shelton said. “They have two-a-days, just like the football team.”
New for the athletic department this year is Girls Golf, which had previously been a club sport.
“There are a plethora of golf courses in the area,” Shelton said. “It always baffled me how we do not have a girls golf team, since a lot of girls want to play.”
Audrey Nelson was hired as coach, and 15 girls showed up on day one to play. Eventually, the district also hopes to field junior varsity and middle school golf teams for the girls.
Shelton said other highlights for the athletic department this fall is having its largest cross-country team at 64 members, a 13-2 start for the golf team, 2-1 start for a 20-member girls tennis squad, and winning starts for girls and boys soccer teams, as well as a competitive girls volleyball squad.
And while some may not consider cheerleading to be a sport, Shelton noted that there are four former Eagles, two male and two female, who are now cheering on the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
One of the changes the district is still adjusting to is being in the northeast division of the Ohio Capital Conference, along with Canal Winchester, Franklin Heights, Groveport, New Albany, and Newark.
On the downside, Shelton said the move means more travel for Big Walnut teams. However, the school is more competitive in the division than previously. In 2020, Big Walnut may move again in the OCC, once the fourth Olentangy high school opens.
Big Walnut’s teams began their seasons with a heavy heart after it was learned that sophomore football player Mitchell Young had perished in an auto accident earlier this summer.
“Our community is very tight, very close,” Shelton said. “So many people were here to support the family. Everyone deals with those situations differently, but in my experience, kids are tighter now and closer to each other in times like this. It’s time like this that lets people know there’s more to life than sports.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.