Despite winning only three events, the Watkins Memorial High School boys track and field team earned a share of its first Division I district title.
The Warriors and Hilliard Davidson both scored 140 points in the 16-team district 2 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby, with Gahanna (106) placing third.
The top four finishers in each district event qualified for the regional meet held May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North, and Watkins Memorial was represented at regional in 15 of 17 events. The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to the state meet Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
"It was a great experience, a proud moment in our program to win our first Division I district championship," coach Marty Dahlman said. "We've won in Division II, but this is our first in Division I."
The celebration was short-lived, however, as 36-year-old assistant coach Charlie Watkins died unexpectedly May 26. A 1995 Watkins Memorial graduate, Watkins taught social studies at the high school and was an assistant football coach in addition to serving as the throws coach for the boys and girls track teams.
A funeral service for Watkins, who still holds the record in the shot put (54 feet, 5 inches) for the boys program, will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, June 3, in the high school gymnasium.
"It definitely changed the tone of things in a hurry and is extremely tragic," Dahlman said. "He was a great athlete on a part of one of our great (track) teams and he came back and was a well-respected teacher, coach and friend to our student body and athletes."
On the first day of the regional meet, Nic Eader seemed to struggle without the help from his coach. The senior, who placed second in both the discus (154-6) and shot put (50-1 1/2) at district, finished ninth in the discus (147-9). He competed in the shot put May 31, along with teammate Jake Sanders.
Also competing at regional May 29 were Brandon Oney in the pole vault (10th, 13-0), Jerrod Lyon in the long jump (11th, 20-6 1/2), the 3,200-meter relay of Austin Dowis, Luke Gamertsfelder, Owen Tennant and Mike McKean (15th, 8 minutes, 51.85 seconds) and Kyle Ellinger in the pole vault (did not clear opening height).
Winning district titles were Oney in the pole vault (13-0), Hunter Holton in the high jump (6-4) and Ethan George in the 300 hurdles (39.32). Ellinger placed second in the pole vault (12-6), Lyon placed third in the long jump (20-5 3/4), Sanders finished fourth in the shot put (47-1) and the 3,200 relay was fourth (8:35.07).
Also qualifying for regional were Chance Abbitt in the 400 (second, 50.21), the 1,600 relay of George, Vinny Anderson, Connor Severino and Abbitt (second, 3:24.26), Donovan Garrison in the 100 (third, 11.31) and 200 (fourth, 22.58), Holton in the 110 hurdles (third, 15.31), the 400 relay of Evan Caniff, Tyler Culpepper, Holton and Garrison (third, 44.08), Desmond Melson in the 400 (fourth, 51.58), McKean in the 3,200 (fourth, 9:32.03) and the 800 relay of Anderson, Lyon, Severino and Abbitt (fourth, 1:33.55).
The girls team finished fifth (64) in the 16-team district 3 meet, behind Dublin Coffman (141), New Albany (86), Upper Arlington (85) and Westerville Central (66), and qualified for regional in five events.
Placing second were Kara Robinson in the 110 hurdles (15:24), Josie Woosley in the 1,600 (5:13.32) and the 800 relay of McKenzie Biniker, Monica Tumblin, Stephanie Robb and Rachel Lawwell (1:47.24).
Also advancing were Robb in the 800 (third, 2:18.67) and Sammi Miller in the pole vault (third, 9-6).
At regional May 29, Robinson finished 10th in the 100 hurdles (16.25) during preliminaries and did not advance to the final May 31, but the 800 relay placed eighth (1:45.73) to advance to the final.
The Warriors just missed qualifying for regional in five other events. Placing fifth at district were Robinson in the 300 hurdles (48.03), Tumblin in the 100 hurdles (16.06), Biniker in the 200 (26.59), Alexis Christy in the high jump (4-10) and the 1,600 relay of Woosley, Robinson, Kelsey Grove and Lawwell (4:08.96).
"We had a really good day at district," girls coach Nathan Corum said. "The girls ran very well. Unfortunately, we had so many fifth-place finishes. Still, it was fantastic because all of those fifth places were actually (personal records). You just can't complain when we're running our best times at the end of the season. But for them, they were just short of making it a remarkable regional for us."
Season ends for baseball team
The baseball team saw its season come to an end with a 7-2 loss to 14th-seeded Marysville in a Division I district final May 23 at Ohio Dominican University.
Seeded third of 41 teams, Watkins Memorial made six errors against the Monarchs.
"It was such a great group of seniors that none of us wanted (the season) to end, especially that way," coach Donnie Schone said. "We came up a game short of winning the district and a game short of winning the (OCC-Capital Division), but we didn't deserve to move further or win the league because we didn't do enough to win those games."
Watkins Memorial finished 22-7 overall and went 11-3 in the OCC-Capital to finish second, behind Olentangy Orange (12-2) and ahead of Olentangy (10-4), Big Walnut (6-8), New Albany (6-8), Mount Vernon (6-8), Delaware (4-10) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
The Warriors had a first-round bye in the district tournament, beat visiting Logan 14-0 in five innings in the second round May 15 and defeated eighth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 2-1 in a district semifinal May 21 at Pickerington North.
"We have no regrets in what we accomplished. It was a great season," Schone said. "The kids worked hard and gave us everything they had. I thank them for that. Only one Division I team will finish the season with a win."
The Warriors lose eight seniors in Corey Derugen (OF), Derek Helbing (C), Seth Heydinger (utility), Jordan Miller (2B), Charlie Schmidt (SS), Dan Sexton (P/1B), Austin Swick (OF) and Tony Winters (P/OF).
Sexton and Winters were named first-team all-district and all-league, Helbing was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league and Miller was honorable mention all-league.
Expected to return are juniors Steve Asbury (1B), Seth Casto (1B/C), Rickie Frey (OF), Ben Shroyer (3B), Justin Treinish (OF/DH/P) and Will Vanhoose (P/1B) and sophomore Chandler Day (P/OF).
Day was second-team all-district and all-league.
"Chandler did a nice job and threw a lot of innings as a sophomore, so to have a potential No. 1 starter back on the mound for two more years is reassuring," Schone said. "We need to piece in a rotation around him, but we've got kids ready to go. What I like about where our program is now is that we always seem to be able to fill in for big senior classes.
"We don't have to rush young guys up to varsity and can let them gain experience and prepare at the lower levels so when we bring them up, they tend to be ready to go. They know the expectations and what we're all about. I don't think that changes just because we're moving from the OCC to the (Licking County League) next year."