Chisom Ifedi of the Centennial High School boys track and field team admits that he initially was intimidated by the large crowd and quality competition he faced in the high jump in the Division II state meet.
But after clearing 6 feet and 6-2 on his first attempt of each height, the sophomore's nerves subsided and he went on to place sixth in a personal-best 6-5. Watterson's Joe Manko-vecky finished first (6-10).
"The stands were crowded with thousands of fans and I didn't expect to see that many people there," Ifedi said. "I was pretty nervous on my first few jumps, but I relaxed after I cleared 6-2 because I realized I had a good chance to reach the (awards) podium (by finishing in the top eight) if I continued to jump well."
Ifedi, who didn't begin competing in the high jump until this season, missed his first two attempts at 6-4 and 6-5 but cleared each height on his final attempt.
"After I fouled on my first two attempts at 6-4, I saw my mom cheering for me and it fired me up to make it," he said. "I'm excited because the five guys who finished in front of me are all seniors and I won't have to compete against them here next year."
Mankovecky, who also won the state title in the high jump last year, was impressed with Ifedi's performance.
"He is already better than I was when I was a sophomore," Mankovecky said. "If he works hard and gets his form down, he could be better than me by the time he's a senior."
Ifedi was Centennial's lone representative in the state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State. He scored three points, as the Stars tied seven teams for 49th behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (49) as 73 teams scored.
Ifedi qualified for state by placing third in the high jump (6-4) in the regional meet May 30 and June 1 at Lexington.
Also competing at regional were junior Kevin Adams in the 1,600 meters (ninth, 4 minutes, 43.79 seconds), freshman Devante Brown in the long jump (11th, 18-10 1/2) and sophomore Anthony Slappy in the 400 (14th, 53.79).
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
Centennial tied for 29th (6) at regional behind champion Pemberville Eastwood (55) as 44 teams scored after finishing eighth (40) in the 13-team district 1 meet that concluded May 25 at Westerville South behind champion Independence (91).
At district, Ifedi finished first in the high jump (6-4), Adams placed second in the 1,600 (4:42.63), Brown placed fourth in the long jump (18-8 3/4) and Slappy finished fourth in the 400 (52.61), as the top four finishers in each event advanced to regional.
In the City League meet May 13 and 15, the Stars scored 43 points to tie Brookhaven for third, behind Eastmoor Academy (132) and Independence (130.5) and ahead of host Whetstone (41), Linden-McKinley (41), Northland (40.5), Walnut Ridge (36), Mifflin (35), Marion-Franklin (17), Columbus South (15), Columbus East (14), Briggs (12), Beechcroft (9), Africentric (5) and Columbus International (1).
Adams won City titles in both the 1,600 (4:46.28) and 3,200 (11:03.17).
Centennial had finished sixth in the City meet last year.
"It was very surprising that we were able to finish third in the City with such a young team, and sending Chisom to state was another big highlight," coach Phillip Farmer said.
The Stars lose four seniors but expect to return Ifedi and their three other regional qualifiers.
"We aren't losing a lot, so we want to be more competitive next year," Farmer said. "Next year, we expect to challenge for the City League championship and we expect to advance more kids to regional and state."