The Olentangy High School girls track and field team seemed to rally around a family theme the deeper some Braves advanced into the postseason.
When the 800-meter relay advanced to the Division I state meet despite being seeded seventh of eight teams in the regional final May 30 at Pickerington North, senior sprinter/hurdler Nicey Bauman regarded herself as something of a guardian for the rest of the relay, which consisted of junior Emily Ginter, sophomore Maddy Bull and freshman Erin Wilt.
"I was meant to serve a different purpose today, and that was to get my babies to state," Bauman said, referring to running the anchor leg shortly after being disqualified in the 100 hurdles final because of a false start.
On June 6 at Ohio State, after the 800 relay placed 15th (1 minute, 44.52 seconds) in preliminaries and did not advance to the final, Bull reflected on the strengths of the entire team.
"The four of us on the relay team have been strong, but so much of our strength comes from our pole vaulters," Bull said. "We have a good handful of distance girls. But really, Nicey is the heart of the whole team. It's been an honor to run with her for two years now.
"She's been such a leader to look up to, with motherly qualities and leadership qualities. She's one of the best teammates I could have asked for."
Bauman heads to Georgia Tech as one of Olentangy's most accomplished athletes, having finished as state runner-up in the 300 hurdles each of the last two years. She ran this year's final in 42.22 seconds, .14 behind champion and friend Jocselyn Powell of Canal Winchester.
Olentangy scored eight points at state and tied for 25th behind champion Solon (47) as 77 teams scored.
Bauman also set a regional 300 hurdles record, winning in 41.45 as the top four finishers in all events advanced to state.
The rest of the relay as well as several other top contributors are expected to return next year.
Ginter became a three-time state qualifier, having advanced in the high jump as a freshman and sophomore. Sophomore Cara Lucas and junior Lauren Woitovich were regional qualifiers in the pole vault, and sophomore Kendall Supinger and freshman Ashton Benson recorded strong finishes in distance events throughout the season.
At regional, Olentangy tied for 13th (15) behind champion Pickerington Central (75) as 41 teams scored.
Bauman's district 1 championships in the 100 hurdles (14.56) and 300 hurdles (43.29) in a meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby powered the Braves to fifth place (49.5) behind champion Pickerington Central (126) as 15 teams scored. Woitovich was second (10 feet, 4 inches) and Lucas fourth in the pole vault (9-8), and the 800 relay was third (1:43.94) as the top four finishers in each event qualified for regional.
In the OCC-Capital Division meet that concluded May 16 at Hilliard Bradley, Bauman won the 300 hurdles (44.91), was second in the 100 hurdles (14.86) and third in the 100 (12.64), and Lucas won the pole vault (10-0) to power Olentangy to 104 points and second place behind New Albany (167.5) and ahead of Orange (102), Big Walnut (89.5), Worthington Kilbourne (89), Delaware (56), Mount Vernon (41) and Franklin Heights (10).
Benson was third in the 3,200 (12:38.55), Supinger was fourth in the 1,600 (5:27.76) and senior McKenna Martin was fourth in the discus (91-9).
Liberty coachen couraged by season
That Liberty junior Claire Wiles finished seventh in the 1,600 (5:03.27) in the Division I state meet June 7 was no surprise to coach James Dingus, considering she was fifth (5:03.53) in the same event at state a year ago.
While Dingus considered that the highlight of the season, he was more encouraged by a third-place finish in the OCC-Central meet that concluded May 17 at Thomas Worthington.
"We were third in the league (behind champion Hilliard Davidson and Thomas), and we anticipated that," Dingus said. "It was nice for us to get ahead of Dublin Coffman, which is a team we compete against a lot. We had depth in a lot of events. We got points in a lot of events. We want to be competitive as a program, and with what we have coming back, I think that will continue to be the case."
Wiles also was on the 3,200 relay that placed fifth at regional (9:25.84), one spot shy of a state berth, with senior Jessica Martz, junior Trinity Wiles and sophomore Claire Linn. Claire Wiles was second in the 3,200 (5:00.93).
Liberty scored two points at state to tie for 59th. At regional, the Patriots were 17th (12).
In the district 2 meet, Claire Wiles' second-place finish in the 1,600 (5:03.57) and the 3,200 relay's third-place finish (9:34.26) helped Liberty place eighth (41) behind champion Gahanna (150) as 15 teams scored.
Wiles' win in the 1,600 (5:08.47) led the Patriots in the OCC-Central meet, as they scored 100 points to finish behind Davidson (165) and Thomas (128) and ahead of Upper Arlington (88.5), Coffman (86.5), Central Crossing (55), Marysville (28) and Westland (8).
Dingus considers junior Bobbi Hines (thrower), sophomore Haley Pickelheimer (hurdles, sprints) and freshman Abby Summers (sprints) among his key athletes entering 2015. Summers was fifth at district in both the 100 (12.97) and 200 (25.81).
"I've already talked to these girls about next year," Dingus said. "These girls handled their level of competition very well. I'm excited to see the next step they take."
Orange expects to return strong cast
Orange broke seven school records and placed second in three invitationals this season, its first under coach Adam Walters.
The Pioneers expect to return all of those record holders, including juniors Thelma Agyekum (100, 12.6; 200, 26.04) and Mikaela Lyons (long jump, 16-6 3/4), sophomore Hannah Dieker (100 hurdles, 16.24) and freshman Bailey Hurley (400, 59.25).
The 800 relay of Agyekum, freshman Angel Frye, Hurley and Lyons set a record of 1:44.7, and the 1,600 relay of junior Anna Dove, Frye, Hurley and freshman Brynna Johnson set a school mark of 4:03.88 while placing eighth at regional.
According to Walters, Hurley is the first Orange girl to break a minute in the 400.
Orange was runner-up at Liberty's Freedom Relays on April 25, the Olentangy Invitational on May 2 and the Delaware County Elite 8 meet May 8 at home -- all to Liberty.
"It was exciting to get some trophies," Walters said. "This was a very competitive group of girls. We have a lot of girls who hate to lose. They don't say it, but you can tell in the way they compete. It was very helpful because kids who hate to lose work hard to make sure they don't. So on hard workout days, most of the girls were really working. With so many back, it's going to be fun to see them continue to improve next year."
Orange did not advance any girls to state. Senior Udoka Durunna tied for seventh in the high jump (5-0) at regional as Orange scored 2.5 points and finished 39th.
Durunna has committed to Mount Union.
Her fourth-place finish in the high jump (5-2) helped Liberty to ninth (39.33) in district 1, and she was on the fourth-place 1,600 relay (4:06.42) with Frye, Hurley and Johnson.
The 800 relay (1:48.05) and 1,600 relay (4:10.25) were first in the OCC-Capital.