Riak Reese is looking forward to seeing what kind of effect the offseason will have on his final postseason with the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys track and field team.
If he shows the kind of improvement he did between his sophomore and junior seasons, then state championships could be awaiting.
After failing to advance to the Division I regional in any events as a sophomore, Reese broke through with a sixth-place finish at state last year in the 200 meters (21.99 seconds) and also helped the 800 relay place third at state in a program-record 1:27.7.
The months since that state performance have been filled with competition and weight training for the senior sprinter, who is expected to compete in the 400 at times in addition to running the 100 and 200 and on relays.
"I had a good offseason of training," Reese said. "I'm definitely stronger than I was at this point last year. I've gotten bigger and added about 15 pounds of muscle so I can have more power and more speed."
On April 6 in the Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson, Reese won the 100 (11.13) and 200 (22.47) and ran on the runner-up 800 relay (1:31.76) with seniors Erick Buckner and K.J. Jackson and sophomore Theo White.
Jackson has been battling an upper-leg injury.
"Riak is one of our captains and has been running quite well," coach Ed Rarey said. "We think he's one of the leading sprinters in Ohio. He's ready to go in any event we ask him to do and never questions it. He's a good kid."
The boys team, which plays host to the Gahanna Relays on Wednesday, April 24, finished eighth (26) of 15 teams that scored in the Stingel Invitational on April 13 at Pickerington North. The host Panthers (146.5) won.
"If K.J.'s healthy, I think we'll be all right," Reese said. "We lost two guys that went to state from last year (from the 800 relay) but this year it's me, K.J. and some other people in that event so we've got to see how it goes."
Reese followed his state performance last spring by competing July 23-29 in the USATF Junior Olympic Nationals at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Competing for the Pacesetters track club, Reese finished sixth in the 100 (10.77) in the 17-18 age group after running a personal-best 10.6 in the semifinal.
Reese's father, Stephen Reese, competed in track at Gahanna before graduating in 1992 and then competed in the sport for two years at Otterbein.
His mother, Heather Reese, competed in hurdles events at Gahanna before graduating in 1991.
Reese's younger sister, Journi Reese, is an eighth-grader who also competes in track.
"After my freshman year I started running summer track for the Pacesetters and after my sophomore year I basically lived in the weight room," Reese said. "I've always been a runner at heart. It's in my blood."
Girls track coach pleased with start
Girls track coach Roger Whittaker couldn't have been happier with the team approach he has seen displayed by his runners during their first few meets.
"This team is really team-oriented," Whittaker said. "The field events (in the Wildcat Premier) were all relays and I didn't have to ask them twice to do those. Track and field is kind of difficult to incorporate the team aspect into sometimes. We don't have the marquee names, but we have a lot of really exceptional athletes."
On April 13, the Lions were first (133) in the 14-team Stingel Invitational.
Winning titles were junior Ta'Ven Carruthers in the 100 hurdles (16.27), sophomore Samantha Shaw in the 400 (1:01.88), sophomore Sydney Stokes in the 300 hurdles (48.59), sophomore Rylee Tanner in the 800 (2:23.93) and the 400 (50.34), 800 (1:44.83) and 1,600 (4:06.51) relays.
Gahanna scored 125 points to win the 21-team Wildcat Premier.
Winning titles were freshman MiAngel Daniels in the 100 hurdles (15.62), the 1,600 relay (4:08.11) the 3,200 relay (10:03.04) and the 400 shuttle hurdles relay (1:06.37). Senior Daniella Johnson added a title in the long jump (15 feet, 3 3/4 inches).
Eastmoor Academy, New Albany, Pickerington Central and Pickerington North are among the top teams expected Wednesday, April 24, in the Gahanna Relays, according to Whittaker.
"I just love the competition," he said. "It's about getting ready for the end of the season."
Softball team set for home showcase
The eighth annual Gahanna Showcase will feature three softball games Friday, April 19, and 15 on Saturday, April 20.
The Lions open the event by playing Sycamore Mohawk at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 19. On Saturday, April 20, Gahanna plays Circleville at 3 p.m. and Sylvania South-view at 5 p.m.
Other Central District teams in attendance will include Mount Vernon, North Union and Pickerington North.
Gahanna was 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Reynoldsburg on April 16 and Grove City on April 17.
Gahanna opened league play with a 3-0 loss to Groveport on April 8 but beat Newark 13-3 on April 10.
The Lions also lost to Poland Seminary 12-6 on April 6.
Through six games, Becca Gavin (C) and Brittany Oldaker (3B) each had two home runs. Olivia Schumacher (OF) has been another early hitting standout, according to coach Jim Campolo.