Junior Bryan Justice became the first Division I state track and field qualifier from Licking Heights High School and the first member of the boys team to qualify for state since 2009.
Justice tied for second in the pole vault (14 feet) during the first day of the regional meet held May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North. He didn't reach the personal record of 15-0 he set when he won the event in the district 1 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby, but he advanced to state by finishing in the top four.
"We were counting misses, and everyone was putting their fingers up," Justice said of his fellow competitors. "We all looked at each other and said: 'That's it, four left. I think we made it.' After that, we were just in it for fun. (This) week at state, it is go big or go home."
At regional, the top four finishers in each event advanced to the state meet Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
"It's been amazing since last summer," said Justice, whose personal best as a sophomore was 11-6. "I started working with (the Buckeye Pole Vault Academy in Lewis Center) last June and they told me they thought I could clear 15 feet by my senior year and I've done it as a junior. ... My goal is to place first or second at state."
Justice was joined in the regional by Matt Gebremedhin, who competed in the 800 meters on May 31 after finishing third at district (1 minute, 55.9 seconds).
"Anytime you can get kids to the regional level, it's been a great season," coach Tim O'Cain said. "Sure, we think we could've gotten a few more through, but this is Division I and we're still trying to adjust to the competition. Last year we didn't even come close to getting to the regional and this year we weren't far off from having a few more make it here."
The Hornets scored 24 points in district 1 to place 10th of 15 teams behind champion Pickerington North (159.5).
The 800 relay of Mychal Suggs, Kendall Bradley, Curtis Richardson and Devon Eubanks was fifth (1:32.05) and the 400 relay of Richardson, Bradley, Suggs and Eubanks was seventh (45.15). Bradley was seventh in the 100 (11.69).
Junior Skyler Ortiz was the lone regional qualifier for the girls team. She finished fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.66) in the district 1 meet but did not qualify for the final at regional, as she placed 12th (16.46) in the preliminary.
"Obviously, Skyler didn't run as well as she would've liked, but she made it to regional, which was a good step for her after she underachieved last year at district," coach Zach Grubb said. "Hopefully she gets back here next year and has some teammates with her."
In district 1, the girls finished 15th (9) of 17 teams behind champion Hilliard Davidson (90). Cameron Bryant was sixth in the 400 (1:00.86) and the 1,600 relay of Bryant, Alexis Sanidad, PyLynne Myers and Justice Stegall was eighth (4:13.44).