Although he's in his 60th season as coach of the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys track and field team, Ed Rarey said he isn't planning on participating in a lavish ceremony to celebrate his career.

Although he's in his 60th season as coach of the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys track and field team, Ed Rarey said he isn't planning on participating in a lavish ceremony to celebrate his career.

His main focus is on guiding his squad to another successful season, after already leading the Lions to two state, 14 regional, 26 district and 31 league championships in the first 59 years of his career.

"This is my 60th season, but I don't want to make a big to-do about it, because the focus should be on these kids, this team and this season, and not the past," said Rarey, whose team opens Tuesday, April 3, at home against Reynoldsburg and Pickerington Central. "As always, we've got some outstanding student-athletes here, and I'm just excited to have the opportunity to work with these young athletes."

Gahanna features one of the top pole vaulters in the nation in senior Jake Blankenship.

Last year, Blankenship cleared 17 feet to tie the outdoor state record while winning the Division I state title at Ohio State.

The University of Tennessee recruit cleared 5.05 meters (about 16 feet, 5 3/4 inches) to place third in the event in the IAAF World Youth Championships on July 10 in Lille, France.

Blankenship cleared a state-record 17-6 1/2 to win the indoor state meet March 17 at the University of Akron.

"Jake has set all kinds of records and he had offers to go to every college in the nation," Rarey said. "He has the skill and work ethic to have another great season and I project that he will go 18 feet this year."

Seniors Julian Cottrill-Lowe and Aaron Roberson and juniors Eric Buckner, K.J. Jackson and Riak Reese are the team's top returning sprinters, while senior Eric Butler is its top returning hurdler.

Senior Jason McDonald is the Lions' top distance runner, while Buckner and junior Demarcus Graham should lead the team in the long jump.

Last year, Gahanna placed third (92) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet, behind Pickerington North (156) and Reynoldsburg (107) and ahead of Lancaster (83), Pickerington Central (80), Newark (52), Groveport (50.5) and Grove City (27.5).

Gahanna scored 43 points to finish ninth in the 15-team district 2 meet at Hilliard Bradley behind champion Hilliard Davidson (109), and then scored 13 points to tie Olentangy for 23rd in the regional meet at Pickerington North behind co-champions Thomas Worthington (37) and Westerville North (37) as 39 teams scored.

Gahanna scored 10 points at state to tie six other teams for 22nd behind champion Cincinnati LaSalle (36) as 78 teams scored.

"I'll be highly disappointed if we don't have a number of athletes qualify for regional and state, considering how well we've done in the past," Rarey said.

Girls squad out to prove it's more than a 'sprint team'

The girls team opened March 24 by scoring 94.5 points to place second in the 15-team Icebreaker Invitational at Watkins Memorial behind Hilliard Darby (114.5).

Junior Lynnsey Brim, who was the Lions' top sprinter and placed second in the long jump (18-8 3/4) at state last season, moved to Texas.

But the Lions still feature a deep sprint corps, led by seniors Dominae Gaston and Mi'Eshia Parker, juniors Francesca Bowsher and Daniella Johnson, sophomores Alexandria Fluellen and Sarah Richards and freshmen Samantha Shaw, Sydney Stokes and Tara Tedrick.

Among Gahanna's distance and middle distance runners are senior Colleen Hall, junior Wesley Thompson, sophomores Katie Baker and Alexa Huber and freshmen Heather Kincaid, Kelsey Sandlin and Rylee Tanner.

Sophomore Lexie Blase is the team's top pole vaulter, while senior Kenya Cortledge is its leader in the shot put and discus and Stokes and sophomore Maddie Piccou are its top long jumpers.

Junior Tevan Carruthers and sophomore Taylor Rachel are the team's leading hurdlers, and freshman Christine Sheppard has shown promise in the high jump.

"We're known as a sprint team and we still have a lot of good sprinters, but we're more than a sprint team this year," 24th-year coach Roger Whittaker said. "No question, this is the best distance team we've had in years. And we've got a lot of sophomores and freshmen who are going to contribute in many areas."

Last year, the Lions finished fourth (97.5) in the OCC-Ohio meet, behind Central (159), North (140.5) and Reynoldsburg (116) and ahead of Lancaster (73), Groveport (31), Newark (23) and Grove City (15).

Gahanna placed fourth (67) in the 14-team Division I, district 1 meet at Bradley behind Dublin Coffman (152), Big Walnut (79) and Olentangy (77.5) and scored 13 points at regional to tie Bradley and Marion-Franklin for 16th behind champion Reynoldsburg (88) as 40 teams scored.

Gahanna then scored eight points at state to tie Marion-Franklin for 29th behind champion Reynoldsburg (47) as 70 teams scored.

"Pickerington Central and Pickerington North are probably still going to be the teams to beat in our league meet, and Reynoldsburg still has some super athletes who are going to win several events," Whittaker said. "We're extremely young, but we've got some good veteran leaders and I think we'll keep getting better and we'll be competitive with some of the top teams by the end of the season."