For the first time in six years, New Albany High School girls track and field coach Otis Winston could make plans on the Saturday night of the Division I state meet.
Not that he wanted to, however. It meant no Eagles runners had advanced to finals for the first time since 2008, Winston's first year as coach, but more notably this year, it also meant junior Karrington Winters didn't win her third consecutive 400 meters state title.
Senior Dena White finished fifth in the high jump (5 feet, 5 inches) in the meet that concluded June 7 at Ohio State, but an injury to Winters' left hamstring during the preliminary June 6 cast a pall over the weekend.
Winters finished 13th (1 minute, 3.1 seconds).
"It was kind of rough (at state)," Winston said. "We'll regroup and see what we need to do for this summer and go from there. But really, the season went very well even though it didn't finish the way we wanted it to."
New Albany's 800 relay was 16th in 1:45.15 and did not advance to the final. The relay consisted of junior Debi Bhanja, sophomores Donissa Edmonds and Haley Lyles and White, who ran in place of Winters at state.
The Eagles scored four points and tied for 44th behind champion Solon (47) as 77 teams scored.
Still, those shortcomings did not mask a strong postseason run for New Albany.
White won OCC-Capital Division championships in the high jump (5-2) and long jump (17-4), and Winters won league titles in the 100 (league-meet record 12.1), 200 (25.72) and 400 (57.95) in a meet that concluded May 16 at Hilliard Bradley. New Albany amassed 167.5 points for its third consecutive OCC-Capital championship, finishing well ahead of Olentangy (104), Olentangy Orange (102), Big Walnut (89.5), Worthington Kilbourne (89), Delaware (56), Mount Vernon (41) and Franklin Heights (10).
In the district 1 meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby, White won the high jump (5-3) and was second in the long jump (17-3 1/2) as the top four finishers in each event advanced to regional. Winters won the 200 (24.22) and 400 (54.93), and New Albany finished second (109) behind champion Pickerington Central (126) as 15 teams scored.
Senior Shira Katz was second in the discus (108-6).
Winters won the 400 regional championship (53.74) in a meet that concluded May 30 at Pickerington North, breaking her own regional record of 53.89 set in 2012. White won the regional high jump title (5-4) and the 800 relay was third (1:42.27), and New Albany finished fourth (41) behind champion Central (75) as 41 teams scored.
Other regional qualifiers expected to return are freshman Nicole Costantino (3,200 relay), Edmonds (100, 400 relay), sophomore Charlotte Matt (3,200 relay) and juniors Christina Shoemaker (400 relay) and Emily Zhong (1,600 relay).
"We still have a lot of underclassmen coming back ready to rock and roll," Winston said. "That's going to be huge. That's what it's about. It's about giving these kids an opportunity to be the best that they need to be and I think with what we have, they'll be ready to rock and roll."
Historic effort caps boys team's season
Senior Daniel Plescia of the boys team qualified for state in the discus, becoming the first boys thrower in New Albany history to compete in the season's final meet.
Plescia was 14th with a personal-best throw of 148-0. The Eagles did not score at state, and Cleveland Glenville won the team championship (40) as 71 teams scored.
"(Plescia) was my surprise of the season," first-year coach Crickett Anderson said.
Plescia's performance capped a season in which the boys team, like the girls, won their third consecutive OCC-Capital championship and qualified five individuals and the 3,200 relay to regional.
New Albany rode league championships from junior Zack Buck in the 1,600 (4:29.54) and 800 (2:01.54), junior Brian Krugh in the 3,200 (9:46.04), Plescia in the discus (140-7), the 400 relay (45.12) and the 3,200 relay (8:08.31) to 162.5 points, ahead of Big Walnut (134), Franklin Heights (114), Orange (66), Delaware (57.5), Olentangy (52), Mount Vernon (46) and Kilbourne (27).
In the district 2 meet that concluded May 24 at Darby, New Albany was fifth (55) behind champion Watkins Memorial (108) as 17 teams scored. The 3,200 relay was second (7:56.35) with Buck, junior Ben Iten, Krugh and junior Dennis Maloney. Also, Plescia was third in the discus (144-6), Buck was third in the 800 (1:57.93), Maloney was third in the 3,200 (9:23.36), senior O.B. Oppong was third in the 200 (22.2) and fourth in the 100 (11.1) and Iten was fourth in the 800 (1:58.39).
Plescia was fourth in the discus (147-0) at regional, and the Eagles scored 11 points to tie for 19th behind champion Pickerington North (74) as 37 teams scored.
Anderson lauded the leadership of her senior class, particularly sprinter Wyatt Johnston, Oppong and Plescia.
"These three young men have set a new standard for New Albany track and field, and I have underclassmen who are ready to continue the tradition these upperclassmen have started," Anderson said.