The Olentangy Orange High School track and field teams tried something a bit different with this year's schedule.
Instead of competing the first weekend of May, the Pioneers enjoyed some off time.
Orange will join Liberty, Olentangy, host Big Walnut, Buckeye Valley, Delaware, Delaware Christian and Village Academy for the Delaware County Elite 8 on Thursday, May 9.
From there, it'll be high stakes every time the Pioneers compete.
The OCC-Capital Division meet is May 16 and 18 at Hilliard Bradley.
"We definitely consider the county meet the beginning of our championship season," girls coach Ingrid Simpson said. "We've been going hard every Tuesday and Friday all year. Our kids are excited to run against the top athletes in the county, and they were also happy to get a little breather."
Orange has finished in the top four in each of its four invitationals, winning the season-opening London Red Raider Relays on April 6 and the Russ Owen/Bexley Relays on April 19. The Pioneers scored 99 points to win at London ahead of runner-up Washington Court House (80), and eased past Columbus School for Girls (96-85) at Bexley.
While Orange has benefited from the dependable scoring of senior thrower Katelyn Daniels, a Michigan State signee whose season-best efforts entering the week were 152 feet, 11 inches in the discus and 47-7 in the shot put, Simpson lauded the efforts of a deep group of sprinters.
Included in that group are senior Kimberly Agyekum, juniors Udoka Durunna, Stephanie Lewis and Alana Stillion and sophomores Mikaela Lyons, Alivia Van Hoose and Diandra Walker. The Pioneers won the 400-meter relay (50.9 seconds) at Liberty's Freedom Relays on April 26 with Agyekum, Lyons, Van Hoose and Walker -- who also make up the 800 relay.
"I didn't really know what to expect out of (the sprinters)," Simpson said. "Mikaela and Alivia didn't run track last year, but I heard they were good runners. They've been really solid in the (400 and 800 relays)."
Durunna also is a high jumper who broke the 5-foot mark in a 74.66-62.33 loss to Liberty on April 23. Stillion also runs the 800.
The Delaware County Elite 8 consists of the top eight competitors in the county in each event. Only two participants from any school may be in any given event, however.
From there, the league meets -- and more -- beckon.
"It's an exciting time of the year," Simpson said.
Patriots shine at Olentangy Invitational
The Liberty girls team won its fourth invitational title in as many events, scoring 83 points on May 3 in the Olentangy Invitational to finish ahead of New Albany (75.33), Olentangy (65.33), Pickerington North (52), Dublin Scioto (41), Groveport (20), Watterson (13) and Delaware (1).
Sophomore Claire Wiles won the 800 (2:23.21) and was second in the 1,600 (5:39.97) to twin sister Trinity (5:14.7). Sophomore Stephanie Paul won the 400 (1:01.24) and the Patriots got second-place finishes from the 1,600 relay (4:12.15), sophomore Bobbi Hines in the shot put (35-7 1/2), senior Dorianna Ma in the discus (109-2), senior Sarah Miller in the 3,200 (12:17.26) and freshman Haley Pickelheimer in the 300 hurdles (47.41).
The Patriots boys scored 103 points, finishing second behind North (143) and ahead of New Albany (92), Olentangy (61), Groveport (52), Delaware (36), Scioto (27) and DeSales (12). Senior Grant Cartwright won the shot put (52-3) and discus (157-8), junior Andrew Johnston won the 3,200 (9:46.41), senior Zach VanGundy was first in the 1,600 (4:40.77) and second in the 800 (2:04.19) and junior Brad Wiemels won the 800 (2:01.61).
Braves coaches excited after home meet
For the Olentangy boys in the Olentangy Invitational, senior Nick Schrader won the pole vault (14-6) ahead of sophomore teammate Brandon Bice (12-6).
Senior Colin McShane won the 100 (11.05). He also was second in the 400 (49.9) and fourth in the 200 (22.93).
"Colin is starting to get into top form," coach Brad Komenda said. "This definitely was, on the boys side, a very big meet. (Pickerington) North, New Albany, Olentangy Liberty are all very good teams. The Pick North team we saw tonight might be the best team that's ever been in this invitational since I've been involved."
Girls coach Candun Griffin was equally excited about his team's finish. Junior Nicey Bauman won the 300 hurdles (44.77) and was second in the 200 (26.05), sophomore Emily Ginter won the high jump (5-2) and 100 hurdles (15.52) and was fourth in the 100 (13.33), and senior Cierra Kerrigan won the pole vault (9-3).
Sophomore Alana Poff was second in the pole vault (9-0), freshman Maddie Bull was second in the 400 (1:02.17) and freshman Kendall Supinger was third in the 1,600 (5:42.11).
"You want to win, but you also want to see whether your team is performing where it should. I think we are," Griffin said. "We saw a lot of competition in (OCC-Capital foe) New Albany that we'll see in a couple weeks. We saw Delaware, who we'll see (May 9). Liberty will be there. They're top to bottom very good, so it's good for our girls to see them on a regular basis."