Abiel Kiflu of the Whitehall-Yearling High School boys track and field team entered the Division II regional meet May 30 and June 1 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton with extra motivation.
Last season, Kiflu was contending for a state berth in the 800 meters before he was stepped on by a competitor, fell and was unable to recover, finishing ninth (2 minutes, 1.83 seconds) as the top four qualified for state.
This season, Kiflu ran a clean race in the 800, finishing second (1:57.89) behind Versailles' Sam Prakel (1:53.47) to earn a state berth. Also moving on in the 800 were Brookville's Quinn Williamson (1:58.93) and Springfield Shawnee's Tyler Greenwood (1:59.79).
"I had a pretty good race and I finally did it," Kiflu said. "I made it to state. After what happened last year, I had to make it up."
The state meet will be held Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, at Ohio State.
"Abiel ran a good race," coach Zach Wright said. "Last year he got tripped after the first lap and this year he said, 'Coach, I was going to make sure I was out in front of everybody so nobody could trip me.' He should have made it in the 800 last year."
Kiflu helped the Rams tie Cincinnati Deer Park and Eaton for 17th (11 points) at regional behind co-champions Versailles and Dayton Dunbar (66) as 47 teams scored.
Kiflu, who set the program record in the 800 (1:55.88) during the MSL-Ohio Division meet May 17 at Heath, is looking for a similar effort at state.
"My goal is to place top eight, but I would not be disappointed if I don't," he said.
"I think he can finish in the top five," Wright said. "I'm expecting him to be on the podium somewhere in the top eight, but I think he can be in the top five."
The Rams' other scoring at regional came in the 3,200 relay as Kiflu, Jaleel Morgan, Nahom Hailu and Samson Edessa were sixth (8:23.28).
Kiflu, the anchor, rallied the Rams to a second-place finish (8:19.39) in the district 2 meet to secure a regional berth. He tried to rally the relay at regional, moving the Rams from 11th to sixth, two spots from a state berth.
Hailu was ninth in the 3,200 (10:36.61).
"We were hoping Nahom would run a little better," Wright said. "For a (3,200), it was pretty windy. We really didn't think he would finish in the top four, but we were hoping he would finish in the top eight so he would get a medal and place. He was just out of it."
Chanse James-McDuffie, Mohamed Toure, Khilil Tolbert and Isaiah Turner were 10th in the 800 relay (1:33.33).
Kiflu and Hailu qualified for regional in the 1,600, but opted to not compete so they could prepare for their other events.
Senior Marissa Ware, the girls team's only regional qualifier, was 13th in the 100 hurdles (17.7).
"She said her starting blocks jumped up on her when she left the race and took off," Wright said. "She ended up getting a bad start because of that and then she went into the first hurdle with the wrong leg, so she didn't have much of a chance after (that)."
Eastmoor Academy finished first (82) in the girls meet as 38 teams scored.
Last season, Ware was 12th in the 100 hurdles (17.82) at regional.
In the 13-team district 2 meet May 21, 22 and 25 at Westerville South, the boys finished fourth (61) behind champion Caledonia River Valley (128).
Kiflu won the 800 (1:58.62) and Hailu won the 3,200 (10:23.82). In the 1,600, Kiflu was second (4:35.51) and Hailu was third (4:36.76).
Turner, Tolbert, Morgan and Toure were fourth in the 800 relay (1:33.57).
Toure was fifth in the 400 (51.81), Paulus Thomas was fifth in the long jump (19 feet, 8 1/4 inches), Edessa was sixth in the 800 (2:06.02) and Toure, Morgan, Shaquille Alexander and Dimitrius Ridgeway were sixth in the 1,600 relay (3:37.47).
Senior Ifa Abduljelil was making a bid for a return trip to state in the 110 hurdles, but those hopes ended when he finished 13th (17.76) at district. He strained his left hamstring during the final of the 110 hurdles in the Hilliard Bradley Invitational on May 11 and did not compete again until district.
Abduljelil, who will compete for Ohio Wesleyan University, said he never returned to full strength.
"I'm very disappointed, but I guess it was meant to be for me to rest my hamstring again and get ready for next year and run in college," he said.
Last season at state, Abduljelil was disqualified because of a false start in the 110 hurdles.
The girls team finished 11th (12) in district 2 behind champion Eastmoor (144) as Ware was fourth in the 100 hurdles (17.06) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (49.25).
Whitney DeClouet was sixth in the discus (83-5), Ware, Kayla Williams, Tasia Scott and Ana Hammock were eighth in the 400 relay (53.33) and Alexis Kefauver was eighth in the discus (76-9).
Softball players earn postseason honors
Several members of the softball team have received postseason awards.
Senior pitcher Danielle Farnlacher was named the team's Offensive Player of the Year after hitting a team-high .411 and tying senior catcher Delina Farnlacher, her twin, for the team lead in runs with 20.
Delina was first-team all-league and second-team all-district and received coach Brian Anderson's Leadership Award.
Danielle was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Sophomore Nicole Barber (OF/3B) and freshman Brooklyn Rayburn (SS/2B) were honorable mention all-league.
Sophomore Samantha Day (OF) was named the team's Defensive Player of the Year and its scholar athlete.
Junior Madison Pharo (1B/P) won the Sportsmanship Award.
The Rams finished 6-18 overall and 1-11 in the MSL-Ohio. They lost to London 9-6 in the first round of the Division II district tournament May 13.