Westerville South High School girls track and field coach Jimmy Gaul watched proudly as members of his 800-meter relay stood on the awards podium in the Division I state meet held June 7 and 8 at Ohio State.
Despite the fact that only one of the four runners had previous state experience, the relay of juniors Amaria Estes and Tara Thompson, sophomore Paichence Carter and freshman Chasatea' Brown placed seventh in 1 minute, 43.2 seconds behind champion Solon (1:40.17).
Thompson, who ran the anchor leg, had competed at state last year as a member of the 800 relay that finished 11th (1:44.67). The rest of the relay consisted of 2012 graduates Nikia Buckingham, Alex Hall and Leija Harris.
"Tara is the only one that had any experience out here running last year in the (800 relay)," Gaul said. "Everyone else did a fantastic job of overcoming the spectacle of the state meet, the crowd and all the jitters that go along with it."
South finished 10th in the preliminaries for the 800 relay, one spot shy of qualifying for the final. However, the Wildcats moved on to the final after the team that finished ninth, Troy, was disqualified.
"It took a little bit of luck for us to get in (the final) with a team being disqualified and starting in lane nine, but all we wanted was a chance all season long and we got that chance and made the most of it," Gaul said. "I'm very proud of them."
"We wanted to get on the podium so bad last year," Thompson said. "We came in and we got empty handed. We weren't even supposed to make it to the finals (this season), but we got lucky. We wanted to get on the podium and we did."
Brown also competed at state in two individual events, placing seventh in the long jump (17 feet, 3 inches) behind champion Olivia Small of Big Walnut (19-8 3/4) and finishing 11th in the 300 hurdles (45.6) behind champion Taylor McDonald of Macedonia Nordonia (42.3).
"Chasatea' is amazing," Gaul said. "She's a special talent. I'm very proud of her and the way she worked this season and how excited she is to want to get better and better every day."
The Wildcats scored three points at state to tie eight other teams for 55th behind champion Solon (47) as 74 teams scored.
Sandvik leads way for North at state
North was led at state by sophomore Heather Sandvik, who competed in two individual events and on a relay in her first state appearance.
Sandvik was 10th in the 1,600 (5:06.28) behind champion Sydney Leiher of Beavercreek (4:51.23) and finished 11th in the 3,200 (11:32.76) behind champion Annie Heffernan of Cincinnati St. Ursula (10:41.91).
Heffernan's time was a Division I state meet record.
Sandvik also ran the anchor leg on the 3,200 relay that placed seventh (9:24.62) behind champion Mason (9:11.06). Also on the relay were senior Heidi Engelhardt and sophomores Haley Sandvik and Jocelyn Sharpe.
"We had a good day for the girls," coach Johnny Jackson said. "This is the first time the girls have gotten back to the state in anything since 2006. This is the first time that the (3,200 relay) has been back and medaled since 1998."
The Warriors scored two points at state to tie five teams for 64th.