Things didn't turn out as expected for the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls cross country team in the Division I regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, and that proved to be a good thing.
Junior Kelsey Sandlin won the individual championship in 18 minutes, 47.77 seconds, and the Lions scored 90 points to capture their first regional title.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, Gahanna competes in the state meet at National Trail Raceway trying to add to a run that also has included OCC-Ohio Division and district titles.
"I wanted to be in the top five, but I thought people would beat me, honestly," Sandlin said. "I'm really surprised."
"Our top four ran extremely well," coach Ernie Ziegler said. "We had a really strong game plan and they executed it to perfection. They ran as a group."
Sandlin, junior Rylee Tanner (18th, 19:46), sophomore Kelsey Thompson (20th, 19:46.99) and freshman Ally Wharton (21st, 19:48.43) led the Lions. Also competing were freshman Ivy McGee (44th, 20:25.16), sophomore Kearstin Turner (45th, 20:26.35) and junior Allison Matney (61st, 20:45.12).
The boys team finished 10th (271) of 16 teams at regional behind champion Dublin Jerome (66). Sophomore Aaron Schaller was 43rd (17:04.76), followed by juniors Matt Ridinger (54th, 17:15.11) and Keiffer Whiteman (55th, 17:15.82), freshman Andrew Ray (70th, 17:30.97) and seniors Chris Blakely (82nd, 17:39.66), John Fife (86th, 17:47.45) and Connor Roll (110th, 18:13.38).
The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to state.
Girls volleyball team falls in district final
The 15th-seeded girls volleyball team had its season end in a Division I district final Oct. 26 at Whitehall with a 25-14, 20-25, 25-16, 25-11 loss to seventh-seeded Lancaster.
The Lions upset third-seeded Hilliard Bradley 25-19, 20-25, 20-25, 25-23, 15-13 in a district semifinal Oct. 24 at Whitehall to set up a third match with Lancaster, which they lost to in five games twice during the regular season.
"We lost to Lancaster in five (games) both times (in OCC-Ohio play) and it was a battle both times," coach Alisa Franklin said. "The entire season we've been talking about October and October has been fun."
Against Bradley, senior middle hitter Aleese Butler, senior outside hitter Morgan Wrona, junior middle hitter Ciara Williams and junior outside hitter Alaina Monroe were the top blockers, according to Franklin.
Football team preps for Central
The football team will try to snap a three-game losing streak when it closes the regular season Friday, Nov. 1, at Pickerington Central.
The Lions have lost nine in a row to the Tigers, with their last win in the series being 38-17 on Sept. 28, 2001.
Gahanna lost to Pickerington North 27-20 on Oct. 25 to fall to 3-6 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Ohio.
Pickerington Central beat Groveport 41-14 on Oct. 25 to improve to 6-2 and 5-1 and keep its playoff hopes alive in Division I, Region 2.
Gahanna has given up an average of 27.7 points during its three-game losing streak, while Central is on a three-game winning streak in which it has averaged 36 points.
The Lions trailed North 27-7 but got a 43-yard touchdown run from Vasean Davis and field goals of 24 and 33 yards from Tanner Harding in the fourth quarter to make it close.
Gahanna began its last possession at its 41-yard line with 2:44 left and moved to the North 11, but Mason Blancett threw incomplete on fourth-and-6.
Blancett was 22-for-45 passing for 229 yards and Boomer Lowe had 11 catches for 129 yards.
"Talk about a resilient effort," coach John Snoad said.
Boys soccer team loses district semi
The boys soccer team's season ended with a 1-0 overtime loss to visiting 14th-seeded Westerville South on Oct. 23 in a Division I district semifinal.
The third-seeded Lions finished 11-2-5.
"We outshot them 16-3, but that's how soccer is sometimes," coach Todd Keenan said. "It was probably one of the best games we played all year. There were about 10 times where we thought, 'This is (where we're going to score).' "
Girls tennis team to lose top 2 players
The girls tennis team loses a four-member senior class that was led by Rachel Zink and Emily Merickel.
Zink and Merickel finished third in the Pickerington Central sectional Oct. 3 and 5 to advance to the Division I district tournament for the second time in three seasons. They then lost in the first round at district Oct. 11 at Hilliard Davidson.
The Lions are eligible to return two of their three singles entries from sectional in freshmen Kristen Zink and Kathleen McGuff. Kristen Zink lost in the third round and McGuff lost in the second.
Also eligible to return are juniors Elizabeth Sullivan and Kathryn Lee. Sullivan teamed with senior Riley Crowe to reach the third round of sectional in doubles.
The other senior was Claire Slater, who lost in a first-round sectional singles match.
"We've got several players returning who are enthusiastic," coach Chris Schwinnen said. "We're hoping to actually reload a little rather than rebuild."
Gahanna went 13-6 overall and placed second in the OCC-Ohio at 6-1, behind Pickerington Central (7-0). In the second-place OCC tournament Sept. 28 at home, the Lions scored 5 points to finish behind Olentangy Orange (18) and Dublin Coffman (17) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (4).
Hughes to return to lead girls golfers
Junior Emily Hughes became the first player in program history to make a second state appearance in girls golf.
Hughes, who helped the Lions advance to state as a freshman, shot 160 in the Division I state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 on Ohio State's Gray Course to finish 22nd.
The Lions also are eligible to return junior Alexis Rhodes, sophomores Sammie Jander, Alyson Johnson, Kelly Roberson, Catie Rogers and Svitlana Yakim and freshman Bailey Johnson.
Hughes was medalist in three of the four rounds of the OCC-Ohio tournament and earned league medalist honors for the season. Gahanna went 11-17 to place sixth behind Pickerington North (28-0), Thomas Worthington (20-8), Upper Arlington (18-10), Canal Winchester (16-12) and Davidson (15-13) and ahead of Lancaster (3-25) and Hilliard Darby (1-27).
Gahanna placed sixth (373) in the sectional Oct. 1 at Westchester behind champion Pickerington North (338) as the top three teams advanced. Hughes shot 77 to earn an individual district berth and followed with a 78 at district Oct. 8 at The Links at Groveport to qualify for state.
"We've got everyone coming back," coach Patty McQuirt said. "We've also got (an eighth-grader) for sure who will be coming in that'll be able to help the team out."