When senior Eddie Wilson pulled his right hamstring running the first leg of the 800-meter relay during the preliminaries of the Division I regional meet, the Groveport Madison High School boys track and field team's hopes of being represented at state essentially ended.
The Cruisers entered the regional meet held May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North with the fifth-best qualifying time in the 800 relay and the fourth-best qualifying time in the 1,600 relay, of which Wilson also was a member.
The 800 relay, which also included senior Ryan Robinette and juniors D'Marious Napier and Mecca Swain, finished 11th at regional in 1 minutes, 33.46 seconds. Wilson was replaced by junior Chris Robinson-Harrell on the 1,600 relay, which also included Napier, Robinette and Swain and finished ninth (3:27.55).
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to the state meet Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
"It really crushed our spirits immediately," coach Jason Brooks said of Wilson's injury. "He was the anchor of our (1,600 relay) and both of those (relays) would've made it to state. Plus, he usually goes (6 feet, 4 inches) in the high jump and would've been to state as an individual in that event and maybe the open 400 as well. He set the school record in the 400 and was really coming along.
"So we went from possibly qualifying in four events with him and maybe five overall, to not getting anyone out to state. He was so upset (about the injury that) he came up and apologized to me and his teammates. I was like, 'Why are you apologizing?' He gave it his all all season and he pulled a hamstring. That's not his fault."
Wilson wasn't able to make the opening height of 5-9 in the high jump at and withdrew from the 400.
Also at regional, Napier placed ninth in the high jump (6-2), the 400 relay of junior Kahlil Davis, Robinette, Napier and Swain finished ninth (44.11) and Swain finished sixth in the 200 (22.73), as the Cruisers scored three points to tie for 32nd behind champion Pickerington North (99) as 39 teams scored.
In the 15-team district 1 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby, Wilson placed second in the high jump (6-3) and fourth in the 400 (51.3), Swain placed third in the 200 (22.69), Napier was fourth in the high jump (6-1), the 800 relay placed second (1:29.73), the 1,600 relay placed third (program-record 3:21.74) and the 400 relay finished fourth (44.17).
The top four finishers in each district event qualified for regional.
Groveport placed fourth (52) at district behind champion Pickerington North (159.5) and finished fifth (67) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet May 16 and 18 at Thomas Worthington, behind Pickerington North (202), Pickerington Central (99), Gahanna (98) and Lancaster (90) and ahead of Newark (54), Reynoldsburg (26) and Grove City (19).
Napier won the league title in the high jump (6-2).
"We knew with our depth that scoring in the league meet would be tough because of the depth of the teams in our league," Brooks said. "We knew we'd do better in the district and regional meets when the points were more diluted. Our best athletes were going to score regardless, but we have trouble getting the second scorers in events or scoring in all the events."
Groveport loses five seniors, including Wilson and Robinette, both of whom plan to compete at Indiana Tech.
Among the expected key returnees are Davis, Napier, Robinson-Harrell and Swain.
"It was a great season that ended up with the kids and goals being crushed," Brooks said. "These are tough kids and I never expected to see them cry and they were crying after Eddie was injured. This was their shot. They worked so hard and were so serious about it. I was really more or less of a bystander the past month because they knew what they had to do, what they had to work on and they were all business.
"Plus, next year is going to be difficult. We didn't pass our (school) levy and track will be a non-funded sport. We have to make sure we keep these kids here and don't let them move away or quit. The middle school has some talent coming in. I plan on staying even though coaching a non-funded sport is a non-paying job. We need to build depth and follow our fundraising plan that we have set in place."
Girls track team ends season at regional
The girls track and field team was represented in the Division I regional meet by its 400 and 800 relays, but neither relay advanced to state.
The 400 relay of senior Eva Jerkins, juniors Atyauna Jones and Sharde Bumper and freshman Jaliyah Atkinson placed sixth (50.07) and the 800 relay of Jerkins, Jones, Atkinson and freshman Lillie Brown-Walker finished seventh (1:45.13).
Groveport scored five points at regional to tie for 32nd behind co-champions Gahanna (55) and Pickerington Central (55) as 39 teams scored.
"We got two relays to the regional finals and had just one senior on those," coach Kelli DelGuzzo said. "We had a really good season for as young as we are. I thought the girls performed well in the postseason."
In the 17-team district 1 meet, the 400 relay placed third (50.3) and the 800 relay finished fourth (1:46.24). Also scoring were Jerkins in the 100 (seventh, 13.1) and Jones in the 400 (eighth, 1:01.65), as the Cruisers finished 14th (14) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (90).
Groveport finished eighth (21) in the OCC-Ohio meet, behind Gahanna (177.5), Pickerington Central (141), Pickerington North (116.5), Reynoldsburg (78), Lancaster (46.5), Grove City (43.5) and Newark (35).
The Cruisers lose two seniors in Jerkins and Jasmine Lisath and will be losing DelGuzzo as well.
"I had planned on retiring after this season and we've groomed (assistant coach) Aaron Fenzel (to be the head coach)," DelGuzzo said. "I am an assistant girls basketball coach and I have two young sons. I thought now was the best time to step aside and make a little more time for my family life."
Among the expected key returnees are Atkinson, Brown-Walker, Bumper and Jones.
Baldwin sets record for boys tennis team
Senior Forrest Baldwin of the boys tennis team finished 22-9, setting the program record for victories in a season and ending his career with 50 wins to tie the program record set by 2008 graduate Bryan Rosales.
Baldwin was Groveport's only qualifier for the Division I district tournament held May 24 and 25 at Davidson. He went 1-1, defeating Reynoldsburg's Yosef Maher 6-2, 6-3 in the first round before losing to Upper Arlington's Stu Little 6-0, 6-1 in the second round.
Little went on to win the district championship and place third in the state tournament.
"It was a great season for Forrest and he worked extremely hard to achieve his goals," coach Doug Ewart said. "Unfortunately, he ran into a very difficult second-round match, but that's the way it goes. I'm very proud of him.
"I can't tell you how impressed I am with the way he played, practiced and helped his teammates behind the scene. He worked so hard with them that he didn't start preparing for the postseason until three weeks were left in the season."
Baldwin went 4-1 and was runner-up in the sectional tournament May 16 and 18 at Pickerington Central, as the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district. He defeated New Albany's Harrison Lippy 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in a semifinal before retiring against the top seed, New Albany's Naki Giri, in the final after losing the first two games of the first set.
Losing their opening matches at sectional for Groveport were senior Jordan Winegardner and junior Josh Sampson in singles, the doubles team of juniors Nate Parsons and Cory Johnson and the doubles team of junior J. Simms and sophomore Nick Shannon.
Groveport finished 6-9 overall and went 1-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division. The Cruisers concluded the league tournament with 13 points to place seventh in the final standings, behind Pickerington North (77, 7-0), Gahanna (61, 6-1), Reynoldsburg (57, 5-2), Pickerington Central (36, 4-3), Grove City (32, 3-4) and Lancaster (32, 2-5) and ahead of Newark (5, 0-7).
In the league tournament, Baldwin placed fifth at first singles, Parsons and Johnson placed sixth at first doubles and Shannon and sophomore Jacob Bogner finished sixth at second doubles.