Senior Bryan Justice moved up three places in his final event representing the Licking Heights High School boys track and field team, as he finished third in the pole vault during the Division I state meet held June 6 and 7 at Ohio State.
"It was a great way to finish things," said Justice, who set a personal outdoor record with an effort of 15 feet, 2 inches. "It's been a great story. Four years ago I was looking for something I could be competitive in and (former coach Suzie Ketcham) talked me into trying the pole vault. She had confidence in me.
"It's special that all the work and her confidence in me grew into this."
Justice's career best was a 15-6 during the indoor state meet March 8 at the University of Akron, where he won the title.
"I wanted to win the outdoor, but I feel great about what I did," Justice said. "Those guys had better days today. That's all."
Massillon Perry's Lucas Kelley won (15-10) and Troy's Nathan Fleischer was second (15-2).
Justice tied for sixth (14-6) last season when he became the first from the program to compete in the Division I state meet.
His third-place finish provided the Hornets with six points and a tie for 35th behind champion Cleveland Glenville (40) as 71 teams scored.
Also at state, junior Matt Gebremedhin finished 11th in the 800 meters in 1 minute, 55.36 seconds.
"I think I could've done better, but I tried my best and there were a lot of fast runners," he said. "I wasn't on my game and I never felt fast. I got off to a slow start and never felt it the whole race.
"It does really make me want to get back here next year and run to win it. This makes me hungry and I will be motivated."
Justice advanced to state by finishing first (15-0) in the regional held May 28 and 30 at Pickerington North. Gebremedhin was third in the 800 (1:53.53).
Also scoring at regional was junior Curtis Richardson in the high jump (seventh, 6-6), as the Hornets tied for 14th (18) behind champion North (74) and 37 teams scored.
Also competing at regional were senior A.J. Velasquez in the shot put (15th, 46-8 3/4) and the 400 relay of senior Jared Richardson, junior Mershawn McMahan, junior Robbie Moore and senior Devon Eubanks (10th, school-record 43.89).
In the district 1 meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby, winning titles were Justice in the pole vault (15-1), Curtis Richardson in the high jump (6-7) and Gebremedhin in the 800 (1:55.18). The Hornets finished sixth (51) behind champion Pickerington North (127) as 15 teams scored.
Velasquez was third in the shot put (46-11) and the 400 relay of freshman John Bryant, McMahan, Moore and Eubanks was third (44.43).
Scoring but not advancing to regional were the 800 relay (fifth, 1:32.48), Velasquez in the discus (seventh, 132-1), Jared Richardson in the 300 hurdles (seventh, 42.07) and sophomore Alan Konneh in the 300 hurdles (eighth, 42.9).
In the LCL meet May 15 and 17, the Hornets finished third (79) behind host Watkins Memorial (189) and Granville (112) and ahead of Heath (77.5), Newark Catholic (52.5), Lakewood (51.5), Utica (41.5), Licking Valley (38), Northridge (12) and Johnstown (7). Justice won the pole vault (14-6) and Velasquez won the discus (129-1).
Other key expected returnees include junior Vince Masoni, sophomores Anthony Haist, Nate Hasson, Ben Hunkler and Alex Wilcox and freshmen Garrett Sommerkamp and Terrell Wymer.
Girls team loses talented senior class
The girls team loses three of its top scorers in seniors Skyler Ortiz, Alexis Sanidad and Camerone Bryant.
Ashton Malicoate rounded out the senior class.
"We didn't have a lot of seniors, but they were very good for this program over the years," coach Zach Grubb said. "They were great leaders and competitors and they will be missed."
The Hornets' season ended in the Division I regional meet, where they competed in three events and tied for 31st (5) behind champion Pickerington Central (75) as 41 teams scored.
The 800 relay of Sanidad, Ortiz, Bryant and freshman Chan'lier Mcbride was sixth (1:44.09) and the 400 relay of sophomore Mykala Suggs, Sanidad, Ortiz and Mcbride was seventh (school-record 49.7).
Suggs, trying to overcome an ankle injury, finished 13th in the 300 hurdles (49.29) after she was fourth (47.21) in district 1.
The 400 relay was third (50.13) at district and the 800 relay was fourth (1:44.19) as the Hornets finished 11th (27) of 15 teams as Pickerington Central (126) won.
Scoring at district but failing to advance to regional were Ortiz in the 100 hurdles (fifth, 15.54) and high jump (fifth, 5-0) and Bryant in the 800 (sixth, 2:22.22).
In the LCL meet, the Hornets were third (82.5) behind Watkins Memorial (180) and Granville (164.5) and ahead of Heath (63.5), Newark Catholic (56.25), Licking Valley (42), Johnstown (23.25), Northridge (21), Utica (19) and Lakewood (8). Ortiz won the 100 (12.96) and 100 hurdles (15.72).
Other key expected returnees include junior Angel Allen, sophomores Jessica Brungs, Kassie Sanidad and Samantha Sommerkamp and freshmen Mika Cox, Aiyanna Johnson, Tessa Kenney, Jordin Spears and Rachel Thomas.
"We've got some very promising younger girls, but we need to add depth," Grubb said.