With a roster that featured only three key seniors a year ago, the Pickerington High School Central girls track and field team overcame youth to earn a runner-up finish in the Division I, district 2 meet.
The Tigers again will have underclassmen throughout most events, which sixth-year coach Robb Hammond believes will be OK if they find leaders from the sophomore and junior classes.
Central opened March 30 by winning its home Hammond Relays, scoring 102 points to outdistance runner-up Pickerington North (90) in a seven-team field.
"One thing that worries me is that we only have four seniors, and one of them didn't run last year and a couple of them have had injuries," Hammond said. "We do have a lot of young kids."
The biggest reason for optimism could be the Tigers' sprint corps.
In the indoor state meet March 16 at the University of Akron, juniors Shalon Conley, Irene Skinner, Jada Williams and Tyler Williams won the 800-meter relay in 1 minute, 42.05 seconds. Conley also was eighth in the 60 (7.89) and 10th in the 200 (25.82), junior Kylie Caudill tied for sixth in the high jump (5 feet) and sophomore Dana Shoff placed 15th in the pole vault (9-6). The Tigers were 16th (12.5) behind champion Solon (60.5) as 61 teams scored.
Other key sprinters should include juniors Faith Chowoe and Cortisha Short and sophomores Edwina Barnett and Dorian Johnson.
Barnett is the top returning hurdler.
In middle distance and distance events, senior Julia Filby, juniors Stephanie Gase, Morgan Richardson and Elizabeth Weed and sophomore Madison Cheyunski should lead the way.
Gase and Barnett should be the top long jumpers.
Sophomore Morgan Robinson is another high jumper.
Last season, the Tigers were fourth (120) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet behind Reynoldsburg (154), Pickerington North (143.5) and Gahanna (121) and ahead of Grove City (42.5), Groveport (38), Lancaster (32) and Newark (11). Ada Burley, who led a 2012 senior class that also included Santele Smith and Mallory Wyrick, won the discus (125-10).
Then in the district 2 meet, Central was second (93.5) behind Hilliard Davidson (101.5) as 17 teams scored. Burley won the discus (122-10) and was second in the shot put (40-2), Cheyunski placed third in the 3,200 (11:59.2), Conley was second in the 200 (26.14) and fourth in the 100 (12.81), Short placed fourth in the 200 (26.27), Tyler Williams was third in the 400 (58.93), Wyrick placed second in the pole vault (10-0) and Barnett took fourth in the 300 hurdles (46.72). The 800 relay was second (1:43.75) and the 3,200 relay took fourth (9:46.6) to also advance.
The Tigers had no state qualifiers, scoring eight points to tie for 24th at the regional that was won by Reynoldsburg (77) as 43 teams scored.
Boys rebuilding around Trent
The boys team will have a new look this season after having 10 seniors take on key roles a year ago.
Senior Gemel Trent is back to lead the way after placing fifth in the 400 (49.21) in the Division I regional last year.
Trent placed fourth in the 400 (49.71) in the indoor state meet, where he was joined by senior Nathan Kosnich, who did not advance to the finals in the 60 hurdles.
"We took two to the state indoor meet, which is not bad," said Jason Roach, who coached Central from 2004-08 and is in the third season of his second tenure leading the program.
"Nathan Kosnich is a kid who was really very average last year and this year has worked hard. Gemel Trent is in a little bit better shape this year."
Also looking to contribute are seniors Nathan Martin (pole vault) and Alex Nichols (discus, shot put), juniors Tyler Martin (sprints, long jump) and D'Aaron Williams (sprints), sophomores Clayton Glascko (shot put, discus) and Jay Northrup (high jump) and freshman Steven Bauers (distance).
The Tigers were fourth (87.5) in the OCC-Ohio meet last season behind Pickerington North (174), Gahanna (121.25) and Lancaster (108) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (84.25), Groveport (46), Newark (23.75) and Grove City (14.25). The 400 relay of 2012 graduates Max Barjona, Garrett Foster, Marcus Milton and Sebastian Smith won in a meet-record 42.38.
In the district 2 meet, Central tied Lancaster for second (90) behind New Albany (100.5) as 16 teams scored. The 400 relay was first (42.34). Also advancing to regional were 2012 graduate Davion Bowers in the discus (second, 164-1) and shot put (third, 54-3 1/2), Kosnich in the 110 hurdles (second, 15.59), Nathan Martin in the pole vault (fourth, 12-6), 2012 graduate Brennan McCotter in the 1,600 (fourth, 4:29.14), Milton in the 100 (second, 11.02), Nichols in the discus (fourth, 150-7), Smith in the high jump (second, 6-2) and long jump (fourth, 20-8 1/2) and Trent in the 400 (fourth, 49.27).
The Tigers tied Reynoldsburg for ninth (29) at regional behind champion Pickerington North (60) as 38 teams scored.
Then at state, Central tied eight other teams for 39th (5) behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (48) as 70 teams scored. Milton was fourth in the 100 (10.97).
Central opened March 30 by finishing second (73) in the Hammond Relays behind Pickerington North (119).