Gana Lopez is ready to move on to what she calls "bigger and better things."
That could include more appearances near the top of the podium at the girls state track and field meet and a final decision about college, but the Hartley High School senior is doing what she can to not get overwhelmed in either process.
As she continues to recover from a left hamstring injury, Lopez is gradually getting on track for the stretch run of a prep career that has seen her place among the top eight in a state event two times in each of the past three seasons.
"It's kind of get back and see what happens," Lopez said. "I'm not trying to pressure myself and reinjure myself and have to start over again. Now it's coming back slowly."
Before Hartley competed April 19 in the Gahanna Relays, Lopez had competed twice this season, including in the Hawks Invitational on April 12 when she joined seniors London Ladd and Taneyza Robinson and junior Amaiah Jones on the winning 400-meter relay.
Last season at state, the relay of the same four runners turned in a third-place finish in 47.61 seconds.
That is the highest finish Lopez has had at state.
Individually, she began her prep career with seventh-place finishes in Division III in both the 100 and 200 as a freshman at Gahanna Christian.
Then as a sophomore, she placed fourth in the 100 and fourth in the 200 in Division I in her first state meet with Hartley. She also ran on the 1,600 relay that was 15th at state that season.
Last spring, in addition to the 400 relay, Lopez turned in a fifth-place finish in the 100 (12.31). She also was ninth in the 200 (25.51) to miss the podium in that event by one spot.
Those performances over the years have caught the eye of numerous college coaches, with Kent State, Cincinnati and Ohio State among the programs she's considering.
"I just feel like when I choose one, I'm going to regret not choosing the other one," Lopez said. "Kent State is kind of the favorite, but it's about how much my parents can and can't do to help."
Lopez and the others on the 400 relay are part of a deep sprint corps that also includes seniors Mary Kate Hennessey, Katie Page and Kacey Ragland and junior Rachael LeMay.
The 1,600 relay that included Lopez, Hennessey and LeMay reached the regional last season.
Page, meanwhile, has filled a key role on the 800 relay that also includes Jones, Ladd and Robinson and finished third in the state indoor meet March 4.
Lopez endured the hamstring injury during the indoor season. Her ability to fight through injuries over the years has impressed coach Reggie Osborne.
"She's had a great career," Osborne said. "She's a trooper and really hangs in there."
Tennis team grows
during tough schedule
The way boys tennis coach Heath Goolsby sees it, adding teams to the schedule like Watkins Memorial can only benefit his program over the long haul.
The Hawks are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the CCL heading into their match Thursday, April 20, at home against Watterson.
Hartley followed a 3-2 loss to Watkins Memorial on April 3 by losing 5-0 to St. Charles on April 4 in its league opener.
In addition to facing Watterson, the Hawks should face tough challenges against Division I programs Westerville North (Wednesday, April 26) and Delaware (April 27).
"I purposely created a schedule that was more difficult than last year," Goolsby said. "I expect us to continue to compete no matter who the opponent is. If we do that, the wins will come."
Senior Alex Dawes has been among the team's standouts, according to Goolsby. Against St. Charles, he lost to Ben Wolfe 6-4, 6-4 at third singles.
Junior Collin Bender is 5-1 at first singles.
"I immediately could tell that several players from the 14-man roster played in the offseason, but one player that stands out is senior Alex Dawes," Goolsby said. "This is Alex's second season on the team. After playing doubles the entire season last year, he's adjusted well to playing third singles. Junior Collin Bender continues to impress at first singles."
Softball team looks
to break through
After rallying to tie DeSales at 3 in the bottom of the fifth inning April 12, the softball team gave up five runs in the top of the sixth and lost 8-3.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Hawks loaded the bases. Although they failed to capitalize on the opportunity, the fight they showed was encouraging to coach Joe Plageman.
"It's kind of been the story of our season," Plageman said. "We're still looking for that big inning. We're looking for these young ones to continue to improve."
Hartley was 1-10 overall before playing Newark Catholic on April 17 and 0-2 in the CCL before playing Ready on April 19.
The Hawks continue league play Monday, April 24, at Watterson, which they lost to 8-0 on April 10.
The biggest constant through the struggles has been senior pitcher Tatum Wise, who Plageman said has been batting better than .600. She had two home runs and seven RBI through 11 games.
"(Freshman) Sophia Cegledy has been doing a good job hitting the ball and getting on base," Plageman said. "They're all basically learning the game at this point. (Junior) Brittany Golden, our leadoff hitter, has been starting to get back on track after taking the last two years away from softball."