The Watkins Memorial High School boys and girls cross country teams were represented by senior Mikey McKean and sophomore Josie Woosley in the Division I state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
The two advanced out of the regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North using a similar race strategy.
"We used the same game plan and mental approach for both," coach John Jarvis said. "We stressed that to advance they had to take a chance by getting out early, keeping contact with the front group and making a decision that when they go, you have to go, no matter how much pain there is at that point. They had to take a chance and they did and hung on. It was a terrific day for us."
The top four teams and top 16 individuals at regional qualified for state.
There were some anxious moments for McKean, as he secured the final state-qualifying spot in 16 minutes, 16.7 seconds, holding off New Albany's Zack Buck (16:17.91).
"I was in a top-10 position for most of the race, but I got passed by a big group coming out of the woods with about 200 meters left," said McKean, who is in his first season competing in the sport. "I was at my limit, exhausted, and I was just hoping I was 16th. I thought I may have (finished) 17th and so did the coaches. It took a few minutes before we knew."
It took even longer for him to celebrate.
"I was so tired," McKean said. "It was hard to walk and hard to breathe. I knew it would take my (personal record) to advance. I think it was 10 minutes before I felt a little better and could enjoy it. Then I was like, 'Wow, this is really happening.' It's awesome."
McKean, who competes in track and field in the spring but has never qualified for regional, topped his previous personal record by 16 seconds.
"When they flashed it up on the scoreboard and we saw 16th, we were elated," Jarvis said. "He handled his first regional very, very well. To PR by 16 seconds is incredible given the type of day it was and on a course that traditionally doesn't yield great times. I'm so proud of him. I've coached him in track and I know what he has in his heart. His race sense, intuitive sense during a race, has always impressed me. He has a lot of intangibles that make him a great runner."
Westerville North's Jacob Dumford (15:51.81) edged teammate Kent Ford (15:51.95) for the regional title. Westerville North won the team title with 79 points, as Hilliard Davidson (88) Olentangy Liberty (108) and New Albany (114) also qualified for state.
McKean's advancement to state motivated Woosley in her effort later that day.
"I wasn't worried about times, just places," she said. "I wanted to make it real bad because he believes in me and I believe in him. I saw how hard he ran and how tough it was on him, so I knew what was in store for me. But I wanted to stay within range and make it to state."
Woosley posted her second-best time, 19:19.26, to finish 12th. Reynoldsburg's Leah Wallace (18:44.90) won the regional title. Davidson (50) cruised to the team title and was joined at state by Upper Arlington (113), Dublin Coffman (115) and Dublin Scioto (129).
"Having Mikey succeed in front of her was proof positive that the training and strategy would pay off if she took the risk, and she did," Jarvis said. "She was in the top 10 or 12 positions the whole race, remained confident and held on. Being a sophomore, it's about confidence with her. She was in the state track meet last spring as a freshman, so this was another big step for her development."
Woosley said she needed encouragement from her coaches before the race.
"They made me believe in myself and my training and they pointed to Mikey and said if he can do it, you can, too." said Woosley, who finished 12th in the 800 meters and 15th as a member of the 3,200 relay in the Division I state track meet last spring. "I was hoping to make it this year, but I didn't really expect to make it."
Football team falls to Orange in finale
The football team concluded its season with a 13-10 loss to host Olentangy Orange on Oct. 26 to finish 2-8 overall and 2-5 in the OCC-Capital Division.
Orange's Mitch Hopkins kicked a 24-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining to break a 10-all tie. The Pioneers finished 6-4 overall.
Watkins Memorial had tied the game at 10 earlier in the fourth quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Jerrod Lyon. The Warriors never led, as they trailed 7-0 before Connor Severino scored on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Ben Shroyer in the second quarter. Hopkins made a 28-yard field goal in the third quarter to give the Pioneers a 10-7 lead.
Orange was led by running back Mike Forbes, who rushed for 206 yards, including a 48-yard run late in the game to help set up the winning score.
Senior running back Brenden Kemp rushed for 209 yards on 33 carries to lead the Warriors. He finished the season with 1,605 yards and 16 touchdowns on 244 carries.
Watkins Memorial, which outgained Orange 326-289 in total yards, tied Delaware for sixth in the OCC-Capital, behind New Albany (7-0), Olentangy (6-1), Big Walnut (4-3), Orange (4-3) and Mount Vernon (3-4) and ahead of Franklin Heights (0-7).
The Warriors move into the Licking County League next season.
Girls soccer finishes with winning record
The girls soccer team will look to build on back-to-back strong seasons next year despite needing to replace nine seniors.
Watkins Memorial finished 9-6-3 overall after losing to top-seeded Dublin Coffman 4-0 in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 23. Seeded 20th, the Warriors had a first-round bye and defeated Zanesville 1-0 in the second round Oct. 18, marking their first tournament win since 2008. That season, they beat Delaware 2-1 in the first round before losing to sixth-seeded Davidson 6-0 in the second round.
"These seniors helped us build and I think we'll continue to raise our expectations every season from here," said Alex Stout, who completed his second season leading the program. "They only lost 10 of 34 games the past two years and they got that elusive tournament win. You could see it in their eyes when we beat Zanesville. To them, it was like winning the state championship. Now that the underclassmen have been there and done that, we can expect more next season."
Among the seniors were defenders Jesi Hosmer and Melissa Spurbeck, midfielder Shelby Jude and forward Stephanie Robb.
"All four will be tough to replace, especially Stephanie because of her speed and quickness," Stout said. "Shelby's versatility also will be missed. We could put her anywhere on the field and she would excel. She's just a fantastic player.
Robb scored against Zanesville off an assist from Jude during a scrum inside the Blue Devils' box with 7:37 left. The Warriors were outscored by Coffman 1-0 in the second half after adjusting to playing on turf for the first time this season.
Watkins Memorial finished 2-3-1 in the OCC-Capital to place fifth, behind New Albany (6-0), Olentangy (4-2), Orange (3-1-2) and Big Walnut (3-3) and ahead of Delaware (1-4-1) and Mount Vernon (0-6). Franklin Heights did not play a league schedule.
Robb was named first-team all-league and Jude was second-team all-league.
Expected to return are juniors Makenzie Lauterbach (midfielder), Madi Moore (goalkeeper), Deja Scott (midfielder), Britnee Stapleton (defender) and Destiny Waddell (defender), sophomores Maddie Berry (defender), Natalie Buscemi (midfielder), Nicole Holtz (defender), Olivia Kuhn (forward), Samantha Newman (midfielder) and Kara Scanlon (defender) and freshmen Amberly Knox (forward), Rachel Lawwell (forward), Kristen Spurbeck (midfielder) and Amber White (forward).
Newman was honorable mention all-league.
The Warriors will compete in the Licking County League next season.
"We're working on our non-league schedule right now, trying to make it challenging, but our league games will be played on the nights that the OCC plays its non-league games," Stout said. "So I think we'll play a lot of weekend games.
"We have 13 freshmen coming up and nine of them play on the same club team, so there will be good camaraderie with them and they will challenge for starting positions. That should make everyone work hard in the offseason because there are no spots guaranteed."