The Watkins Memorial High School boys track and field team has proven all season that its whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Warriors displayed that by winning their second consecutive district championship despite finishing first in only one event. They scored 108 points in the 17-team district 2 meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby, with Lancaster (93.5) placing second.
Watkins Memorial turned in another strong showing in the regional meet May 28 and 30 at Pickerington North, as it finished seventh (31.5) behind host North (74) as 37 teams scored and qualified for state in three relay events.
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state, which was held June 6 and 7 at Ohio State.
"Early in the year we made a commitment to the relays, spending a lot of practice time on exchanges and emphasizing their success and improvement," coach Marty Dahlman said.
The 800 relay of senior Donovan Garrison, junior Chance Abbitt, sophomore Evan Caniff and senior Jerrod Lyon was regional runner-up (1 minute, 28.17 seconds) to Hilliard Davidson (1:28.01).
"We have done a lot of tinkering in the (800 relay)," Dahlman said. "The final move was when Abbitt didn't qualify out of district in the open 400, even though he ran one of the fastest times in the state. We wanted him fresh for the 400, but with that (event) off of the table, we were able to put him in.
"That gave us the strong lead-off leg we were looking for. Caniff has grown into the 200 and, as a sophomore, is finally figuring out how to run the entire race, not just the straightaway. Lyon is the 400 guy, so we can always count on him giving us a strong leg all the way through to the finish. Garrison is the closer. As long as we can get him the baton with a shot at the lead, he'll get there."
The 400 relay of junior Tyler Culpepper, Caniff, senior Hunter Holton and Garrison placed third (42.68).
"The (400 relay) has been together since the first outdoor meet," Dahlman said. "We have tried some changes, but always come back to this order and roster. Culpepper has a strong start and runs a great turn. Caniff is a great straightaway runner and has shown great 100 speed, so he's perfect in the back stretch. Holton runs turns as a high jumper and, though when you watch him he doesn't seem that fast compared to the rest of the field, he's always holding or gaining. And Garrison is fast and doesn't want to lose, which is exactly what you need in an anchor leg."
The 1,600 relay of Abbitt, Lyon, sophomore Desmond Melson and freshman Gerald Brewer finished fourth (3:19.79).
"We have a tradition (in the 1,600 relay), so we began working on this one in indoor season, where we qualified for (the) indoor state (meet March 8 at the University of Akron)," Dahlman said. "Melson has been the lead-off leg since February and has shown great strength for a sophomore. He is now able to get us in the race from the very start. Brewer is a freshman and we are working on getting him out faster, but he has a strong finish every time.
"Lyon is probably the quickest of the four and, in the chaser-leg position, knows his job is to get us to the front and gets it done. Abbitt is a closer. While others may be able to close the gap on him in the first 200, he never gets beat in the second 200."
Also competing at regional were sophomore Andrew Jordan in the 3,200 (sixth, 9:21.24), Brewer in the 300 hurdles (sixth, 39.37), Lyon in the long jump (sixth, 20 feet, 7 1/2 inches), senior Jordan Rice in the 1,600 (seventh, 4:23.79), Holton in the 110 hurdles (eighth, 15.37) and high jump (tied for 10th, 6-2), senior Jarod Worcester in the pole vault (eighth, 13-0), Garrison in the 200 (10th, 22.64), the 3,200 relay of Jordan, Abbitt, Rice and senior Austin Dowis (11th, 8:17.65) and Jake Correll in the 110 hurdles (12th, 15.48).
"Andrew Jordan broke his own school record by almost 10 seconds and his time would have qualified for state from every other regional," Dahlman said. "We are excited about his future. Jordan Rice also ran a personal-best in the 1,600, missing our school record by less than a second. Brewer ran one of the fastest 300 hurdle times in our history, as a freshman. He ran faster than (2013 graduate) Ethan George did last year, and Ethan went to state. Hunter Holton ran his fastest hurdles at regional."
Woosley returns to state for girls team
Josie Woosley represented the girls team in the Division I state meet.
The junior placed third in the 1,600 (5:01.57) at regional to advance to state for the second time. Last year at state, she finished 11th in the 1,600 (5:14.9).
Woosley also had qualified for regional in the 3,200, but decided not to compete in the event in order to focus on the 1,600.
"Josie only ran the 1,600 because the No. 1 goal for her was to finish in the top four to qualify for state," coach Nathan Corum said. "She was a little tight for the race, but overall ran pretty well."
In the district 2 meet, Woosley won the 1,600 (4:58.09) and placed second in the 3,200 (11:18.25).
The 400 relay of juniors McKenzie Biniker and Monica Tumblin and sophomores Rachel Lawwell and Kelsey Grove just missed qualifying for state, as it placed fifth (49.09), just .12 of a second behind the final state qualifier, Northland (48.97).
"The (400 relay) ran a school-record time each of the last three times it stepped on the track," Corum said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough to get through, but all four girls come back next year, so we can continue to improve."
Biniker also came up short in the 200, finishing fifth (25.44) as Pickerington Central's Cortisha Short placed fourth (25.26).
Also competing at regional were freshman Samantha Hyme in the 800 (eighth, 2:20.31), sophomore Sammi Miller in the pole vault (tied for ninth, 10-6) and the 800 relay of Biniker, junior Kara Robinson, Grove and Lawwell (disqualified).
"Biniker ran a (personal record) in the 200 and her time also tied the school record," Corum said. "Samantha Hyme and Sammi Miller each had really good performances, too."
Watkins Memorial scored 15 points at regional to finish 13th behind champion Pickerington Central (75) as 41 teams scored.