Jannie Kamara of the Pickerington High School North girls track and field team prides herself on peaking at the end of the season.

The senior already has exceeded one of her Division I state meet performances from last year, but so far she is practicing cautious optimism.

Video •Pickerington North girls track and field athlete Jannie Kamara competes in the Stingel Invitational on April 8.

In the home Stingel Invitational on April 8, Kamara tied her personal-best throw in the shot put of 37 feet, 4 inches and threw 128-4 in the discus to sweep both titles. Last year at state, she finished sixth in the discus (132-9) and 15th in the shot put (36-6 1/2).

Kamara, whose personal best in the discus is 136-9, attributed those improvements to changes in her form, including driving more into her discus throw and bringing her body forward in the shot put, instead of backing up.

"Things started out pretty slow," said Kamara, who planned to sign with Miami University on April 12. "Still, I'm about where I was at this time last year. Throwing a 128 (on April 8) kind of surprised me, because last year at this time I had about 115. It's showing me I am progressing, getting into the right place. ...

"It just takes me time to get exactly where I want to. I am still trying to find my groove and figuring out what body part needs to go in what place."

Kamara's 37-4 in the shot put tied a personal-best set at regional last year, when she placed fourth in the event and won the discus title to become North's only state qualifier.

She is among several key returnees for the Panthers, about whom 14th-year coach Jim Langenderfer is encouraged thanks to what he considered early strong performances in sometimes-trying conditions, including rain and fluctuating temperatures.

"I've seen our girls be pretty tough," Langenderfer said. "We had some great weather (for the Stingel Invitational), and if it stays good, our girls are going to have some great races. Everybody's facing it. Everybody will get faster. It's just been tough."

Langenderfer lauded the performances of, among others, senior Mallory Harr and juniors Brenna Burke and Jessie Kinder. Harr won the 100-meter hurdles (14.9 seconds), placed second in the 300 hurdles (46.55) and was on the fourth-place 400 relay (51.22).

Kinder tied for second in the pole vault (10-0) and Burke was seventh in the 300 hurdles (50.44).

"I can't say enough about how well Mallory performed," Langenderfer said. "If you have a 'most improved' honor at this point in the season, Brenna Burke would get it. She's been tremendous in the hurdles and has been helping in our sprint relays. ...

"We have a lot of quality sprinters. They are not at the elite stage yet, but they're next to it. They are not afraid to go out and run. For our distance girls, we don't have a lot of them, but they have been fearless in their racing. It goes back to their training and effort."

North opened with a fourth-place finish (66 points) in the seven-team Hammond Relays on March 25 at Pickerington Central, behind champion and OCC-Ohio Division rival Gahanna (108). In the Wildcat Premier on April 1 at Hilliard Davidson, the Panthers finished ninth (41.5) of 11 teams behind champion Gahanna (151), and in the Stingel Invitational, they finished fourth (70) of 15 teams behind champion Central (109).

Other expected contributors include seniors Anna McSurley (distance) and Julia Westall (distance), juniors Hailey Rung (distance) and Alexis Walker (sprints) and sophomores Mickale Bates (sprints), Courtney Chabot (distance), Lauren Norwood (sprints) and Celeste Pierce (throws).

Boys track team has
'some good pieces'

The boys track and field team did not contend for any invitational championships in the first three weeks of the season, but 10th-year coach Dave Spring likes the individual talent scattered across his lineup.

Senior pole vaulter Ben Pierce and junior sprinter Kavaughn Robinson, among others, have turned in strong performances so far for North. Pierce cleared 13 feet to win the pole vault title in the Stingel Invitational, in which the Panthers finished ninth (38) of 16 teams behind champion Central (104).

Junior Ashwin Briggs placed third in the 1,600 (4:29.38), Robinson was fourth in the 100 (11.07) and the distance medley relay was third (10:52.65).

"We were looking forward to competing in a non-relay meet and seeing more about the individuals we have," Spring said. "We're young, but we have some good pieces in place. We're improving. I like our progress, especially in the hurdles and the pole vault."

Pierce vaulted 12-0 in both the Hammond Relays and the Wildcat Premier to tie for second in both meets. Also in the Wildcat Premier, junior Tyrik Carter placed second in the 110 hurdles (15.02) and fifth in the 300 hurdles (42.96).

"Tyrik just started hurdling last year. He's been pretty impressive," Spring said. "I think Ben is ready to make a huge jump."

