Olivia Small of the Big Walnut High School girls track and field team earned her third trip to the Division I state meet in record fashion.
The junior won the long jump in the regional meet May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North in a meet-record 18 feet, 10 inches. She broke the previous mark of 18-8 3/4, which had been set in 1985 by Upper Arlington's Peggy Odita, and jumped 11 1/2 inches farther than the runner-up, Westerville South's Chasatea' Brown (17-10 1/2).
"It was ridiculous in the best type of way," coach Joe Evener said of Small's winning jump.
Small finished third at regional last season in 17-4 1/4 before placing second at state in 17 feet, 6 3/4 inches behind champion Chantel Richardson (18-3) of Chesterland West Geauga. She finished 10th (17-1 1/2) at state in 2011.
"I went into the (regional) meet very excited," Small said. "I hurt myself at regionals the last two years, so I was very focused on what I needed to do to do well. These big meets at the end of the year are what I look forward to."
Small entered the state meet held June 7 and 8 at Ohio State with the best-qualifying distance. Richardson had the second best at 18-8.
"Making it my freshman and sophomore years was a little more difficult," said Small, who won the long jump in 18-8 1/4 in the indoor state meet March 16 at the University of Akron. "I feel more like a veteran now."
Small also qualified for state in the 400-meter relay, teaming with juniors Jamie Annis and Kristin Carty and senior Leah Thomas to place third in 45.51 seconds. It marks the first time during Evener's 19-year tenure as coach that the Golden Eagles have qualified for state in the event.
Annis also advanced to state in the 100 hurdles (third, 14.76) and 300 hurdles (third, 45.51), becoming the sixth athlete in program history to qualify for state in three events in one season.
"It's an awesome accomplishment for her," Evener said. "She's worked hard all year to improve in the hurdles."
Also competing at regional were senior Jordan Lyle in the pole vault (fifth, 10-8), senior Laylaa Crawford in the discus (sixth, 116-0) and Thomas in the 100 (11th, 13.28), as the top four finishers in each regional event qualified for state.
Small qualified for regional in the 200 but did not compete in the event.
The Golden Eagles scored 35 points at regional to tie Dublin Coffman for fourth, behind co-champions Gahanna (55) and Pickerington Central (55) and third-place Hilliard Davidson (52) as 39 teams scored.
"We had an outstanding regional meet," Evener said. "It was out of this world."
The only regional competitor for the boys team was senior Brant Weiss, who finished 12th in the discus (136-6).
Big Walnut did not score as Pickerington North (99) won the regional title and 39 teams scored.
Baseball team posts winning season
Baseball coach Chris Holly was pleased with the season, especially when taking into consideration that his team had lost eight players from its record-setting 2012 squad to graduation.
This spring, Big Walnut finished 17-12 overall -- its third consecutive winning season -- and 7-7 in the OCC-Capital Division and reached a Division II district semifinal as the fifth seed before losing to 11th-seeded and two-time defending state champion Stallions 3-2 on May 20.
Last season, the Golden Eagles broke the program record for victories in a season by going 23-6 overall -- the previous mark was 18, set in 2003 -- and won their first league title since joining the OCC-Capital before the 1997-98 school year. They also were a district finalist.
"Losing last year's class was a big loss, but these kids stepped up," Holly said. "We knew we had some talent. It was a pretty good year."
Big Walnut placed fourth in the OCC-Capital behind Olentangy Orange (12-2), Watkins Memorial (11-3) and Olentangy (10-4) and ahead of New Albany (6-8), Mount Vernon (6-8), Delaware Hayes (4-10) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
This was Watkins Memorial's last season in the OCC-Capital. The Warriors are moving to the Licking County League and will be replaced by Worthington Kilbourne, which was in the OCC-Cardinal this spring.
Big Walnut had a first-round bye in the district tournament and defeated Caledonia River Valley 2-0 in the second round May 16 before having its season come to an end at the hands of DeSales for the third consecutive year.
The Golden Eagles lost to DeSales in a district final the past two seasons, falling 2-1 last year and 5-4 in 2011.
According to Holly, among this season's highlights was a 6-5 win over Orange on May 1, as the Pioneers were first in the Division I area coaches poll at the time and were on their way to winning the league title.
"It showed the kids (that) if we put our head to the grind, then we could play with anybody," Holly said.
Big Walnut loses seven seniors, including Drew Dattilo (OF), Cole Harbin (P/SS), Jay Holland (3B) and Max McLean (OF/P).
"(Harbin has) been pretty much our go-to pitcher the last few years," Holly said.
Harbin went 5-4 on the mound with a 2.98 ERA and three complete games. Dattilo led the team with a .444 batting average and McLean was second with a .375 average.
Holland was named special mention all-league.
"(The seniors) had a lot to fill in with the senior class leaving from last year," Holly said. "They stepped up and we had a good year because of them."
Juniors Jeremy Bok (1B/OF) and Kyle Duncan (C/P), sophomore Matt Tarney (OF) and freshman Nick Moser (OF) are among the key players expected to return.
Moser had a team-high 18 stolen bases and was first-team all-district and second-team all-league. Bok batted .344 and led the team in RBI (20) and runs (22) and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, Duncan went 5-2 on the mound with a 1.69 ERA and Tarney was honorable mention all-league.
"They're going to have to play and play at a high level (next season)," Holly said. "Our league is always tough and there's high expectations coming in. They can't settle for mediocrity. They're going to have to push themselves."
Boys tennis team was 'competitive'
The boys tennis team finished 7-11 overall, marking its first losing season since finishing 4-14 in 2004.
Big Walnut went 3-4 in the OCC-Capital and concluded the league tournament May 11 at Olentangy with 35 points to tie Delaware (3-4) and Watkins Memorial (3-4) for fourth in the final standings, behind New Albany (82, 7-0), Olentangy (55, 6-1) and Orange (53, 5-2) and ahead of Mount Vernon (16, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (2, 0-7).
The Golden Eagles ended the season in the Division I sectional tournament May 16 and 18 at Hilliard Davidson, as they did not have anyone finish in the top four in singles or doubles to qualify for the district tournament May 24 and 25 at Davidson.
"We had a really competitive year," said first-year coach Ryan Balaz, who also coaches the girls team. "Within the team, there was a lot of competition for spots. Everyone improved every day. We fell short with a couple of goals. We didn't win 10 matches and we didn't finish in the top three of the league. But overall, I think it was a successful year."
At sectional, sophomore Isaiah Kolb went 1-1 and the doubles team of seniors Jeff Tribble and Sean Tribble went 1-1. Losing in the first round were junior Scott Bailey (singles), junior Jesse Rines (singles) and the doubles team of juniors Logan Adams and Grant Burks.
Big Walnut loses three seniors in the Tribble twins and Thomas Hamann.
"Jeff and Sean brought a lot of varsity experience to the team," Balaz said. "They were great leaders on the court. Thomas showed what it took to be a really good teammate and did whatever it took to make the team successful."
Among the expected returnees are Adams, Bailey, Burks, Kolb and Rines. Adams earned his third letter this spring.
"He'll be counted on to step up," Balaz said of Adams. "He already started to do that last year. That was nice to see. Grant has a really strong work ethic and has improved a lot. He knows what it takes to compete and win."