Jake Mandel had a plan entering the 3,200 meters in the Division I regional boys track and field meet May 31 at Pickerington North.
The Dublin Jerome High School junior wanted to pace himself early before picking up speed. The strategy worked to perfection as Mandel won the event in a program-record 9 minutes, 21.01 seconds to advance to the state meet Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
"That was our plan, to crank the middle of the race," Mandel said. "It was a competitive race. It was crazy in the last couple of laps."
Junior Mitchell Leitch was third in the 3,200 (9:21.15), as the top four in each event advanced to state.
"We practice together," Mandel said. "I love running side-by-side with Mitchell. We push each other really well. I think it works well."
The two distance runners also helped the 3,200 relay finish fourth May 29 in a program-record 8:04.08. Sophomore Nick Foley and junior Graham Stecz also were on the relay.
The Celtics advanced to state when the New Albany anchor runner fell 5 yards from the finish line with the Eagles in third. New Albany ended up sixth (8:09.24).
"When I saw him go down I knew I had to push through," Stecz said. "I know it will be fast at state. I know the competition there will make us better."
Leitch has never been to the state meet -- even as a spectator -- but is excited about the opportunity.
"I think it will be great to get a chance to go up against that kind of competition," said Leitch, whose team finished 10th (25 points) at regional behind champion Pickerington North (99) as 39 teams scored. "Those kind of runners should push us."
Also competing at regional but failing to advance were senior Nate Crowson in the pole vault (no height), freshman Bradley Davis in the 1,600 (11th, 4:38.95), senior Tyler Holcomb in the high jump (no height), Foley in the 800 (13th, 2:03.99), junior Chase Stewart in the 1,600 (sixth, 4:27.31) and Stecz in the 800 (eighth, 1:57.27).
For the girls team, senior Kaitlyn Willette, an Ohio State recruit, placed second in the 800 (personal-best 2:12.9) as the Celtics finished 21st (11) behind co-champions Gahanna and Pickerington Central (55) as 39 teams scored.
The 1,600 relay of sophomore Devin Sadler, freshman Casey Nitschke, junior Taylor Elder and junior Hannah Kayuha was 12th (4:11.52). The 3,200 relay of senior Brooke Boyle, senior Ashleigh Sherman, freshman Carly Davis and Willette crossed the finish line second but was disqualified because of a lane violation.
In the 1,600, Sherman was eighth (5:18.67) and freshman Tiffany Hill was ninth (5:19.94). Davis was seventh in the 3,200 (11:28.45).
Last year at state, Boyle and Willette joined 2012 graduates Amy Erdelsky and Rebecca Rings to finish ninth in the 3,200 relay (9:25.12).
The boys did not compete at state last season.
Coffman girls tie for fourth at regional
The Coffman girls team tied Big Walnut for fourth (35) at regional behind sophomore Oyesade Olatoye, who qualified in the shot put (second, 43 feet, 6 1/4 inches) and discus (third, 139-0).
Senior Rachel Weber, an Ohio State recruit, was third in the 800 (program-record 2:13.22) and also advanced as a member of the fourth-place 1,600 relay (3:56.07) that included seniors Rylee Axner, McKenzie Bailey and Kaylee Taylor.
"I have some goals (for state)," Weber said. "I definitely would like to get on the podium (top eight) in the 800. I'm going to try my hardest for these girls to get us to the finals in the (1,600 relay) because that would be really awesome."
Last year at state, the Shamrocks tied Solon for third (29) behind Reynoldsburg (56) and Lorain (34), as Olatoye was third in the shot put (43-5) and the 800 relay of 2012 graduate Sara Johnson, Taylor, junior Beatrice Hannan and Bailey was third (1:42.33).
Also scoring at state were junior Rachel Bosworth in the 3,200 (fourth, 10:55.15), Johnson in the 300 hurdles (fifth, 43.24), the 400 relay of Johnson, Hannan, Axner and Bailey (sixth, 48.64), Hannan in the 200 (seventh, 25.09), 2012 graduate Clarissa Bons in the 1,600 (eighth, 5:06.86), junior Julia Fries in the 800 (eighth, 2:15.86) and the 3,200 relay of Bons, Fries, Bosworth and Weber (eighth, 9:22.91).
Bosworth and Fries missed this season with injuries.
Hannan advanced to regional after winning district titles in the 100 and 200 and qualifying with the 1,600 relay, but she did not compete because of hamstring problems.
"Beatrice has been battling a tight hamstring all season and it was just too tight to risk her injuring it more," coach Greg King said. "I thought we finished well despite what happened to Beatrice. Rachel set the (program) record in the 800 and the (1,600 relay) set the (program) record in the preliminaries (3:55.45)."
Also competing at regional were the fifth-place 800 relay (1:44.48) with Axner, senior Emily Mangelson, Taylor and Bailey and the sixth-place 3,200 relay (9:46.13) of freshman Sana Qamar, sophomore Anna Weber, Rachel Weber and sophomore Kaylen Chang. The 11th-place 400 relay (50.41) featured freshman Shannon Downie, senior Emily Barber, junior Sarah Handy and Bailey.
Others competing were Mangelson in the 300 hurdles (11th, 16.27), Qamar in the 3,200 (eighth, 11:36.02), Taylor in the 400 (seventh, 59.65) and senior Bridgette Widmyer in the high jump (13th, 4-10).
The boys tied Delaware and Dover for 34th (2) at regional and did not have a state qualifier. Sophomore Zach Bons finished seventh in the 1,600 (4:28.45)
Sprint relay qualifies for Scioto girls team
The Scioto girls team tied Hilliard Darby, Walnut Ridge and Whetstone for 28th (6) at regional led by the state-qualifying 400 relay (fourth, 49.51) of junior Madison Scurlock, senior Aysia Prewitt, senior Charissa Newkirk and freshman Nykee Scruggs.
"First is as good as fourth," Newkirk said. "I think (the 90-minute weather delay) hurt us a little bit because we had to sit and go out and warm up again. ... But all the handoffs were fine and all of us really wanted to (qualify) and that's what we did."
Also competing at regional were junior Mya Hodge in the 100 hurdles (eighth, 15.38) and freshman Carolyn Hayes in the high jump (ninth, 5-1).
Last season at state, Prewitt, Newkirk and Scurlock joined 2012 graduate Camaria Cannon to win the 800 relay (1:42.06) as the Irish scored 13 points to tie Beavercreek for 15th.
Newkirk, Prewitt, Scurlock and Cannon also finished 12th at state in the 400 relay (49.7), and the 3,200 relay of sophomore Shayla Wigand, 2012 graduate Minori Minagawa and sophomores Vanessa Robinson and Emily Trzeciak finished 12th (9:29.63).
The boys tied Marysville for 21st (8) at regional.
Junior Kenny Mayes was fifth in the 800 (1:55.58) and junior Cody Steffy was fifth in the long jump (21-3). The 1,600 relay of junior Christian Wade, senior Connor Howard, sophomore Tomo Hayasaka and Mayes was 10th (3:29.08).