As the four-time defending OCC-Ohio Division champion and a program that has left the last two Division I state meets with trophies, the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls track and field team certainly should have confidence in its abilities.

That success, though, is something that 29th-year coach Roger Whittaker hasn't seen go to his athletes' heads.

"They're just a humble group," said Whittaker, whose team scored 91 points to place third behind Pickerington Central (109) and Olentangy Orange (95) in the 15-team Stingel Invitational on April 8 at Pickerington North. "We just keep doing what we do and I've really enjoyed coaching them. We just try to keep improving every week and they've really bought into that. They have a demeanor that's a very calm demeanor. There's pressure, but it's not the type of pressure you'd think. They don't really get nervous about anything."

That mentality should continue this season considering nine of the 12 athletes who competed at state for the Lions last spring have returned.

Gahanna, which earned a co-championship at state in 2015 and then scored 53 points to earn the runner-up trophy last season behind Cincinnati Withrow (64), lost a state champion to graduation in MiAngel Daniels. Now at Kent State, she became the first girl from the school to win a state title since 1988 when she took first in the 100-meter hurdles (14.27 seconds).

Daniels also ran on the championship 1,600 relay (3.45.48) that returns its other three participants, junior Amariah Thomas and sophomores Shynae Deas and Madison Martinez.

The 3,200 relay also captured the state title in 9:03.73. Martinez, Deas and junior Allison Groves are returnees from that relay, which was rounded out by 2016 graduate Allison Holahan.

The 800 relay that was third (1:39.06) returns seniors Ivy McKee and Journi Reese and Thomas. Makayla Scott, a 2016 graduate, rounded out the relay.

The other returning state qualifiers are senior Benja Duff, who was seventh in the 100 hurdles (14.69), junior Claire Steigerwald, who was seventh in the 3,200 (10:54.71) and senior Kiara Randolph, who was 12th in the long jump (16 feet, 8 1/4 inches).

Groves also was 13th in the 800 (2:18.08).

Other key athletes should include seniors Bailey Johnson (sprints), Rhea Lanier (shot put, discus), Courtney Owens (sprints, hurdles) and Dominique Washington (sprints), juniors Neha Badam (pole vault), Sara Buckner (distance), Nia Chandler (high jump, hurdles) and Rheagan Jennings (sprints), sophomores Bronte Johnson (shot put, discus), Brooke Johnson (shot put, discus), Ari Redmond (middle distance) and Katie Thomas (shot put, discus) and freshmen Natalie Clay (distance), Trinity Houpe (hurdles), Taylor Molli (sprints), Shaina Rutledge (sprints), Tara Shope (distance), Lacey Stringer (shot put, discus) and Alexis Thigpen (sprints).

Boys track team out
to build on success

Shawn Johnston understands how good of a situation he has inherited this spring as the new boys track coach.

Johnston, who was Hilliard Darby's coach in 2012 and has spent the past four seasons as one of Gahanna's assistant girls coaches, takes over a program that has earned back-to-back district runner-up finishes.

After taking fourth in the OCC-Ohio in 2015, the Lions were league runners-up last season.

Of the five competitors the Lions had at state last season, three are back, and the program has added two other athletes with state experience.

On April 8 in the 16-team Stingel Invitational, Gahanna scored 66.5 points to finish fourth behind champion Pickerington Central (104).

"I'm excited for the opportunity," said Johnston, who took over after Bob Cramer stepped down after three seasons. "All of a sudden things are looking pretty good for this year."

At state last year, senior Dontae Deas was 10th in the 300 hurdles (39.24) and the 800 relay, which included junior Joseph Gathuru and sophomore LaCarr Trent as well as 2016 graduates Trey Potter and Eli Whiteside, was seventh (1:27.78).

Senior Jayvonta Tolliver and junior Jerome Buckner, who previously competed for Pickerington North and Columbus Academy, respectively, also have extensive state experience.

Tolliver, who is sitting out the first half of the season because of the OHSAA transfer rule, has competed at state in each of his first three prep seasons. As a sophomore he ran on the Division I state champion 1,600 relay.

Buckner, who's also a standout football player, ran on the 800 relay that won the Division III state title in 1:29.46 last season. He was runner-up in the 400 (49.52), and the Vikings were state runners-up.

Another key returnee is senior Raheem Smith, a district champion in the 100 (11.04) who was unable to compete at regional because of injury. He's out with a hamstring injury but should be available later this season.

