Watterson High School senior Joe Mankovecky couldn't attend his graduation ceremony June 1 because he was busy competing for the boys track and field team in the Division II regional meet at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
It appears as though he made the right decision, as he won the high jump by clearing 6 feet, 6 inches to advance to the state meet Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
As Mankovecky was receiving his medal on the awards podium, coach Matt McGowan surprised him by also handing him his diploma.
"I missed our graduation, but it was a lot cooler to get my diploma from my coach in front of everyone in that stadium than doing it at school," he said. "Getting my gold medal and diploma at the same time made it a pretty special day."
Mankovecky, who set the program record of 6-8 1/4 in the Columbus School for Girls Invitational on April 27, is the defending state champion. Last year, he cleared 6-7 to finish ahead of runner-up Manny Durden of Rossford (6-5).
Mankovecky, who committed May 29 to continue his track career at Cornell University, is expecting to battle Wooster Triway's Mark Stair for the state title. Stair won the high jump (6-6) in the Division II indoor state meet March 16 at the University of Akron, ahead of runner-up Manko-vecky (6-4). Stair also has cleared 6-9 in an outdoor meet this spring.
"I have a chance to lose in the state meet this year, so I'm excited to test myself there," Mankovecky said. "My goals are to beat my school record there and to win another state title."
Also qualifying for state were junior Dominic Lombardi, who placed second in the 300 hurdles (39.69 seconds) and fourth in the 110 hurdles (15.2), and the 400 relay of sophomore Brad Kanney, juniors Ryan Urquhart and Cody Calhoun and Lombardi (fourth, 43.85).
The top four finishers in each event at regional, which began May 30, advanced to state.
Also competing at regional was senior Sam Kayuha, who finished 11th in the 3,200 (10:51.82).
Watterson scored 28 points to place eighth at regional behind champion Versailles (66) as 47 teams scored.
"It was good to see our team have a stronger presence in our regional this year," Manko-vecky said.
In the district 2 meet that concluded May 25 at Westerville South, Mankovecky won the high jump (6-6), Lombardi won the 300 hurdles (program-record 38.6) and the 400 relay Kanney, Urquhart, Calhoun and Lombardi finished first (43.91).
Kayuha placed second in the 3,200 (10:27.82) and Lombardi was third in the 110 hurdles (15.04).
The Eagles finished fifth in the 13-team district 2 meet behind champion Caledonia River Valley (128), as the top four finishers in each event advanced to regional.
"All of the boys who scored in the district championships ran their best times of the year," McGowan said. "Dominic Lombardi's new school record in the 300 hurdles is a second faster than he ran earlier this year."
Bibo loses in state tennis tourney
Ryan Bibo was the only member of the boys tennis team to compete in the Division II state tournament May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
The senior lost to Warren John F. Kennedy's Jad Abdul-Aal 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-4 in the opening round.
Bibo qualified for state by going 2-1 and placing second in the district tournament May 24 and 25 at Columbus Academy. He defeated Academy's Shrikar Kundur 6-4, 6-3 in a semifinal before losing to Worthington Christian's Joel Montgomery 6-4, 6-3 in the final, as the top two finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
Also competing at district was the doubles team of junior twin brothers Mark and Michael Guza. The duo lost its opening match 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 to Buckeye Valley's Zach Baesman and Zach Hassinger.
In the sectional tournament May 16 and 20 at CSG, Bibo went 5-0 to win his first sectional singles title and the Guza brothers went 3-1 and placed second.
Also at sectional, sophomore Kevin Beattie went 2-1 in singles, freshman Ryan Maur went 1-1 in singles and juniors Stev Gregory and Jae Suk Dae went 2-1 in doubles.
Watterson finished 11-6 overall and placed second (3-1) in the CCL behind St. Charles (4-0) and ahead of DeSales (2-2), Ready (1-3) and Hartley (0-4).
Girls track team ends season at district
The girls track and field team ended its season in the 17-team Division I, district 1 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby.
The 3,200 relay of sophomore Amy Griffith, freshman Caroline Sugar, senior Heidi Hetterscheidt and sophomore Jessica Passwater placed fifth (9:58.86) and Griffith placed seventh in the 1,600 (5:32.67), as the top four finishers in each event advanced to the regional meet May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North.
Watterson scored six points at district to finish last, behind champion Hilliard Davidson (90).
After finishing fifth in the CCL a year ago, the Eagles placed third (105) in the league meet held May 16 and 18, behind DeSales (114) and host Columbus School for Girls (112) and ahead of Hartley (102) and Ready (55).
Winning league titles for the Eagles were the 3,200 relay of Griffith, Hetterscheidt, Passwater and freshman Claire Diorio (9:53.7), Passwater in the 3,200 (12:26.3) and Griffith in the 1,600 (5:23).
Boys lacrosse team falls in tourney
The boys lacrosse team lost to New Albany 8-7 in overtime in the second round of the Division II Central Region tournament May 29 at home to finish 11-5.
Attacker Reed Abahazie scored four goals, attacker Matt Foley had three assists and goalkeeper Jordan Lucki had 10 saves.
Watterson opened the regional tournament May 24 at home with a 13-2 win over Kent Roosevelt.
Attacker Eddie Passen scored four goals, Foley and attacker Hunter Spence each scored two and Lucki had 12 saves.
Softball team loses in district final
The eighth-seeded softball team lost to second-seeded Grove City 9-1 in a Division I district final May 25 at Pickerington Central to finish 19-5.
Grove City took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Sophomore first baseman Katie Manahan hit a solo home run with one out in the second to cut the Eagles' deficit to 2-1, but the Greyhounds sent 10 batters to the plate in the third and scored five runs to open a 7-1 lead.