The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys track and field team won its fourth consecutive Division I district title, its third consecutive regional championship and its first state title since 1979 last year.

The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys track and field team won its fourth consecutive Division I district title, its third consecutive regional championship and its first state title since 1979 last year.

Considering that the three athletes who combined to score all but two of the Lions' points at the state meet have returned, senior Blake Heriot is confident the Lions can defend those titles.

"We have all of the firepower we need to win state again, so I don't see any reason why we should lose," Heriot said. "The key is to stay hungry, stay focused and stay healthy, because we know it won't be easy."

Heriot, senior Herman Washington and senior Earl Cunningham are top returning sprinters.

Washington and sophomore Raun Butler are leading hurdlers.

Seniors Tyler Chandler and Harry McFann are the Lions' top returning distance and middle distance runners.

Last year in the state meet at Ohio State, Heriot finished second in the 100 meters (10.98 seconds) and won both the 400 (47.16) and 200 (21.47).

Washington finished second in the 110 hurdles (14.49) and third in the 300 hurdles (38.66) and McFann placed fifth in the 800 (1:53.61).

Senior Russ Kittel will throw the shot put and discus, Cunningham will compete in the long jump and sophomore Jacob Blankenship will compete in the pole vault.

Last year, Gahanna finished second (134.5 points) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet at Newark behind Reynoldsburg (144) and ahead of Pickerington North (125.5), Pickerington Central (82.5), Groveport (70), Lancaster (44), Grove City (39) and Newark (19.5).

Heriot won the 100 (11.03), 200 (22.5) and 400 (48.8) and anchored the 800 relay to a first-place finish in 1:29.35.

The Lions then won the district 1 meet at Dublin Coffman, ahead of runner-up Dublin Jerome (70) and 15 other squads.

Gahanna won (81) the regional meet at Pickerington North ahead of runner-up Reynoldsburg (48), before winning (48) the state meet.

Coach Ed Rarey has led Gahanna to two state titles, 13 regional, 25 district and 31 league championships in 57 seasons.

"I think we can beat Reynoldsburg in the OCC this year," Heriot said. "A lot of their people transferred and that will break up their (depth).

"I feel like we could score 65 points at state to win it again as a team."

•The girls team opened last Saturday by scoring 143 points to win the 14-team Icebreaker Invitational ahead of runner-up Watkins Memorial (108).

Gahanna features a deep sprinting corps, led by seniors Phylicia Marrow, Dajanae Gaston, Stephanie Stewart and Kassy Thomas, junior Rachel Tilson, sophomores Dominae Gaston, Abby Grooms, Myeshia Parker and T'Asia Smith and freshmen Lynnsey Brim, Tevan Carruthers, Reyna Montgomery, Tianna Morris and Jordan Spann.

Thomas finished 12th in the 800 (2:16.69), and Grooms, Morrow, Tilson and Thomas placed 13th (4:00.37) in the 1,600 relay at state last year.

Thomas has signed a letter of intent to run track at Dayton.

"This is probably the deepest and most quality sprint class I've ever had," coach Roger Whittaker said. "We return our entire state mile relay, and those girls' jobs are in jeopardy."

Thomas and senior Meghan McGuff are Gahanna's leading middle distance runners, and senior Casey Salopek and juniors KayKay Garber and Lindsey Salopek are its top distance runners.

Senior Haley Schmitt, Montgomery and freshman Rayne Jones compete in the high jump, and Brim, senior Deanna Deal and sophomore Taylor Poches compete in the long jump.

Grooms competes in the hurdles. Junior Paige McCoy and sophomore Audrey Moorehead compete in the pole vault.

Gahanna finished fourth (85) in the OCC-Ohio meet last year, behind Reynoldsburg (177), Central (138) and North (99), and ahead of Lancaster (50), Newark (37), Groveport (35) and Grove City (31), ending a two-year streak of being league champion.

Gahanna finished fourth (70.5) in the 14-squad Division I district 1 meet behind champion New Albany (108.5).

The Lions scored 22 points to tie Franklin Heights and Zanesville for 11th in the regional behind Reynoldsburg (113), but didn't score in the state meet, which Reynoldsburg won with 82 points.

"This is probably the strongest team I've ever had," Whittaker said. "Reynoldsburg's still going to be tough to beat in the OCC, but they lost some of their depth and we've gotten stronger, so I think it's going to be pretty close between the two of us for first place."

At a glance

•Coaches: Boys -- Ed Rarey, 58th season; Girls -- Roger Whittaker, 22nd season

•Next meet: Boys -- Saturday at Newark Invitational; Girls -- Saturday at Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson

•Key athletes: Boys -- Earl Cunningham, Blake Heriot, Harry McFann and Herman Washington; Girls -- Abby Grooms, Phylicia Marrow, Kassy Thomas and Rachel Tilson

BOYS SCHEDULE

April 3 at Newark Invitational

April 6 at Newark

April 10 at Dick Dei Boys Classic (Wheeling Park, W.Va.)

April 13 vs. Lancaster

April 16-17 at Tennessee Volunteer Classic

April 20 vs. Pickerington Central

April 24 at Bellaire Relays

April 27 at Pickerington North

April 30 home for Gahanna Invitational

May 4 vs. Grove City

May 7 at Mason Invitational

May 12 and 15 at OCC-Ohio Division meet at Reynoldsburg

GIRLS SCHEDULE

March 27 at Icebreaker Invitational (Watkins Memorial)

April 3 at Wildcat Premier (Hilliard Davidson)

April 6 at Newark

April 10 at Stingel Invitational (Pickerington North)

April 13 vs. Lancaster

April 16 at Mehock Relays (Mansfield Senior)

April 20 vs. Pickerington Central

April 23-24 at Ranger Relays (East Lake North)

April 27 at Pickerington North

April 30 home for Gahanna Invitational

May 4 vs. Grove City

May 5 at Marion-Franklin Relays

May 7 at Mason Invitational

May 12, 15 at OCC-Ohio Division meet at Reynoldsburg