For only the second time in program history, the Big Walnut High School girls track and field team has a state champion.
A junior making her third state appearance, Olivia Small won the long jump in the Division I state meet held June 7 and 8 at Ohio State in 19 feet, 8 3/4 inches, setting a personal and program record. The Golden Eagles' other state champion was Suzie Schumick, who won the shot put in 1982.
Chesterland West Geauga senior Chantel Richardson, who won the state title in the long jump a year ago, also jumped 19-8 3/4, but Small won the tiebreaker, as her second-best jump was 19-8 1/2 and Richardson's was 19-8.
"A half inch," coach Joe Evener said. "That's all that separated first and second."
The state meet marked the final matchup between Small and Richardson at the prep level. Last season at state, Richardson won the title in 18-3 and Small was runner-up (17-6 3/4). Nearly three months earlier, the two competed against each other in the 2012 indoor state meet at the University of Akron, with Small winning the title (18-1/4) and Richardson placing second (17-7 3/4).
Small, who finished 10th (17-1 1/2) in her first outdoor state meet appearance in 2011, also won the indoor state title this season, jumping a meet-record 18-8 1/4 on March 16 at Akron. Richardson did not compete in the meet.
Small and Richardson were seeded first and second, respectively, in this year's outdoor state meet.
"It was a showdown between the two best jumpers in the state," Evener said. "It was a fantastic performance by both girls."
Small already has set her sights on breaking the Division I state meet record next year. The record of 20-5 3/4 was set by Elyria's Tianna Madison in 2003.
"I like to set goals based on records," Small said. "I want the state record, so that's what I'm going for. It's less than a foot away. That's my ultimate goal for next year."
Also at state, junior Jamie Annis placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles (15.03 seconds), behind champion Richardson (13.86), and 14th in the 300 hurdles (45.86), and the 400 relay of junior Kristen Carty, Annis, Small and senior Leah Thomas finished 15th (49.88).
The Golden Eagles scored 15 points to tie Gahanna and Pickerington Central for 13th behind state champion Solon (47) as 74 teams scored.
Big Walnut tied Dublin Coffman for fourth (35) in the regional meet May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North behind co-champions Gahanna (55) and Pickerington Central (55) after placing second (88.5) to Gahanna (141.5) in the 16-team district 2 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby.
Small won the long jump at regional in a meet-record 18-10, breaking the mark of 18-8 3/4, which had been set in 1985 by Upper Arlington's Peggy Odita.
Annis placed third at regional in both the 100 hurdles (14.76) and 300 hurdles (45.51), becoming the sixth athlete in program history to qualify for state in three events in one season, and the 400 relay placed third (45.51).
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.
Winning district titles were Small in the long jump (17-8 1/2), Annis in the 100 hurdles (14.79) and 300 hurdles (45.07) and senior Laylaa Crawford in the discus (108-9).
Big Walnut scored 124.5 points in the OCC-Capital Division meet May 16 and 18 at Hilliard Bradley to place second, behind New Albany (153) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (109.5), Olentangy Orange (79.5), Olentangy (70.5), Franklin Heights (50), Mount Vernon (46) and Delaware Hayes (27).
The Golden Eagles also won the Delaware County Elite 8 meet May 9 at home, scoring 159 points as Olentangy Liberty (146) was runner-up.
"It was definitely a successful season," Small said. "I improved from indoor to outdoor by a foot. It was a great year overall, especially the way it ended."
Evener believes this was Big Walnut's best season during his 19 years leading the program.
"We had an outstanding year," he said. "The girls continue to improve and the coaching staff has really jelled. It was a blast working with everyone."
Big Walnut loses 11 seniors, including Crawford, Lyle and Thomas.
"There's a lot of good, quality girls in the senior class and it's going to be hard to replace them considering what they've accomplished over the past couple years," Evener said.
Among the key athletes expected to return are Annis, Carty, Small, junior Catie Craig-Bowden (distance), sophomores Avery Kerns (high jump) and Cassie Walaszek (throws) and freshman Anna Mackey (long jump).
