Austin Hicks of the Olentangy High School boys track and field team wasted little time calling Joey Uhle of Olentangy Liberty after the pole vault competition concluded at the Division I district 1 meet May 21 at Dublin Coffman.

Austin Hicks of the Olentangy High School boys track and field team wasted little time calling Joey Uhle of Olentangy Liberty after the pole vault competition concluded at the Division I district 1 meet May 21 at Dublin Coffman.

Hicks had won the event by clearing 15 feet, 3 inches, and he had a message for Uhle -- he was closing in on him.

"The pole-vaulters are a pretty tight-knit group of friends when we're not competing," said Uhle, who won the pole vault in district 2 two days earlier by clearing 15-6. "Austin and I hang out a lot each weekend. If he didn't have an injury this year, he'd probably be ahead of me right now. He's going to make a couple of attempts at the (Division I state record of 16-0 1/4 set by Dominic Pellittieri of Amherst Steele in 2001)."

Both faced each other at the regional last Wednesday at Pickerington North. The top four in each event at the regional, which will conclude Friday, move on to state June 5-6 at Ohio State.

Entering the regional, Uhle and Hicks were second and third in the state in Division I behind Greenville's Kevin Lelland, who cleared 15-8 and as the top seed at the Dayton regional.

At district, which concluded last Saturday at Coffman, Olentangy was eighth (43) behind champion Gahanna (123). In the girls meet, Whitney Bice was second in the pole vault (9-6) as the Braves finished sixth (42.5) behind champion New Albany (108.5).

The Liberty boys team was fourth (67) in its district behind champion Hilliard Darby (111) and the girls team was ninth (25) behind champion Hilliard Davidson(120).

For Orange, Ayla Starcher was first (9-6) in the pole vault as the girls team finished fifth (73) behind champion Big Walnut (144) in the Division II district 1 meet at Groveport and Blake Hoskins was third (11-6) in the pole vault as the boys team took fourth (60) behind champion Granville (99) in district 2.

The Division II regional for the girls is today and Saturday at Byesville Meadowbrook and for the boys is today and Saturday at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.

Liberty has a history in the vault, thanks in large part to the Uhle family. Mike Uhle won the state title as a senior two years ago, clearing 15-6. Last year, Joey Uhle's twin brother, Chris, was sixth at state as he cleared 14-4. Chris did not compete at the district meet this year.

"A lot of us train at the Buckeye Pole Vault Academy in Sunbury," Starcher said. "There are a lot of people that train there from all sorts of high schools and some colleges, but (the vaulters from Powell) are all good friends."

Hicks and Uhle had to overcome setbacks to make the regional meet. After his performances stalled out at 14-2 mark last season, Hicks put in a lot of time training over the summer. The overexertion led to four stress fractures in his lower back.

"That set me back about three months," Hicks said. "I came back about halfway this season and started to do some light practices and I've just been getting better lately."

Uhle's setback was more in dealing with the disappointment of just missing the state meet last year. He and Chris were two parts of a four-way tie for second at the regional, and based on misses, he was the odd man out as he took fifth.

"Missing the state meet last year made me realize I had to work a lot harder in the offseason," Joey said. "I was extremely focused this summer."

At a glance

Below are the regional qualifiers for the Liberty, Olentangy and Orange boys and girls track and field teams with district event, place and time/distance/height:

LIBERTY

Boys -- Jon Buffington: 1,600 (third, 4:24.73), 800 (third, 1:59.18); Luke Buffington: 300 hurdles (second, 39.28); Josh Frash: 1,600 (fourth, 4:31.17); Tyler Ross: 3,200 (third, 9:49.04); Joey Uhle: pole vault (first, 15-6); Cameron Whitner: 200 (third, 22.85); 3,200 relay: Frash, Tyler Ross, Andrew Hemmer, J. Buffington (third, 8:17.36); 800 relay: Tyler Black, Kyle Pettay, Doug Greening, Whitner (fourth, 1:30.91); Girls -- Erica Hamon: 1,600 (fourth, 5:25.11); 3,200 relay: Meredith Griebel, Alicia Nelson, Hamon, Emily Yax (fourth, 9:59.98)

OLENTANGY

Boys -- Monte Davis: 400 (fourth, 50.27); Austin Hicks: pole vault (first, 15-3); Claude Mbmema: discus (fourth, 144-5); Josh Perry: long jump (second, 21-6 1/2); Girls -- Adaora Anunike: shot put (second, 37-5); Whitney Bice: pole vault (second, 9-6); Brittney Simmons: 100 hurdles (third, 16.34), 300 hurdles (fourth, 49.67)

ORANGE

Boys -- Andy Ebersbach: discus: (third, 142-5); Blake Hoskins: pole vault (third, 11-6); Jason Hoskins: high jump (first, 6-2); Terrence Rode: long jump (fourth, 19-11 1/2); Chase Swisher: 200 (second, 22.65) and 100 (second, 11.14); 400 relay: Rode, Brock Heller, Kievon Jackson, Swisher (fourth, 43.92); 1,600 relay: Heller, Jackson, Swisher, Ross Smith (fourth, 3:28.95); Girls -- Alyssa Curry: 100 (first, 13.22), 200 (second, 26.72); Zoey Del Pinto: 800 (third, 2:26.35); Ayla Starcher: pole vault (first, 9-6); Megan Walker: shot put (second, 36-5); T.J. Williams: discus (second, 103-3), shot put (third, 34-0); 3,200 relay: Shauni Kerkhoff, Heather Knight, Madison Gadawski, DelPinto (fourth, 10:27.71)