Gahanna Lincoln High School girls track and field coach Roger Whittaker was pleased that his team scored 75 points to finish third in the 11-team Gahanna Relays on April 18 behind Big Walnut (89) and New Albany (85.5).

Gahanna Lincoln High School girls track and field coach Roger Whittaker was pleased that his team scored 75 points to finish third in the 11-team Gahanna Relays on April 18 behind Big Walnut (89) and New Albany (85.5).

He was even more pleased that the revamped meet went smoothly and that his athletes more than held their own against strong competition.

"This was an awesome meet and the array of talent on the girls side was all that it was cracked up to be," Whittaker said. "This was probably the most exciting Gahanna Relays I've ever seen. The stands were so packed it reminded me of a football game and the crowd was entertained enough that they stayed all the way until the end.

"This was the best competition we've had all season as far as speed goes, and I was hoping we could finish in the top four, so I'm pretty happy with third."

The Lions scored particularly well in the sprint relays.

Sara Richards, Mi'Eshia Parker, Dominae Gaston and Daniella Johnson won the 400-meter relay in 49.25 seconds, Taven Carruthers, Taylor Rachel, Jarae Broadnax and Christine Sheppard won the 400 shuttle hurdle relay in a program-record 1:05.38 and Tara Tedrick, Parker, Gaston and Samantha Shaw finished second (1:51.23) in the 800 sprint medley relay behind Eastmoor Academy (1:49.41).

Richards, Johnson, Sydney Stokes and Shaw were on pace to win the 800 relay as well, but the Lions finished 10th (1:53.32) after a bad exchange between Johnson and Stokes led to a dropped baton.

Stokes (17 feet, 1 inch) and Johnson (15-4 1/4) later redeemed themselves by combining to win the long jump relay.

"Sara Richards' leadoff leg in the 400 and 800 relays was incredible," Whittaker said. "We didn't have especially good handoffs in the 400 relay, but we still ran well and we now have the third-fastest Division I time in the state in that event. We dropped the baton in the 800 relay, but the great thing is it's still midseason and that experience will make us better because it shouldn't happen again in the more important meets."

The Lions will compete in the Gazette Relays on Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28, at the University of Charleston in West Virginia.
Gahanna then will compete in the Warrior Relays at Eastmoor Academy on Wednesday, May 2, before participating in the Mason Invitational on May 4.

"The Gazette Relays start a tough stretch where we're going to compete in three big meets in seven days," Whittaker said. "The Eastmoor meet will have the same caliber of sprint teams that we had in our meet, and the other two meets are always good competition, too. We always want to do well, but I love great competition more than winning, and that's why we go to meets like these ones because they really test us."

Boys team continues to make strong showings

The boys team scored 143 points to win the 12-team Dick Dei Classic on April 14 at Wheeling (W.Va.) Park ahead of runner-up Watkins Memorial (122) and has finished in the top three in every meet this season.

The Lions placed second (82) in the 11-team Gahanna Relays behind New Albany (105) and placed third (74) of seven Division I teams in the Yellow Jacket Relays on April 21 at Mount Vernon behind New Albany (99.66) and Wooster (76).

"We definitely could have done better in the Gahanna Relays and at Mount Vernon, but we're pretty happy with the start of our season overall," senior captain Jake Blankenship said. "We should have at least finished second at Mount Vernon because I didn't get to compete in the pole vault and we didn't get to run the 800 relay because it was raining too hard. We're good in both of those events and we easily would've scored enough points to pass Wooster for second place."

In the Gahanna Relays, Riak Reese won the 100 (10.94), combined with Aaron Roberson, Carl O'Neal and K.J. Jackson to finish third (1:34.39) in the sprint medley relay and anchored the 400 relay to a fourth-place finish (44.13).

Adam Davis, Payne O'Neal, Greg Tucker and Quinton Broomfield won the 440 shuttle relay (1:01.36).

Granyl Smith Jordan (136-8) and Luke Mokma (135-2) combined to finish second in the discus, and Eric Buckner tied Eastmoor Academy's Terrell Hudson for first (21-1/2) in the long jump.

The only major disappointment for the Lions came when Blankenship, the defending Division I state champion in the pole vault, failed to clear his opening height of 16-3/4 in the event.

"Riak Reese did a lot of weight training during the offseason and he's definitely doing well in the 100," Blankenship said. "Luke is improving in the discus and our sprint relays were very good.

"Getting a no-height was a wakeup call that I need to get back to some of my routines that I've done well with in the past. This was the first time I've no-heighted since last year, and I'm going to do my best to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The Lions will compete in the Bellaire Relays on Saturday, April 28.

"We're going to keep training hard and using these meets to get better," Blankenship said.