Having relatively young and inexperienced athletes, Dominick Mazza used his first season as coach of the Thomas Worthington High School boys track and field team to lay the groundwork for the future.
His effort was aided by the Cardinals' eight seniors.
"When you look at the seniors as a whole, they weren't a group that carried the team, but they left a different kind of legacy," Mazza said. "They mentored the younger kids and showed them how things should be done and how to get to where they need to be.
"They really helped develop some team camaraderie and get the team to be a tight-knit group. Their legacy wasn't on the track as much as off with leadership and mentoring."
The Cardinals were represented in the Division I state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State by junior Malyk Burks, who finished 14th in the long jump in 21 feet, 4 3/4 inches in his first season competing in the event.
The Cardinals did not score at state, as Lakewood St. Edward (62) won the team title and 62 teams scored.
"That was a great experience for Malyk and I think that we're primed to get more kids to state next year and get on the (awards) podium (by placing in the top eight)," Mazza said. "That's the case, especially in sprints. Out distance runners are strong, but I think they will still be another year away from getting there."
Burks qualified for state by placing fourth in the long jump (21-4 1/2) in the regional meet May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North, as the top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
The only other regional qualifier for the Cardinals was senior Tyrin Franklin, who finished seventh in the 300-meter hurdles (40.64 seconds).
Thomas scored seven points at regional to tie Olentangy Orange and Walnut Ridge for 23rd behind champion Pickerington North (99) as 39 teams scored and scored 22 points in the 15-team district 1 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby to tie Newark for 12th (22) behind champion Pickerington North (159.5).
The Cardinals finished third (75) in the OCC-Central Division meet May 16 and 18 at home, behind Hilliard Davidson (204.5) and Olentangy Liberty (127) and ahead of Dublin Coffman (72.5), Upper Arlington (61), Marysville (53), Westland (31) and Central Crossing (28).
In addition to Burks, among those expected to return are juniors Akwasi Boeham, Jack Dotts, Garrett Featherstone, Ben Fenker, Louis Fomby, Jalen Wells and Michael Wood, sophomores Jonathan Allen, Jay Kirwan, Jonathan Kissel and Graham Saunders and freshmen Zach Emptage and Evan Miller.
"Next year, our goal is to get experience in the big meets and then make a push the following year to (advance to) state," Mazza said. "Next year, our sprinters can get to sate and see what happens.
"We have a huge junior class and expectations are high. We're excited about the possibilities of next year, but we also preach to them that having potential can only take you so far. You have to add some hard work to get results from that potential."
Thomas girls also gained experience
Ashley Forte was the only member of the girls team to qualify for the Division I state meet, but the junior did not compete because of a trip to France.
Forte had qualified for state in the 800 by placing fourth (2:13.56) at regional.
Also competing at regional were junior Cassandra Laios in the shot put (seventh, 36-4), junior Chandler Adamaitis in the 300 hurdles (ninth, 46.55), the 800 relay of Forte, senior Ryanna Reid, freshman Miranda Carver and junior Shay Davis (ninth, 1:45.95), the 400 relay of junior Alexandra Brown, Reid, Adamaitis and Davis (ninth, 50.08), the 1,600 relay of Forte, sophomore Gia Eastman, Reid and Davis (10th, 4:09.51), sophomore Holly Payne in the 1,600 (11th, 5:40.94) and the 3,200 relay of Payne, senior Anna Klompen, junior Ariel Rittenhouse and senior Cheyenne Buckingham (11th, 10:19.67).
The Cardinals tied Central Crossing and Northland for 25th (7) at regional, behind co-champions Gahanna (55) and Pickerington Central (55) as 39 teams scored.
"We can use (the regional meet) as a teachable moment and use it as something to learn from," said coach Andy Cox, who completed his first season leading the girls team after guiding the boys team for 16 seasons. "Ashley ran great all year. She only ran the 800 at regional, so she was fresh. She got boxed in with about 300 meters to go. I thought that she could have cut more time."
Thomas placed third (70.5) in the 17-team district 2 meet, behind Gahanna (141.5) and Big Walnut (88.5) and finished fifth (79.5) in the OCC-Central meet behind Davidson (141.5), Coffman (140), Liberty (110) and UA (97) and ahead of Central Crossing (49), Marysville (36) and Westland (9).
The Cardinals lose 10 seniors, including three regional qualifiers in Buckingham, Klompen and Reid.
"Our seniors were great," Cox said. "Anna Klompen was a first-year senior who really did well for us. She's going to (College of) William and Mary (in Williamsburg, Va.) and is even thinking about walking on there. (Distance runner) Cheyenne Buckingham is going to walk on at (Ohio University)."
Among those expected back are Adamaitis, Brown, Carver, Davis, Eastman, Forte, Laios, Payne, Reid and Rittenhouse.
"The girls have bought into trying new things and it has worked out for us," Cox said. "We have a strong junior class and we're excited about what we can do next year."