Pickerington Times-Sun

Track & Field

North boys out to prove themselves

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Even without one of the state's top competitors from the past two seasons, the Pickerington High School North boys track and field team isn't planning to take a step back after earning back-to-back state runner-up finishes.

Desmond Palmer, a 2013 graduate who now runs for the University of Pittsburgh, helped the Panthers tie for second at state in 2012 and score 47 points to finish as runner-up to Lakewood St. Edward (62) last year.

Several other athletes with state experience have returned, and the depth in North's junior class is providing excitement that the run will continue even beyond this season.

"We're going to be strong in jumps, sprints and middle distance, and we've got some good distance guys, too," coach Dave Spring said."

North opened March 31 in the Hammond Relays at Pickerington Central.

The top returnee is junior Nick Gray, who won the 400 meters (48.7 seconds) and was second in the 200 (21.75) in the indoor state meet March 8 at the University of Akron.

Last season in the outdoor state meet, Gray ran on the first-place 800 relay (1:26.14) with Palmer and 2013 graduates Godwin Igwebuike and Roland Ladipo and on the winning 1,600 relay (3:14.73) with Palmer and returnees Trey Browder (senior) and Lucas Miller (junior).

Palmer won the 110 hurdles (14.03) and 300 hurdles (36.31) at state, and Gray added a fifth-place finish in the 400 (48.28).

Another returnee who scored at state last year is senior John Harris, who took sixth in the high jump (6 feet, 6 inches).

George Dial (high jump), John Eringman (pole vault), Andrew Jeffers (shot put, discus), Brian Lanier (distance) and Chris Morgan (shot put, discus) are other seniors looking to contribute.

Others in the junior class include Ronald Bonner (long jump, shot put), Ryan Kronk (middle distance), Kris Perez (middle distance), Darius Ragland (sprints, hurdles), Jaye Williams (sprints) and Zach Zimmerman (distance).

Freshman Jayvonta Tolliver joined Gray, Williams and Ragland on the 800 relay that clocked 1:29.75 to win the state indoor title. The Panthers scored 36 points to place second behind St. Edward (49) in that meet.

Sophomores Randall Dejarnette (shot put, discus), D.J. James (hurdles, sprints) and Austin Hence (shot put, discus) are others in the mix.

North has won four consecutive OCC-Ohio Division titles and scored 159.5 points to win the 15-team district 1 meet last season. The Panthers then scored 99 points to win the regional meet as 39 teams scored.

Field events strength for girls

With one of central Ohio's best throwers in senior returnee Annette Echikunwoke, girls coach Jim Langenderfer expects his team to be strong in field events.

The Panthers also have several distance-running options as they look to build on a season in which they were third in the OCC-Ohio and sixth (50) in the 17-team district 1 meet behind champion Hilliard Davidson (90).

"We don't have a lot of seniors, but I'm optimistic with how the team's going to do," Langenderfer said. "It's going to depend on how our speed develops with the sprints. Throws (will) be a strength and we've got a lot of distance runners."

North opened March 31 in the Hammond Relays at Pickerington Central.

Echikunwoke won league titles in both the shot put (41-2) and discus (131-9) and was third at state in the shot put (44-9 3/4) last season. She has committed to the University of Cincinnati.

Junior Erica Wheaton is another who should compete in the shot put and discus.

Senior Kelsey Waite and junior Eboni Hall are competing in the pole vault and senior Chelse Spinner is competing in the high jump.

Leading the distance corps should be seniors Cheyenne Khezrdanamehr and Sinclair Stockard, juniors Leah Blankenship and Rosa Rumora, sophomore Kat Lowe and freshmen Ashley Grube, Anna McSurley and Sierra Waite.

Senior Aleks Jovanovski will compete in the long jump and sprinting events.

Other sprinters include juniors Molly King and Chika Odemena and freshman Daneen Hazelwood.

Hazelwood and Odemena also will run hurdles.

North was 16th (14) of 39 teams scoring at regional last season as Gahanna and Pickerington Central shared the title with 55 points.

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