McCalah Mast walked gingerly, her knees wobbly.
The junior distance runner on the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls track and field team was the anchor for the 3,200-meter relay that finished fourth (10 minutes, 30.59 seconds) in the Division II, district 1 meet May 21 at Westerville South.
Mast held off Ready's Emily Genders in the final 100 meters to send the relay to the regional meet Thursday, May 30, and Saturday, June 1, at Lexington.
The top four in each event advanced to regional, where the top four in each event advance to the state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State.
As Mast's knees began to buckle on the track's steamy turf infield, she was steadied on one side by her freshman sister, Grace Mast, and classmate Taylor Thomas on the other. All three were on the relay with junior Jessica Turner.
"I had two (opposing runners) behind me on the final lap and (Licking Valley's Mackenzie Butler) passed me," McCalah Mast said. "I knew that I would be able to hold (Genders) off, and I couldn't let my teammates down. They put me in that position (to finish fourth). ... All we wanted to do was advance. We were surprised and happy (with the performance)."
Ready placed fifth in 10:31.34.
Grace Mast ran the first leg and was a bit intimidated in her first district experience.
"Everyone just flew by me (to start the race)," she said. "But I don't like to start fast. I was able to settle down and pace myself."
Thomas started the second leg "really, really fast" but was able to keep pace.
"I knew when I was up there with (Claire Lamb of first-place) Granville that I was going fast," she said. "I knew the second lap was going to be tough, but I knew I had to keep going."
Turner was able to keep the momentum going on the third leg.
"We wanted to make it to (the regional)," she said.
"I started crying when McCalah came round that final turn because I knew we were there."
Sophomore Elizabeth Blenk won the long jump (15 feet, 6 1/4 inches) to advance to regional along with senior Kendall Colvin, who was second in the high jump (5-0). Senior Abby Smith moves on with a runner-up finish the shot put (30-2 1/4).
Also advancing were junior Alex Workman and freshman Josiah Annis in the boys pole vault. Workman was second (11 feet) and Annis was third (10-0).
Workman was the lone regional qualifier for the boys last season, failing to clear the initial pole vault height at Lexington. The Johnnies did not score as Eastmoor Academy (60) won the regional title and 43 teams scored.
Last season in the girls regional at Welcome Stadium in Dayton, Colvin won the high jump in a program-record 5-4. The Johnnies finished 13th (21) behind champion Dayton Chaminade Julienne (64) as 44 teams scored.
Softball team builds foundation for future
The softball team finished 13-14 overall with an 11-1, six-inning loss at fifth-seeded North Union on May 15 in the second round of the Division III district tournament.
The 10th-seeded Johnnies defeated 19th-seeded Mount Gilead 7-3 at home May 13 in a first-round game.
Johnstown was third (8-6) in the MBC behind Northridge (13-1) and Loudonville (9-5) and ahead of Centerburg (7-7), Utica (6-8), Danville (5-9), East Knox (5-9) and Fredericktown (3-11). Next year, the Johnnies will play in the Licking County League.
"We had our best season since 2009 (19-8 record), so we're headed in the right direction," said coach Steve Smith, who finished his second season. "We had a good group of hardworking seniors and a group of younger players who did a great job for us."
Seniors were Kourtnee Derflinger (1B), Lauren Baldwin (OF), Keymell Cartwright (3B/OF), Sam Epling (OF), Taylor Hickman (OF) and Brittani Noll (OF).
"As far as Keymell goes, she was a huge asset and Lauren Baldwin was the glue that kept the team together, leading by example on and off of the field," Smith said. "Sam Epling and Taylor Hickman were always there doing what was necessary to help the team. Brittani Noll came out for the first time this year and mostly played j.v. ball and was so happy that I put her on the tournament roster."
Cartwright (.367 batting average, .554 on-base percentage, 41 stolen bases, 4 home runs, 17 RBI) was first-team all-league and junior shortstop Natalie Carpenter (.382 average, .584 OBP, 12 doubles, 3 triples, 10 RBI) was second-team all-league. Freshman infielder Maddi Lusk (.369, .565 OBP, 3 homers, 17 RBI) was honorable mention all-league. As a pitcher, Lusk was 9-11 with a 3.09 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 132 innings.
The Johnnies should be strong up the middle next spring with the expected return of Carpenter, junior second baseman Ashley Bush and freshman catcher Erin McConnell (.299, .474 OBP, 2 homers, 9 doubles).
Also expected to return are junior outfielders Meghan Gall and Rachel Shadwick (14 stolen bases), junior first baseman Hallie Grinstead and sophomore Courtney Fuller (INF/OF).