Pickerington High School North senior Desmond Palmer left the Division I state track and field meet having reached several of his biggest goals, including running program records while winning the 110-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles June 8 at Ohio State.
The meet ended on a high note for the Panthers as well when Palmer led the 1,600 relay to the championship in 3 minutes, 14.73 seconds in the day's last event, securing a runner-up trophy for the boys team.
The least expected of North's titles occurred during the middle of the meet when Palmer, seniors Godwin Igwebuike and Roland Ladipo and sophomore Nick Gray won the 800 relay in 1:26.14.
According to Palmer, senior Jaye Williams had spent time on the 800 relay this season in place of Ladipo and could have ended up in the relay at state if not for an injury that occurred during the regional meet May 31.
"One that stands out to me is the (800 relay)," Palmer said. "We've been through a lot of ups and downs in that relay. Roland Ladipo wasn't even sure if he was going to be on the (800 relay), and to get first and have him be the one to hand (the baton) to me, I felt really good for him."
Palmer, who was second in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the 110 hurdles a year ago, led the way again as North placed second (47 points) behind Lakewood St. Edward (62) as 62 teams scored.
The Panthers tied Lancaster for second (36) a year ago behind St. Edward (48).
"(St. Edward is) the whole package," coach Dave Spring said. "We did about as well as we could in just about everything."
Palmer had the second-best time in the 110 hurdles (13.9) during the first heat June 7 but came back to run 14.03 and edge St. Edward junior Steele Wasik (14.06) for the title the next day.
He then led the 800 relay to the title after it entered the final with just the fourth-fastest preliminary time (1:28.38).
Palmer had the best preliminary time (36.91) in the 300 hurdles and topped that by running 36.31 to win the event.
The 1,600 relay of Gray, sophomore Lucas Miller, junior Trey Browder and Palmer had the best preliminary time (3:15.34) and topped that in the final by winning in 3:14.73.
The times in both winning relays also were program records.
Adding points by reaching the podium were Gray in the 400 (fifth, 48.28) and junior John Harris in the high jump (sixth, 6 feet, 6 inches).
"I'm excited about my time (in the 400) because it was my fastest by about .6 seconds," Gray said. "It's state time, so you've got to come out and pull it out."
Harris was the state runner-up in the high jump a year ago when he cleared 6-7. Findlay's Tyler Brown won the event this year by clearing 6-10 1/4, and two others cleared 6-8.
"(Sixth) is not what I wanted," Harris said. "I felt like I had a pretty good season and (at state) I wanted to come in and get 6-10."
Also competing were Igwebuike in the 100 (15th, 10.87), senior Jamie Hence in the shot put (ninth, 21-8), junior Kirill Loginov in the pole vault (15th, 13-0), sophomore Ronald Bonner in the shot put (13th, 21-5) and the 400 relay of seniors Cortez Goodwin, Kody Kasey, Ladipo and Igwebuike (14th, 43.22).
Echikunwoke takes 3rd in girls shot put
Junior Annette Echikunwoke reached the podium in her first state meet for the North girls team.
After taking third in the regional with a throw of 42-4 on May 29, Echikunwoke set her sights on throwing 44-0 at state.
She reached that goal on her first throw when her attempt went 44-9 3/4. That was good enough to get her third place behind Olentangy Orange senior Katelyn Daniels (51-2) and Dublin Coffman sophomore Oyesade Olatoye (44-10).
"I'm happy with it," Echikunwoke said. "I really improved my form in the last week. My coaches helped me a lot. It's really nice being here. I'm happy I got this far and I'm ready to do better next year."
The six points Echikunwoke scored gave North a tie for 38th behind champion Solon (47) as 74 teams scored.