Samson Edessa, Nahom Hailu and Abiel Kiflu of the Whitehall-Yearling High School boys track and field team will be making a return trip to the Division II regional meet in the 3,200-meter relay.
The relay, which also includes Jaleel Morgan, will be looking to better last season's performance when Edessa, Hailu, Kiflu and 2012 graduate Jontey Hammock finished seventh in 8 minutes, 27.46 seconds.
The regional meet is Thursday, May 30, and Saturday, June 1, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton. The top four finishers in each event advance to the state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State.
The relay advanced to regional by finishing second (8:19.39) behind Bexley (8:16.08) in the district 2 meet May 22 at Westerville South.
"The guys ran a pretty decent race considering the windy conditions, but we need to bring it down and get a few seconds faster with each guy if we plan on making it through to the state meet," coach Zach Wright said.
Kiflu, the anchor, took the baton from Edessa with the relay contending for fourth place and quickly closed the gap on runners from Buckeye Valley and Eastmoor Academy. Kiflu helped the relay finish ahead of Buckeye Valley (8:20.48) and Eastmoor (8:23.37).
"I don't care how fast people are going in front of me," Kiflu said. "If I see any runners in front of me, I chase them."
Last season, the Rams won the 3,200 relay at district in 8:11.74.
"We didn't have our best time, but we got second place," Edessa said. "We'd like to win like last year, but we were happy we got second place."
The top four finishers in each event at district advanced to the regional.
"We have to come out stronger at regional and work hard, and we'd like to get top (four)," Hailu said.
Senior Paulus Thomas, trying to advance to regional in the long jump, finished fifth at district (19 feet, 8 1/4 inches) on May 21 behind fourth-place finisher Hunter Mercer (20-0) of Caledonia River Valley.
The district meet concluded May 25 with running finals for both boys and girls.
Baseball coach finds 'positives'
First-year baseball coach Bill Welsh already is looking forward to next season after the Rams finished 3-21 overall and 1-13 in the MSL-Ohio Division.
"Obviously, I'm not happy with the record itself," he said. "There's a lot of positives that we can take into next year. We only lose two seniors. I would have liked to send them off better, but we bring a lot of guys back."
In the first round of the Division II district tournament May 14, Whitehall lost 9-0 at ninth-seeded Sparta Highland.
Last season, Whitehall defeated Highland 5-3 in the first round.
Sophomore Cameron Barker (SS) was second-team all-league and all-district after leading the Rams with a .449 batting average and in RBI with 15.
Senior Logan Webb (P/OF/INF) was honorable mention all-league and all-district, and junior Cody Koons (C/P) was honorable mention all-district.
Webb had a 3.11 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings. Koons led the team with seven stolen bases.
Infielder Josh Horn, who led the team in runs with 13, was the other senior.
"Especially being their senior year and a lot of the games not going the way we wanted them to, they kept a positive attitude throughout the whole year and really helped me try to establish what we're trying to get going moving forward, so they did an outstanding job," Welsh said.
Junior Nick Wright (P/INF) had 12 RBI. Other players who could return next season are juniors Paul Goldsmith (OF), James Holley (INF) and Noah Wiley (INF) and sophomore Nikk Wise (P/OF/INF).
"There's a lot of talent coming back, but there's a lot of room for growth with all of them, so it's exciting we have a year under us and we know what we need to work on," Welsh said.
The Rams finished eighth in the MSL-Ohio behind champion Granville (12-2), Newark Catholic (11-3), Bexley (10-4), Licking Valley (7-7), Lakewood (6-8), Heath (5-9) and Columbus Academy (4-10).
Whitehall defeated Columbus Academy 4-3 on April 15 for its only league win. Its other wins came against Fairfield Christian (12-0 in five innings April 3) and Madison Plains (2-1 in eight innings May 8).
Next season, Whitehall will compete in a realigned MSL-Ohio with Academy, Bexley, Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson and Worthington Christian.
Tennis team wins late-season matches
First-year boys tennis coach Ben White called his team's wins over Hartley (4-1 on May 9) and Hamilton Township (4-1 on May 14) highlights of the season.
"I'm happy," said White, whose squad finished 2-13 overall. "I enjoyed doing it. The kids were a lot of fun. We got those two wins at the end of the year, which made everything that much better. We could have won a couple other matches. There's always room for improvement."
Following the MSL-Cardinal/Ohio tournament May 4 at Columbus Academy, the Rams finished 0-6 (4 points) in the league behind champion Academy (6-0, 51).
Senior Seth Grassel earned a point in the league tournament by defeating Grandview's Nick Luckenbach 10-8 in a quarterfinal at first singles.
Junior Ethan Miller earned Whitehall's other point by defeating Fisher Catholic's Evan Virgin 10-2 in a quarterfinal at third singles.
Miller also had the Rams' only win in a Division II sectional tournament May 16 at Academy, defeating Fisher Catholic's Eric Gundelfinger 6-2 6-3 in a play-in match.
"I was proud of Ethan," White said. "He became our most consistent player in the second half of the season. Having switched from doubles, it took him time to adjust, but he ended up doing well. Ethan has a positive attitude that keeps him in tight matches. The match he won at sectionals was a good example of his type of play. His ground strokes were consistent; he mixed in some play at the net and made his opponent work for each point."
Huitzil Carlos was the team's other senior.
Junior Jiawen Zhen was named the team's Most Valuable Player.
Other players who could return next season are juniors Ahmed Abokor, Aaron Miller, Brandon Mitchell and Omar Tejada, sophomore Jacob Dilbeck and freshman Stanley Butler.
"I'm excited and the kids seem to want me to come back for next year, which makes me feel good about it," White said.