It wasn't the finish Emily Richards of the Delaware Hayes High School girls track and field team was seeking, but she wouldn't trade her first experience of competing in the Division I state meet.
The senior finished 11th in the 400 meters in 59.39 seconds in the meet held June 6 and 7 at Ohio State. She missed advancing to the final by two spots.
"It was an amazing experience to run in front of that many people and just a great atmosphere," Richards said. "I wasn't happy with my time or place because I really wanted to run in the finals, but just competing there was great. It was always a goal and I achieved that."
Richards was the program's first state qualifier since 2009, when Anasa Matthews placed sixth in the discus and eighth in the shot put.
Richards, who plans to compete in track and cross country at Ohio Northern University, advanced to state by finishing third in a program-record 56.86 in the regional meet held May 28 and 30 at Pickerington North. The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
If Richards had matched her regional time at state, she would have placed seventh.
"I was struggling with some personal issues heading into (the state meet) and then I had an open lane next to me in (the race) and that bothered me some," she said. "I usually use that as motivation because I pass that girl and it pushes me forward to get the next one. I didn't do a good job mentally of blocking out all of the distractions."
Richards competed at regional in two other events, finishing sixth in the 100 (12.56) and teaming with freshman Brooke Glesenkamp, sophomore Macie Wright and junior Tiarra Avant in the 800 relay to finish 10th (1:47.02).
The Pacers scored nine points at regional to tie for 23rd behind champion Pickerington Central (75) as 41 teams scored.
Richards was runner-up in the 100 (12.56) and placed third in the 400 (58.36) and the 800 relay placed fourth (1:46.56) in the 17-team district 3 meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby.
Also scoring were the 400 relay of sophomore Rylee Wright, Avant, Macie Wright and Richards (program-record 50.51), Rylee Wright in the 100 (eighth, 13.3) and freshman Alicia Rittenour in the 1,600 (eighth, 5:36.81.)
Delaware finished 10th (24) at district behind champion Hilliard Davidson (129).
In the OCC-Capital Division meet held May 15 and 17, Richards placed second in the 400 (59.31), as did the 400 relay (53.2) and 800 relay (1:48.83).
The Pacers finished sixth (56) in the league, behind New Albany (167.5), Olentangy (104), Olentangy Orange (102), Big Walnut (89.5) and Worthington Kilbourne (89) and ahead of Mount Vernon (41) and Franklin Heights (10).
Richards was one of Delaware's seven seniors. Expected key returnees include Avant, Glesenkamp, Rittenour, Rylee Wright, Macie Wright, juniors Sammi Piroska, Alyssa Wheeler and Aly Wright, sophomore Macie Hewitt and freshmen Kristen Puthoff.
"We're going to miss Emily," coach Andy Graham said. "She's one of the top girls track athletes we've had in a long time and her versatility grew tremendously during her career at Hayes.
"We are also excited for the future because we've got a number of good, young athletes that we think will develop well and could end up having fantastic careers and getting to state, too."
Tucky among expected returnees in boys track
Ethan Tucky of the boys track and field team continues to raise his expectations.
The sophomore, who finished 13th in the 100 (10.9) in his first appearance in the Division I state meet, has his sights set not just on returning to state next year, but qualifying in three events.
"I want to make it to state in the 100 and 200 and then make it to the finals in both," Tucky said. "It also would be great to get there in either the (400 or 800 relay) so I have some teammates go with me."
Tucky, who was the Pacers' lone state qualifier this year, advanced to state in the 100 by placing fourth (11.05) at regional. He nearly qualified in the 200 as well, placing fifth (program-record 21.92) to finish one spot behind the final state qualifier, Westerville Central's David Hatchett (21.77).
"I was happy with my time (at state) and was .04 (of a second) away from being in the final," Tucky said. "I was upset, but after an hour I saw the bright side. I had the top 100 time of any sophomore in the state and this is my second year running track.
"I was fifth at district last year and just reaching state this year was my biggest goal. Now I'm hungry for next year."
The Pacers scored nine points at regional to tie for 26th behind champion Pickerington North (74) as 37 teams scored.
Tucky also anchored the 12th-place 800 relay (1:31.6) and 15th-place 400 relay (45.82) at regional. The 800 relay also consisted of seniors Caleb Howell, Tyler Treese and Brendan Conley, and the 400 lineup also included Howell, Conley and freshman Deven Ward.
Also competing at regional was senior Collin Wittig, who was 13th in the shot put (47 feet, 5 1/2 inches).
Delaware scored 29 points in the 16-team district 3 meet to finish 10th behind champion Davidson (122).
Tucky placed third in the 200 (22.11) and fourth in the 100 (11.34), Wittig placed third in the shot put (50-2 3/4), the 800 relay was third (1:31.49) and the 400 relay finished fourth (43.92).
Also scoring was freshman Justin Hernan, who placed eighth in the 1,600 (4:33.08).
In the OCC-Capital meet, the Pacers finished fifth (57.5) behind New Albany (162.5), Big Walnut (134), Franklin Heights (114) and Orange (66) and ahead of Olentangy (52), Mount Vernon (46) and Kilbourne (27).
Tucky won the league title in the 100 (11.19).
Delaware loses seven seniors, including Conley, Howell, Treese and Wittig.
"It is really tough to see a group of seniors that are such great young men leave your program, but I anticipate that we will have a group of leaders emerge next year," coach Greg White said. "Brendan Conley, Tyler Treese, Caleb Howell and Collin Wittig were all very important members of our team and have established a standard for underclassmen. They've set the bar high."
Boys lacrosse team continued winning ways
The boys lacrosse team continued its winning ways but was unable to produce a long postseason run.
Delaware, which had won back-to-back club division state championships the past two seasons, moved to Division II this season. The Pacers defeated Wellington 18-10 in a play-in game of the Division II Central/Northwest Region tournament May 21 and Columbus Academy 14-5 in the first round May 23 before losing to Toledo St. Francis 10-7 in a regional semifinal May 28 to finish 16-4 overall.
The loss to St. Francis ended a seven-game winning streak.
"It was a disappointing loss because we didn't play well," coach John Lyon said. "But overall, it was a very good year in a season of change. We were a lot younger than the previous two years, I was a first-year coach and we moved up to Division II and had a more difficult schedule."
Delaware's other losses came against Sylvania Southview (12-11 on April 18), DeSales (10-8 on April 25) and Orange (11-10 on May 5).
The Pacers won the OCC-Central title, going 6-0 to finish ahead of Westerville Central (5-1), Pickerington Central (4-2), Pickerington North (3-3), Westerville North (2-4), Big Walnut (1-5) and Westerville South (0-6).
Delaware loses nine seniors in Dusty Hines (goalkeeper), Zach Kern (attacker), Tyler Levings (midfielder), Bryan Neitzelt (defender), MacGregor Roberts (midfielder), Clay Sparks (midfielder), James Wegmiller (defender), Jante Wright (midfielder) and Tyler Zinader (midfielder).
Neitzelt was named second-team all-state and first-team all-region and all-league. Wegmiller was first-team all-league, Roberts was second-team all-league and Lyon was league Coach of the Year.
Expected to return are juniors Judson Huston (attacker), Austen Kimbro (defender), Joseph Sanfillipo (midfielder), Jason Saxby (midfielder) and Collin Ward (attacker), sophomores Sean Gliebe (midfielder), Justin McKee (midfielder) and Tommy Wegmiller (midfielder) and freshmen Tyler Groth (goalie) and Cole Livermore (attacker).
Huston was first-team all-league, Sanfillipo was second-team all-league and Ward was honorable mention all-league.