Westerville South High School girls track and field coach Jimmy Gaul already is looking forward to next season.
Among the reasons is that three members of the 1,600-meter relay that set the program record in the Division I state meet are expected to return.
Senior Tara Thompson, junior Paichence Carter, sophomore Chasatea Brown and freshman Gabby Couch set the record by running 3 minutes, 55.38 seconds during preliminaries. They flirted with breaking the mark again next day, as they finished seventh (3:55.6).
South did not have any other competitors in the state meet, held June 6 and 7 at Ohio State. The Wildcats scored two points to finish in a 10-way tie for 59th, behind champion Solon (47) as 77 teams scored.
"We have exciting opportunities for next spring," Gaul said.
Thompson was one of six seniors.
"She had an impact on the program with just her ferocious spirit as a competitor and her desire to be the best from the second she stepped on the track as a freshman," Gaul said of Thompson.
The 1,600 relay placed fourth (3:56.1) in the regional meet held May 28 and 30 at Pickerington North, helping South score 16 points to finish 12th behind champion Pickerington Central (75) as 41 teams scored.
Also competing at regional were the 800 relay of Carter, Brown, Thompson and freshman Daja Mason (fifth, 1:43.87), freshman Brielle Collier in the 100 hurdles (sixth, 14.91), Brown in the 300 hurdles (seventh, 45.67) and long jump (eighth, 15 feet, 10 inches), the 400 relay of Mason, Carter, Collier and senior Amaria Estes (eighth, 50.02), Mason in the 100 (11th, 12.8) and Estes in the 100 hurdles (12th, 15.5).
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
South finished sixth (55) in the 18-team district 2 meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby, behind champion Gahanna (150), and placed third (110) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet held May 15 and 17, behind Dublin Scioto (116) and Canal Winchester (112) and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (93.5), Westerville North (67), Westerville Central (66.5), Dublin Jerome (66) and Darby (31).
Winning league titles were the 800 relay of Mason, Carter, Estes and Thompson (1:49.16) and the 1,600 relay of Carter, Thompson, Collier and Couch (4:08.66).
Also in the league meet, Brown placed second in the 300 hurdles (46.64), third in the long jump (16-8 1/4) and fourth in the 100 (12.69), senior Phoebe Nkansah-Wiafe was runner-up in the shot put (34-4) and sophomore Mary Grace Sylvester placed second in the discus (102-5).
Hyatt expected back for Warhawks
Central loses eight seniors but expects to return its only Division I state qualifier in sophomore Morghan Hyatt, who finished seventh in the 400 (56.91) in her first state appearance.
With the two points scored by Hyatt, the Warhawks tied for 59th at state.
At regional, Hyatt placed fourth in the 400 (57.16), junior Kenna Pollard finished 11th in the 100 hurdles (15.5) and junior Alex Kuhns was 12th in the discus (100-9), as Central tied Delaware for 23rd (9).
The Warhawks finished seventh (39.33) in the 17-team district 1 meet that concluded May 24 at Darby, behind champion Pickerington Central (126), and placed sixth in the OCC-Cardinal meet.
Hyatt won the league title in the 400 (58.45) and was runner-up in the 200 (26.22). Also placing second were the 1,600 relay of Hyatt, Pollard, sophomore Georgina Smith and senior Ali Fehlhaber (4:08.76) and senior Jessie Swisher in the pole vault (9-4).
Central won a pair of invitationals during the regular season, finishing first in the 18-team Newark Invitational on April 5 and the 15-team Cavalier Club Invitational on April 24 at Chillicothe.
"Our seniors helped create a good culture by their work ethic and leadership," coach Ryan Borland said. "Jessie Swisher, Arie Williams, Dana Roberts and Gracie Boden, as well as Ali Fehlhaber, finished as four-year letterwinners. Kids like that are very tough to replace in what they brought to our team each and every day for four years."
Warriors ended season at regional
North did not have any Division I state qualifiers this season but expects to return its four regional qualifiers.
Competing at regional were junior Heather Sandvik in the 1,600 (fifth, 5:04.3) and 3,200 (seventh, 11:55.22), junior Jocelyn Sharpe in the 400 (fifth, 57.43) and the 3,200 relay of Sharpe, Sandvik, junior Symone Simmons and junior Haley Sandvik (sixth, 9:36.13).
The Warriors finished 16th (13) at regional and fifth (45) in the 17-team district 3 meet that was completed May 24 at Darby, behind champion Hilliard Davidson (129).
Sharpe won the district title in the 400 (57.13) and Heather Sandvik was district runner-up in the 3,200 (11:16.93).
North placed fifth in the OCC-Cardinal meet.
Winning league titles were Heather Sandvik in the 1,600 (5:12.74) and the 3,200 relay of Sharpe, Sandvik, Simmons and Haley Sandvik (9:45.65). Sharpe was league runner-up in the 400 (59.38) and Simmons placed second in the high jump (5-0) and third in the 400 (1:00.17).
"We were hit really hard with (last year's) graduation and some girls choosing not to return," coach Johnny Jackson said. "We did not get as much help from the other sports as the boys team did and, until we share our athletes as the other schools do, all sports will suffer. Nevertheless, we had a great group of girls who worked hard and gave us everything they had."