Other expected contributors include seniors Jackson Brandstaetter (distance), Austin Brownfield (pole vault, sprints, relays) and Keaton McNair (distance), juniors Jalen Bankston (throws), Jalaun Covington (sprints) and Jimmy Weirick (jumps, sprints) and freshmen Enrique Cabotage (sprints), Matt Duvall (distance) and Harper Moore (distance).

Boys tennis coach
confident in progress

Despite opening with three consecutive losses, 14th-year boys tennis coach Brian Hoff is optimistic the best is yet to come as his team tries to recapture the OCC-Ohio championship.

"We are not a good team right now, but I believe that we can be a very good team by the end of the season with a lot of hard work and dedication," said Hoff, whose team was 2-3 overall before playing Watterson on April 11. "We had early losses against good teams. We have been making too many mistakes and playing a bit tentative. The lineup is still very much in flux; we are still looking for the right combo on the doubles courts."

North has returned six players from last year's team that went 12-6 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Ohio to place second behind Gahanna (7-0). The Lions snapped the Panthers' string of four consecutive league championships.

Junior Grant Schroeder has been at first singles and senior Christian Keen has played second singles to begin the year for the Panthers, who opened with a 5-0 loss at Olentangy on March 28 and then had 4-1 losses to Davidson on March 29 and Dublin Coffman on April 4.

North earned its first win April 5, shutting out Westerville Central 5-0, and defeated Columbus West 5-0 on April 8.

The Panthers were scheduled to begin OCC-Ohio play April 6 against Pickerington Central, but that match was postponed because of bad weather.

The rest of the lineup, which includes other returnees in senior Peter Vanderhoff, juniors Sam Marrison and Evan Ross and sophomore Balakrishna Brahmandam, has been in flux as those players rotate between singles and doubles.

Keen and Vanderhoff advanced to the Division I district tournament last season in singles and doubles, respectively, but both lost in the first round. Vanderhoff teamed with 2016 graduate Avery Kreemer.

"It's very clear that some of the guys worked hard in the offseason. I've seen significant improvement in Grant, Sam and Bala," Hoff said.

"Peter, on any given day, can be our best singles player, but he is such a strong doubles player with his serve and his imposing presence at the net that it's hard to put him at singles."

Rounding out the roster are junior Vamsi Vanguri and sophomore David Wang.

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Schedules

BOYS TENNIS

March 28 -- at Olentangy

March 29 -- at Hilliard Davidson

April 4 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

April 5 -- vs. Westerville Central

*April 6 -- vs. Pickerington Central

April 8 -- at Columbus West

April 11 -- at Watterson

April 12 -- vs. Wellington

*April 13 -- at Lancaster

April 18 -- vs. Granville

April 19 -- at Dublin Jerome

*April 20 -- at Grove City

*April 21 -- vs. Reynoldsburg

April 25 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

April 27 -- vs. Westerville North

*May 1 -- at Gahanna

May 2 -- at Chillicothe

May 3 -- vs. Bexley

May 9 -- at New Albany

May 16 -- at Dublin Scioto

TRACK & FIELD

March 25 -- Hammond Relays at Pickerington Central

March 30 -- vs. Groveport, Hilliard Bradley and Reynoldsburg

April 1 -- Wildcat Premier at Hilliard Davidson

April 8 -- Stingel Invitational at home

April 11 -- at Hilliard Bradley with Upper Arlington

April 14 -- Elk Relays at Centerville

April 18 -- at Newark

April 21 -- Boys: Fulton Relays at Lancaster; Girls: Wildcat Invitational at Westerville South

April 25 -- at New Albany with Groveport

April 28 -- Milt Will Relays at Canal Winchester and Olentangy Invitational

May 2 -- vs. Canal Winchester and Teays Valley

May 5 -- Hilliard Bradley Invitational and Larkin-Crosten Invitational at Upper Arlington

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

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the North baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball and boys volleyball teams:

BASEBALL

April 13 -- Home vs. Whetstone

April 15 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester (DH)

*April 17 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg

*April 19 -- At Reynoldsburg

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 13 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington

*April 17 -- At Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 13 -- At Upper Arlington

*April 18 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

SOFTBALL

*April 13 -- At Gahanna

*April 17 -- At Lancaster

*April 19 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*April 13 -- At Hilliard Davidson

*April 18 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman

*League contest