Nicey Bauman had just set a personal-best time in the 300-meter hurdles, one that exceeded her performance in last year's Division I state meet, but the senior on the Olentangy High School girls track and field team couldn't fully enjoy the moment.
A nagging injury in her right knee has hampered Bauman, who was second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 100 hurdles last year at state. Still, she won the 300 hurdles in the Delaware County Elite 8 meet May 8 at Orange in 43.51 seconds -- .05 faster than she ran at state and 4.06 ahead of friend and runner-up Jamie Annis from Big Walnut, whose meet record Bauman broke.
Bauman also won the 100 hurdles in 16.2.
"I am a perfectionist, so I can go and point out all the flaws in my race. That bugs me," said Bauman, a Georgia Tech signee who went 14.97 in the 100 hurdles at state. "But the season has been good. It's not where I want it to be yet, but I don't think it's supposed to be where I want to be at this point. I want to be peaking and running (personal bests) at the state meet, so if I have to go through a little bit here and there to get to that, OK."
Also seeking a return to the state meet is Emily Ginter, a junior who was 10th in the high jump (5-2) as a sophomore and seventh as a freshman (5-2).
Bauman and Ginter have helped anchor a team finding its way under first-year coach Jen Sosa.
Sosa cited several underclassman contributors, including sophomores Maddie Bull (sprints), Emma Sepion (middle distance) and Kendall Supinger (distance) and freshmen Kelsi Andrews-Sharer (middle distance), Ashton Benson (distance), Camryn Stobart (distance, hurdles), Erin Wilt (sprints) and Emerson Woerner (hurdles).
"Our talent has been evenly distributed," Sosa said. "We have a very large distance team to build from, which has been wonderful."
Olentangy's boys team has had to rely on several areas for success, too. Brandon Bice has been a team leader, going 13 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault twice this year, while Chase Benson and Charles Rodeheffer have anchored the distance unit.
Benson, a senior, has gone 2:09 in the 800, 4:35 in the 1,600 and 9:54 in the 3,200. He was sixth in the 1,600 (4:39.48) in the Elite 8 meet.
"We've had to rely on some areas and they've had to rely on us, too," Benson said.
Big Walnut won the Elite 8 boys title with 150 points, ahead of Liberty (138), Orange (77), Buckeye Valley (61), Delaware (49), Olentangy (47) and Village Academy (1).
Liberty's girls won their fourth championship in as many weeks, scoring 162.5 points to ease past Orange (129), Big Walnut (73), Olentangy (72.5), Delaware (51) and Buckeye Valley (35).
It was the final regular-season competition for all three Olentangy teams.
Local teams set for league meets
Olentangy and Orange again will see Big Walnut in the OCC-Capital meet that begins Thursday, May 15, at Hilliard Bradley.
Orange coach Adam Walters anticipates the Golden Eagles being the favorite in a tight race on the boys side. He called New Albany's girls the favorites to repeat as league champions.
"I think we'll be right there with both the boys and girls," Walters said. "You have to think New Albany will be the favorite to win again. Big Walnut's (boys) looked great (in the county meet). Then you have New Albany, us and Franklin Heights. I would say the boys race will be tighter than the girls. We'll see a lot of good competition the next few weeks, which will be fun."
In last year's league meet, New Albany's boys scored 182 points to finish ahead of Watkins Memorial (173), Big Walnut (81), Olentangy (69), Delaware (52.5), Orange (41.5), Mount Vernon (37) and Franklin Heights (25).
New Albany's girls won with 153 points, ahead of Big Walnut (124.5), Watkins Memorial (109.5), Orange (79.5), Olentangy (50.5), Franklin Heights (50), Mount Vernon (46) and Delaware (27).
Worthington Kilbourne replaced Watkins Memorial in the OCC-Capital after the Warriors left for the Licking County League.
Unlike the other three OCC divisions, running finals for the OCC-Capital will take place Friday, May 16, because of graduations scheduled for the next day.
Liberty boys coach Ryan Snivley anticipates similar close races in the OCC-Central meet Thursday, May 15, and Saturday, May 17, at Thomas Worthington. The Patriots have finished behind league-foe Hilliard Davidson in two events this season.
"Top three is our goal. Top two would be ideal," Snivley said. "The thing with the OCC (meet) is so much of it depends on your second and third performers in each event. It really measures your depth."
Liberty was second (127) to Davidson (204.5) in the league meet last year, and ahead of Thomas (75), Dublin Coffman (72.5), Upper Arlington (61), Marysville (53), Westland (31) and Central Crossing (28).
Liberty's girls were third (110) behind Davidson (141.5) and Coffman (140) and ahead of UA (97), Thomas (79.5), Central Crossing (49), Marysville (36) and Westland (9).
District meets on deck for local squads
Liberty, Olentangy and Orange will have little turnaround time from their league meets before Division I district competition begins Tuesday, May 20, at Hilliard Darby.
Olentangy and Orange are in district 1, for which competition continues May 22 with running finals May 24. Liberty is in district 2, which continues Wednesday, May 21, with running finals May 24. The top four finishers in all events at district advance to the regional meet May 28 and 30 at Pickerington North.