Other seniors include Colton Bosaw (pole vault), Solomon Costa (distance), Brendon Cox (shot put, discus), Zachariah Holderby (sprints, jumps), Conner Ingram (distance), Bailey McCoy (shot put, discus), Kevin Opoku (sprints, jumps), Andrew Ray (middle distance) and Mason Stevens (jumps).

Juniors Jaire Latta (middle distance), Jason Mehalic (distance), Joe Miller (sprints, pole vault), Connor Ryan (middle distance), A'che Sanchez (shot put, discus) and Tyler Story (distance), sophomore Kelly Wilson (pole vault, sprints) and freshman Derrick Bradley (sprints) are others looking to contribute.

Boys volleyball team
is young, talented

Although his team has just two seniors, 14th-year boys volleyball coach Mike Sage likes where his program is heading this season.

The Lions were 3-3 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Central before playing Pickerington North on April 11.

After beating Upper Arlington 28-26, 25-19, 25-17 on April 4 in its league opener, Gahanna beat Dublin Coffman 25-19, 28-26, 25-23 on April 6 in a league match as Sage earned his 200th career victory.

"We didn't have as many freshmen this year as we've had some years, but we have 27 total in the program so we have (two junior varsity) teams," Sage said. "I'm excited. We've got a lot of talent. We're just very young this year."

The top returnees are senior middle hitter Ryan Hawkins and junior outside hitter Russell Burke. Last season, Burke was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-East Region, and Hawkins was honorable mention all-league.

The Lions are in the OCC-Central with Coffman, UA, Hilliard Davidson, Pickerington Central and Pickerington North after competing in the OCC-Capital last season.

The other senior is Shane Salopek (outside hitter/right-side hitter). Juniors Matthew Scurlock (middle hitter) and Derek Sally (outside hitter) are returnees.

Also on the team are juniors Preston Brown (setter) and Mitchell Osment (defensive specialist) and sophomores Logan McDonald (libero) and Mason Milan (right-side hitter).

Wrestling coach steps
down after one season

The wrestling program is looking for a new coach for the second consecutive offseason after Matt Hammons recently stepped down.

According to athletics director Dustin Cullen, Hammons resigned because of "family commitments."

Hammons was Olentangy's coach from the 2003-04 season through 2011-12. He was the Jones Middle School coach in the Upper Arlington school district in 2015-16.

Gahanna went 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio this winter to place second behind Lancaster (5-0) and had one district qualifier in sophomore 113-pounder Cristian Salazar.

The Lions are losing just three athletes to graduation.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

TRACK & FIELD

March 28 -- at Central Crossing

April 1 -- Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson

April 5 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

April 8 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North

April 10 -- vs. Pickerington Central

April 12 -- vs. Licking Heights

April 18 -- at Westerville South

April 19 -- Gahanna Relays

April 27 -- at Huber Heights Wayne

April 29 -- Gary Smith Invitational at Thomas Worthington

May 2 -- vs. Watkins Memorial

May 11, 13 -- OCC-Ohio meet at Olentangy Orange

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

March 24 -- at Clayton Northmont with Dayton Chaminade Julienne

April 1 -- at Stow-Munroe Falls with Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph

*April 4 -- at Upper Arlington

*April 6 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 11 -- at Pickerington North

April 12 -- vs. St. Charles

*April 13 -- at Pickerington Central

April 15 -- at Mount Vernon with Cincinnati Oak Hills

*April 18 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 20 -- vs. Upper Arlington

April 21 -- vs. DeSales

April 22 -- at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit with Beavercreek

*April 25 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 27 -- vs. Pickerington North

*May 2 -- vs. Pickerington Central

*May 4 -- at Hilliard Davidson

May 5 -- TBA in Spike for Tykes at Greater Columbus Convention Center

May 9 -- vs. Olentangy

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys tennis teams:

BASEBALL

April 13 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty

*April 17 -- At Lancaster

April 18 -- At St. Charles

*April 19 -- Home vs. Lancaster

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 13 -- Home vs. Marysville

April 15 -- At Jonathan Alder

*April 18 -- At Pickerington Central

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 13 -- At Marysville

*April 18 -- Home vs. Central

April 19 -- At Columbus School for Girls

SOFTBALL

*April 13 -- Home vs. Pickerington North

April 14 -- Williamsport Westfall and Mount Orab Western Brown in Valley of Thunder Tournament at Willow Wood Symmes Valley

April 15 -- Wheelersburg and Jackson in Valley of Thunder Tournament at Symmes Valley

*April 17 -- At Grove City

*April 19 -- At Lancaster

BOYS TENNIS

*April 13 -- At Grove City

*April 18 -- At Lancaster

April 19 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

*League contest