Watkins Memorial Roundup
McKean completes 'dream' year
Mikey McKean of the Watkins Memorial High School boys cross country team completed his only season competing in the sport in the Division I state meet.
The senior finished 79th of 148 runners in the state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway in 16 minutes, 26.1 seconds. Tipp City Tippecanoe's Sam Wharton won the state championship in 15:09.95.
"Mikey had a dream season," coach John Jarvis said. "He had the race of his life in the regional to get out and then had his second-best race at state. For a first-year runner, that's truly a testament to his heart."
Sophomore Josie Woosley of the girls team also competed at state, placing 97th of 150 runners in 19:46.23. Lebanon's Jacquelyn Crow won the state title in 17:39.31.
"Josie had a strong state meet, too, although she got out a little too quick," Jarvis said. "But that was what we had talked about, taking risks, especially at this level. What she learned this year will be invaluable in her future trips to state. I love her intangibles."
McKean advanced to state by placing 16th in a personal-record 16:16.7 in the regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North to hold off New Albany's Zack Buck (16:17.91) for the final qualifying spot.
Woosley finished 12th (19:19.26) at regional in her second-best time.
The girls team finished seventh (183) in the 18-team district 3 meet Oct. 20 at home to fall one spot shy of advancing to regional. Upper Arlington (49) won the district title and Olentangy Orange (176) placed sixth. The finish snapped the Warriors' streak of consecutive regional appearances as a team at four.
Woosley placed ninth (19:49.15) at district and senior Veda Durbin finished 25th (20:56.4) to fall one spot shy of advancing to regional. Dublin Scioto's Shayla Wigand placed 24th (20:49.38) to secure the final regional-qualifying spot.
Also competing for the Warriors were freshman Josie Cotugno (41st, 21:49.77), junior Natalie Watson (51st, 22:05.57), sophomore Claire Snode (63rd, 23:24.08), freshman Jessie Jimison (69th, 24:48.34) and sophomore Alexis Hercenberg (71st, 25:13.35).
The boys team also saw its streak of consecutive regional appearances end at four, as the Warriors finished ninth (209) in the 15-team district 2 meet Oct. 20 at home behind champion Hilliard Davidson (39). The top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional, with Hilliard Darby (136) securing the final qualifying spot.
McKean paced 13th (17:07.81) at district. Also competing for the Warriors were freshman Tyler Day (36th, 18:03.56), junior Austin Dowis (44th, 18:22.37), junior Owen Tennant (52nd, 18:25.92), junior Eddie Gero (63rd, 18:43.02), senior Luke Gamertsfelder (71st, 19:13.85) and junior Jared Clark (72nd, 19:18.56).
In the OCC-Capital Division meet Oct. 20 at Lancaster, the girls team finished fourth (84), behind New Albany (33), Orange (65) and Olentangy (82) and ahead of Big Walnut (127), Delaware (140) and Mount Vernon (155). Franklin Heights did not have enough runners for a team score.
The Warriors lose only one senior in Durbin.
"We had an extremely young girls team and they did a great job," Jarvis said. "They'll come back stronger next season. Plus, we have a very good middle school group coming up, so the future looks bright."
The boys team finished fourth (115) in the league meet, behind New Albany (32), Olentangy (56) and Orange (91) and ahead of Delaware (144), Mount Vernon (145) and Big Walnut (151). Franklin Heights did not have enough runners for a team score.
The Warriors lose three seniors, including McKean and Gamertsfelder.
"Entering this season, we only had one or two guys who ever competed on varsity and those were in seventh-man situations," Jarvis said. "I think they learned a lot and will be ready to take a step forward next year. We're really excited about next year."
Football team set for move into new league
The football team is looking forward to moving into the Licking County League next season.
Watkins Memorial finished 2-8 overall this fall, including going 2-5 in its final season in the OCC-Capital. The Warriors tied Delaware for sixth in the league, 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).
"We thought we would have a better season, but I was pleased that we had stand-up guys who fought to the end and didn't tank it after six or seven weeks," said coach Jeff Severino, whose team closed out the season with three consecutive losses. "They worked hard and never gave up. It was one of those seasons where, if we get a break here or there, we wind up with six, seven or eight wins, really. The kids showed their class and kept battling regardless, and that's a testament to the type of kids we have in this program."
The Warriors' wins came against Delaware (56-28 on Sept. 14) and Franklin Heights (51-12 on Oct. 5).
Watkins Memorial opened with three consecutive losses to Licking Heights (13-12 on Aug. 24), Athens (62-54 loss on Aug. 31) and Mifflin (25-20 on Sept. 7). Athens and Licking Heights made the Division III and Division II playoffs, respectively, with the former playing in a regional semifinal Nov. 9.
The Warriors lost to two other playoff teams in Olentangy (42-0 on Oct. 12) and New Albany (34-7 on Oct. 19). Olentangy (Division I) and New Albany (Division II) played in regional semifinals Nov. 10 and Nov. 9, respectively.
"We were close to a 3-0 start against two playoff teams and a Mifflin team that finished 7-3," said Severino, whose team averaged 24.5 points per game and allowed an average of 29. "There were only two games all season that we were totally outmatched and that was against Olentangy and New Albany. Those are great teams, but we also dealt with a lot of injuries in the last three weeks of the season."
The Warriors concluded their season with a 13-10 loss to Orange on Oct. 26, as the Pioneers got a 24-yard field goal from Mitch Hopkins with 17 seconds remaining.
Watkins Memorial will lose 16 seniors, including 10 starters. The starters included Kevin Crawford (DE), Collin Cruikshank (DE), Billy Duvall (FB), Brenden Kemp (RB), Jake Sanders (LB/FB), Connor Severino (WR/DB) and Boban Stepanovich (OL).
Kemp rushed for 1,605 yards and 16 touchdowns on 244 carries and caught 12 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown and was named first-team all-league. He set single-season program records for yards rushing and carries and finished his career with a program-record 49 touchdowns.
Sanders (72 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception) was second-team all-league, Crawford (71 tackles, 1 sack) was special mention all-league and Severino (7 receptions, 122 yards, 2 touchdowns; 29 tackles) was honorable mention all-league.
Cruikshank (52 tackles, 3 sacks), Duvall (48 carries, 296 yards, 1 touchdown) and Stepanovich also had strong seasons, according to coach Severino.
Kemp is considering playing for an Ivy League school and Sanders is expected to play for a Division III program, coach Severino said.
Among those expected to return on offense are junior quarterback Ben Shroyer (77-for-143 passing, 969 yards, 8 touchdowns, 9 interceptions), junior wide receiver Hunter Holton (45 receptions, 740 yards, 5 touchdowns) and junior linemen Josh Lyday and Kyle Hickin. Sophomore Mike Ford is expected to replace Kemp as the featured running back, coach Severino said.
Holton was second-team all-league after setting program records for receptions and yards in a season.
Among those expected to return on defense are Holton (3 interceptions), Ford (3 interceptions) and junior Isaac Morrison (2 interceptions) in the secondary, junior Corbin Evans at linebacker and Hickin and juniors Travis Hall and Preston Jenkins on the line.
Another key returnee should be junior Jerod Lyon, who made six of nine field-goal attempts and 27 of 30 extra-point attempts and averaged 32 yards per punt.
"The underclassmen know we were close this season," coach Severino said. "We need to get in the weight room and be ready to go next season. We're ready and excited to be headed back to the Licking County League."