Boys track team wins second state title in a row
The Columbus Academy boys and girls track and field teams excelled in the Division III state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State, nearly winning both titles.
The boys won their second consecutive state championship, finishing with 49 points while rallying past Lima Central Catholic (43) and Warren JFK (41) as 67 teams scored.
Under first-year coach Kelly Parker, the girls finished second (24) behind Versailles (28) and ahead of Fredericktown, Van Buren and Canton Central Catholic, which tied for third (20) as 75 teams scored.
Last season, the boys took control early and scored 64 points to easily outdistance runner-up Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (31).
This season, the Vikings needed strong efforts on the second day to take home another first-place trophy.
Academy clinched the title when Jake Tuckerman, Dominic Facciolla, Tyler Gittins and Jack Lint won the 1,600-meter relay in 3 minutes, 19.66 seconds.
"We knew what we had to do (in the 1,600 relay)," Gittins said. "We had to get five points, but we wanted to put a stamp on it just to solidify the whole deal."
Lima Central Catholic and JFK did not have an entry in the final four running events.
"This is fantastic," coach Bob Kirk said. "It's so hard to do it in the first place."
Academy was third behind JFK and Central Catholic after Lint finished second (37.15) and Gittins was third (37.86) to JFK's Chad Zallow in the 300 hurdles. Zallow won in a state-record 36.87.
Lint (8) and Gittins (6) combined for 14 points in the event.
"I was counting on something in that neighborhood from 14 to 18, but I can't expect it," Kirk said. "I can hope for it. I believed it could happen. I thought it was a realistic expectation. I'm delighted."
After Tuckerman finished sixth in the 800 (1:55.96) for three points, Academy pulled ahead of Central Catholic and JFK and clinched the title by winning the 1,600 relay.
It was the Vikings' fourth state title, with the other two coming in 1977 and 1981. Academy finished second in 1982 and 1986.
Lint also was third in the 110 hurdles (14.57) and high jump (6 feet, 6 inches). He opted not to compete in the long jump to prepare for other events.
"This feels great," he said. "We did it a lot different way this year without (2012 graduate) Jon Michael (Hilsheimer). ... Everybody really pulled together and we did just about everything we could to win it and we needed to come back in the (1,600 relay) and run fast and we did, so I couldn't be happier."
Hilsheimer, who was in attendance, recently completed his freshman track season at Duke University.
Aron Aziz, Tuckerman, Logan Baker and Facciolla began the meet by finishing second in the 3,200 relay (7:59.09).
Facciolla was eighth in the 1,600 (4:24.11) and Aakaash Paladugu was eighth in the high jump (6-2) for the Vikings' other points.
Kirk said a balanced effort led to the latest title.
"That's the thing that you hope," he said. "Every kid is in on it instead of just a couple guys."
For the girls team, the runner-up finish was the best in its history. Last season, the Vikings tied Van Buren and Russia for 28th (9) at state behind champion Versailles (39).
"Going in to it, I knew there was a chance we could be top 10 and then improve on what we did last year being 28th," Parker said. "I never expected to be coming out here to receive an award, but I don't know why I didn't expect it because these girls are fantastic. They'll give you their all always and that's what they did."
Anchor Julia Rizk helped the 3,200 relay, which also included Andrea Ballinger, Elizabeth Falkenberg and Margaret Sutton, rally to a second-place finish (9:39.78).
Rizk also was second in the 1,600 (4:59.95). She finished ninth in the preliminary of the 400 (1:00.06) but opted not to compete in the final to concentrate on other events.
"I was so nervous for the (1,600)," she said. "I can't tell you how nervous I was. I couldn't sleep (the night before), but coach Kelly is always believing in me. She texts me every night saying, 'I know you can do it. You have to pull this for the team. No pressure, but I know you can do it.'"
Academy secured second place by finishing fifth in the 1,600 relay (4:02.59) as Rizk, again running the anchor leg, rallied the relay to four points. Joining her on the relay were Aziza Corbett, Ballinger and Sutton.
Finishing seventh were Anjali Kanwar in the high jump (5-3) and Jillian Woodard in the long jump (17-2). Sutton opted not to compete in the 800.
"I counted the points over and over again and I kept recalculating it and I knew perfect scenario, we'd be contending for the title," Parker said. "Versailles is a tough team. Hats off to them. They came out and competed and are well deserving, but it was fun giving them a run for their money."