The first thing Olentangy Liberty High School boys track and field coach Ryan Snivley recalls about this season also is the first thing he doesn't want to think about for next year.
"The amount of distance (race) points we are graduating is mammoth," Snivley said. "I think the most important thing when I look back at this year is in the (Division I, district 2) finals, we had someone in almost every event. In some events, we had two people. Our distance guys came through. Our sprinters came through and our throwers stood out. I thought we'd have depth this year, and we certainly did."
The Patriots' 3,200-meter relay of seniors Andrew Johnston, Brad Wiemels and Josh Wojciechowski and sophomore Mitchell Towne was fifth (7 minutes, 47.62 seconds) in the state meet June 6 at Ohio State. On June 7, Wojciechowski was sixth in the 1,600 (4:14.2) and Johnston was 10th in the 3,200 (9:24.9).
"All of those (distance) guys got to stand on the podium at some point," Snivley said. "Just like in every other race, they critiqued their performance and picked out things they could have done better. But I know that they weren't disappointed."
Johnston has received an appointment from the Air Force Academy, and Wojciechowski will run at Arkansas State.
Their efforts led the Patriots to seven points at state and a tie for 32nd behind champion Cleveland Glenville (40) as 71 teams scored.
The 3,200 relay won the regional championship (7:50.01) in a meet that concluded May 30 at Pickerington North. Wojciechowski won the 1,600 (4:16.06), and Johnston was fourth (9:12.97) in a 3,200 race in which all four state qualifiers broke the two-year-old regional record of 9:13.54 set by 2012 Reynoldsburg graduate Tsehaye Hiluf.
Junior Jacob Merrels was sixth in the 200 (21.98) and seventh in the 100 (11.14) as the top four finishers in all events advanced to state. Senior pole vaulter John Schultz, who will compete at the University of Chicago, was 13th (12 feet) at regional and Liberty was ninth (30) behind champion North (74) as 37 teams scored.
In the district meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby, the Patriots got championships from the 3,200 relay (7:54.14), Johnston in the 3,200 (9:30.31) and Merrels in the 200 (22.14). Finishing second were Merrels in the 100 (11.05), Schultz in the pole vault (14-4) and Wojciechowski in the 1,600 (4:21.36).
The Patriots were third (69) behind champion Watkins Memorial (108) as 17 teams scored.
Liberty finished second (120) in the OCC-Central Division meet that concluded May 17 at Thomas Worthington, behind Hilliard Davidson (176.25) and ahead of Thomas (87.25), Dublin Coffman (83), Marysville (69.25), Central Crossing (46), Westland (41) and Upper Arlington (35.25).
Liberty's program had 128 athletes this season.
"With that kind of depth, we do have a lot coming back," Snivley said. "Mitchell Towne was the key to that relay. He ran the 800 in 1:58 in our first dual meet, so he was a factor right away. (Junior) Cameron Lackey was a good (1,600) runner. Sprint-wise, everybody but Devin Collins is back."
Morrow leads Pioneers' expected returnees
Only one Orange boy advanced to the Division I regional meet, and none qualified for state, but coach Adam Walters is excited about the foundation the Pioneers laid this year.
Sophomore Brandon Morrow was fourth in the 1,600 (school-record 4:27.94) in the district 1 meet -- in which Orange tied Olentangy for 10th (17) behind champion Pickerington North (127) as 15 teams scored -- and 10th (4:31.7) at regional, in which Orange did not score.
Walters called Morrow the team's top track athlete, and gave that honor in the field to senior Charlie Barger, the OCC-Capital pole vault champion (13-0) who was fifth at district (13-8), one spot shy of a regional berth. Other top athletes included junior J.P. Leskovich, a first-year competitor who was fourth in the 400 (53.4) and fifth in the 200 (23.81) in the league meet that concluded May 16 at Hilliard Bradley.
Sophomore Andre Keels was fourth in the 300 hurdles (42.89) in the league meet.
"If you look at where the team scored points last year, the long sprints, 200 and 400 were major weaknesses and that ended up being really strong areas," Walters said. "J.P. and first-year senior Brandon Simon (a soccer player who had always played club in the spring) had a lot to do with that.
"High jump also was a surprise with another first-year senior, Taraji Hillard, and a first-year track freshman Parker Castillo really coming along to contribute there in a few meets. The distances might have been a surprise to most people because we graduated two of our school's best (Eric Aumiller and Sam Gerst), but I knew from cross country that we were going to do well in that area with Morrow and two freshmen, Brandon Lane and Hunter Moore."
Orange finished fourth (66) in the OCC-Capital meet behind New Albany (162.5), Big Walnut (134) and Franklin Heights (114) and ahead of Delaware (57.5), Olentangy (52), Mount Vernon (46) and Worthington Kilbourne (27).
Younger athletes paced Braves
Olentangy depended on its youth the entire season, especially after senior Jeff Clark suffered a season-ending ankle injury two weeks before the OCC-Capital meet.
Senior Chase Benson was the Braves' top finisher in the district 1 meet, placing fifth in the 3,200 (9:43.51). Junior Brandon Bice was sixth in the pole vault (13-0), and junior Charles Rodeheffer was eighth in the 3,200 (9:55.98).
"There were many bright spots this season, but I would say the highlight that sticks out to me is Chase Benson's final run in the 3,200 was a great run even though he did not move on," coach Brad Komenda said. "Anthony Sasso (a freshman) went sub-two minutes in the 800 (setting the school's freshman record, 1:59.11). It is so rare that a freshman can run that type of time."
Sasso was second in the 200 (2:02.11) and Bice was second in the pole vault (13-0) in the league meet.
Komenda also lauded the performance of junior Anthony Golden, who helped lead the sprinters in Clark's absence.
"If I am going to single anybody out as exceeding expectations this year it was Anthony," Komenda said.
"Anthony was behind a strong group of sprinters his freshman and sophomore years and after Jeff Clark's injury he took the lead for the sprinters. He improved his 100 and 200 times ... and he was a key component to the (400) and (800) relays at the end of the year as well."
Olentangy loses its top throwers in seniors Curtis Conrad and Kevin Sherry.