"I've already started thinking about next year," Evener said. "I've got state qualifiers, a state placer and a state champion coming back. It's a really nice feeling to have that caliber of athletes returning. I can build the team around that core group."
Boys track team loses regional qualifier
The boys track and field team loses its lone Division I regional qualifier in senior Brant Weiss, who finished 12th in the discus (136-6).
Big Walnut did not score at regional, as Pickerington North (99) won and 39 teams scored, and finished 14th (21.5) in the 15-team district 1 meet that concluded May 25 at Darby, behind champion Pickerington North (159.5).
Weiss was runner-up in the discus (141-6) at district. Also placing in the top eight were the 3,200 relay of junior Logan Perry and sophomores Bobby Bogantz, Michael Buckles and Joe Muench (fifth, 8:13.81), Muench in the 800 (sixth, 2:01.26), senior Cody Conley in the 300 hurdles (sixth, 41.09), senior Kevin Rankin in the high jump (tied for sixth, 6-1) and sophomore Cole Stark in the long jump (eighth, 19-11 3/4).
Big Walnut finished third (81) in the OCC-Capital meet, behind New Albany (182) and Watkins Memorial (173) and ahead of Olentangy (69), Delaware (52.5), Orange (41.5), Mount Vernon (37) and Franklin Heights (25), and finished first (131) in the Delaware County Elite 8 meet, ahead of runner-up Liberty (127).
The Golden Eagles lose eight seniors, including Conley, Rankin and Weiss.
Among those expected back are Bogantz, Buckles, Muench, Perry and Stark.
Softball team has winning season
The softball team finished 19-10 overall, marking its highest win total since going 20-8 in 2009.
Seeded fifth of 27 teams in the Division II district tournament, Big Walnut advanced to a district semifinal for the sixth consecutive season. The Golden Eagles beat 27th-seeded Col-umbus South 16-0 in five innings in the first round May 13 and 13th-seeded Bexley 10-2 in the second round May 15 before losing to fourth-seeded Granville 1-0 in eight innings May 20 at Pickerington Central.
"I thought (the season) went pretty well," coach Jeff Hatfield said. "We lost a heartbreaker in a district semifinal. I think there were some games (that) we played really well in and there were some games early in the season (that) I thought we gave away, but we finished strong."
Big Walnut went 9-5 in the OCC-Capital to place fourth, behind Olentangy (13-1), Delaware (11-3) and Orange (11-3) and ahead of New Albany (6-8), Mount Vernon (3-11), Watkins Memorial (2-12) and Franklin Heights (1-13).
"I've got to tip my cap to Olentangy," Hatfield said. "To finish like that in the Capital is pretty amazing."
The Golden Eagles lose three seniors in Stephanie Adkins (2B), Krysten Chadwick (C) and Allie Walker (P).
Adkins batted .346 with 12 RBI and nine runs, Chadwick hit .315 with 15 RBI and 21 runs and Walker went 9-3 in the circle with a 2.93 ERA.
"We're going to miss their leadership," Hatfield said of the seniors. "They were a key ingredient to our success. They left big shoes to fill."
Among those expected to return are juniors Hayley Apple (3B), Shelbie Borchers (SS), Katelynn Cheadle (OF), Brooke Hatfield (OF), Shaye Kuhlman (OF), Sara Petty (OF) and Leah Shaw (INF) and freshman Kate Petty (P).
Kuhlman led the team in batting average (.506), hits (44) and runs (33) and was named second-team all-state, first-team all-district and second-team all-league.
"She's the first .500 hitter I've had in the seven years I've been here," coach Hatfield said. "That speaks volumes on what she's been able to accomplish."
Brooke Hatfield (.435, 18 runs, 32 RBI) was named second-team all-district and first-team all-league, Borchers (.394, 20 runs, 15 RBI) was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league and Apple (.346, 22 runs, 32 RBI) was honorable mention all-league.
Kate Petty went 10-7 in the circle with a 1.66 ERA.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited (about next season)," Hatfield said.