Things fell well enough into place during the final event of the Division I regional meet for the Pickerington High School Central girls track and field team to earn a share of the title with Gahanna.
The Tigers can only hope that what the 1,600-meter relay helped them accomplish in the regional May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North carries over to the state meet Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
In the regional, Central trailed Hilliard Davidson by four points and Gahanna by two entering the 1,600 relay.
Senior Jada Williams and juniors Tyler Williams, Shalon Conley and Morgan Richardson had the fifth-best time entering the final but placed second (3 minutes, 54.68 seconds) behind Hartley (3:54.58) to score eight points.
Gahanna took third (3:56.05) as both the Tigers and Lions finished the regional with 55 points, but Davidson was last in the event and finished third with 52 points as 39 teams scored.
The 1,600 relay is one of six events Central will compete in at state. The top four in each event at regional advanced.
"I knew if we won we'd win the meet," Tyler Williams said. "Since the OCC meet we started building up a strong (1,600 relay) and it's come together strong at the end."
The Tigers will send two other relays to the state meet.
The 800 relay of Conley, Jada Williams, Tyler Williams and junior Irene Skinner enters state after winning the regional in 1:41.5 and the 400 relay of Conley, Skinner, Jada Williams and junior Cortisha Short enters state after earning a regional runner-up finish in 48.81.
Sophomore Dana Shoff entered the regional seeded in a tie for fifth in the pole vault but came away with the championship when she was the only athlete to clear 11 feet, 4 inches.
Also advancing individually from the regional were Tyler Williams in the 400 (fourth, 57.81) and Jada Williams in the 200 (third, 25.72).
Others who scored regional points were Conley in the 100 (sixth, 12.71), Short in the 200 (sixth, 26.11) and sophomore Edwina Barnett in the 300 hurdles (seventh, 46.73).
It marked the first regional title for the girls program in coach Robb Hammond's six seasons.
"I wasn't sure if we could (win the regional title)," Hammond said. "I knew things would have to play out well for us to do it."
North boys again win regional title
The North boys team will compete in 11 events at state as it looks to surpass its finish of a year ago when it scored 36 points to tie Lancaster for second behind Lakewood St. Edward (48).
The Panthers easily won their second consecutive regional title May 29 and 31 on their home track, scoring 99 points while Granville was a distant second (59.5) as 39 teams scored.
Entering state after winning regional titles are senior Desmond Palmer in the 110 hurdles (14.05) and 300 hurdles (36.89), senior Jamie Hence in the long jump (21-11), the 800 relay of seniors Roland Ladipo, Godwin Igwebuike and Palmer and sophomore Nick Gray (1:26.9) and the 1,600 relay of Palmer, junior Trey Browder and sophomores Lucas Miller and Gray (3:17.06).
Last season at state, Palmer was second in the 300 hurdles (37.78) and sixth in the 110 hurdles (14.75) and ran on the runner-up 800 relay (1:27.64) and the 1,600 relay that placed fifth (3:18.01).
"We knew what we had to do to have a chance to win (the regional)," Palmer said. "We were only worried about ourselves. It feels great because this was my last meet on my home track.
"Here at North we believe in having strong athletics and we wanted to get the title for the second time."
"It's awesome just to be able to go to state," Hence said.
Also advancing to state were Igwebuike in the 100 (third, 10.85), Gray in the 400 (second, 49.03), junior John Harris in the high jump (6-6), sophomore Ronald Bonner in the long jump (21-8 1/4), junior Kirill Loginov in the pole vault (fourth, 14-0) and the 400 relay of Igwebuike, Ladipo and seniors Kody Kasey and Cortez Goodwin (fourth, 43.04).
Coming up short of advancing were Igwebuike in the 200 (fifth, 22.44), sophomore Jaye Williams in the 100 (sixth, 11.03), Miller in the 400 (disqualified in final), sophomore Darius Ragland in the 110 hurdles (seventh, 15.33), Bonner in the 300 hurdles (11th, 41.22) and Gray in the 200 (did not compete in final).
"Our team goals were higher this year and now we want to do the best we can (at state)," coach Dave Spring said. "I think when you get to this level, you can map it out as much as you want but the guys have to show up on that day."
Tigers' Nichols qualifies in 2 events
The Central boys team will be represented at state by senior Alex Nichols, who took second in the shot put (52-5) and third in the discus (159-8) at regional.
He helped the Tigers place ninth (30.5).
Nichols fouled on four of his six attempts in the shot put but made his state-qualifying throw on his third attempt. He entered the regional seeded 12th.
"I was actually kind of surprised," Nichols said. "I (threw my personal-best) in the shot put. I'm trying to break the school record of 181 in the discus and my (personal record) in that event is 172-2. It's going to take the right form, speed and hopefully the right wind conditions."
Last season, Nichols was a regional qualifier in the discus.
"It's great for him," coach Jason Roach said. "Now he has an opportunity to make it on the awards stand. I think it would be great if he could place (in the top eight)."
Settling for fifth-place regional finishes were senior Nathan Kosnich in the 110 hurdles (15.18), senior Gemel Trent in the 400 (49.58) and junior Kameron Smith in the high jump (6-4).
Junior Nathan Martin was sixth in the pole vault (13-6), the 400 relay of juniors Tawain Gordon, Tyler Martin and D'Aaron Williams and freshman Devahn Jackson was seventh (43.44) and the 1,600 relay of Trent, juniors Williams and Tyler Martin and freshman Devahn Jackson was disqualified in the final.
Echikunwoke to represent North girls
Set to compete at state for the North girls is sophomore Annette Echikunwoke, who placed third at regional in the shot put with a personal-best and program-record throw of 42-4.
"There definitely was a little more pressure and a little more competition, but it wasn't too difficult for me to get through," Echikunwoke said. "I was really excited. I wanted a better throw, but it was exciting. I've tried to build on my throws each week and I think it's paying off."
Echikunwoke settled for fifth in the discus (117-3), as her performances helped North place 16th (14).
Also competing at regional were senior Kristen Eisenhauer in the 800 (10th, 2:23.37), senior Andrea Hazelwood in the 110 hurdles (sixth, 15.27) and the 3,200 relay of Eisenhauer, senior Fayth Greegor, junior Sinclair Stockard and sophomore Rosa Rumora (eighth, 9:53.92).