Members of the Pickerington High School Central boys track and field team were busy collecting their belongings when it was announced that Gahanna had won the OCC-Ohio Division meet May 13 at Olentangy Orange.
Many of the Tigers went about their business. Others were stone-faced at the news, knowing their biggest goals still are in front of them.
Despite finishing the meet with a win in the 1,600-meter relay (3 minutes, 23.43 seconds), Central fell four points short of the championship. The Tigers scored 143 points to finish behind Gahanna (147) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (97), Lancaster (77), Pickerington North (43) and Grove City (16).
"Everybody did well even though a lot of us were hurting," said Crockett Schooler, who set personal-best times in winning the 110 hurdles (14.33 seconds) and 300 hurdles (38.35) and also ran the second leg of the 1,600 relay. "We came together well as a team. Our region might be the hardest region in the state. Everybody will be there. This was great preparation for that."
Matt Scrape won the 1,600 (4:17.22) and 3,200 (9:31.27) and was on the winning 3,200 relay (8:02.24). Brady Johnson won the 800 (1:58.82), and Zach Robinson was the 400 champion (48.64).
Second-place finishes from Evan Matthews in the high jump (6-0) and the 800 relay (1:27.44) further padded Central's point total.
"Sure, it's nice to win your conference, but we have bigger fish to fry," boys coach Jason Roach said.
The girls team also was league runner-up, scoring 150 points to finish behind Gahanna (165) and ahead of Lancaster (85), North (65), Reynoldsburg (42) and Grove City (16).
McKenzie Long won the 100 (11.83) and 200 (24.42), Jayden Wood won the 400 (55.05) and both were on the winning 800 relay (1:42.46) with Shae Douglas and Destinee McGrady.
Olivia Chapman was runner-up in the 1,600 (5:10.73), and the 400 relay (48.17) and 3,200 relay (9:36.56) also placed second.
"We had some big performances, just not enough," girls coach Hunter Nichols said. "We didn't get killed or anything, but it was one of those days where you know any point you get will be huge. I thought the whole time Gahanna would be strong, then I started to think we would have a shot. If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man. We'll keep trying to beat them out."
Wood, who also placed third in the 200 (25.02), was pleased but not satisfied with her performances, saying she still is about a second shy of the times she wants in the 200 and 400.
"It's exciting to get a PR, but I want to be in the 54 (-second range)," Wood said. "I want that before state, and I want to be in the 24 range in the 200. The next couple weeks will push me even more."
Central is competing in the Division I, district 3 meet this week at Hilliard Darby. Field events were held May 17, while preliminaries for the running events are Thursday, May 18, and finals for the running events are Saturday, May 20.
The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional meet Wednesday, May 24, and May 26 at North. At regional, the top four finishers in each event qualify for state June 2 and 3 at Ohio State.
Boys lacrosse team
relishes second chance
A 13-2 loss to North on May 12 left the boys lacrosse team dejected for one night, but the Tigers quickly turned their attention to a rematch May 17 at North in the second round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament.
The Panthers scored the last 10 goals of the game as Central finished the regular season at 7-10. Tony Luc scored 18 seconds in, and Morgan Morrell had the Tigers' other goal halfway through the second quarter.
"They found the back of the net a few times and the manner and pace in which they did it, we got down on ourselves and it was tough to come back from that kind of mental hole we'd dug ourselves," coach Lou Fries said.
"(Back-to-back games against the same team) are unusual, but it also made the loss a little bit easier in that redemption was something that was right in front of us."
Central was the 10th seed in the 19-team tournament. North was seventh.
The winner plays at second-seeded Dublin Coffman or 16th-seeded Beavercreek in a regional quarterfinal Saturday, May 20.
That winner will play host to third-seeded Jerome, sixth-seeded St. Charles, 11th-seeded Thomas Worthington or 14th-seeded Darby in a regional semifinal Wednesday, May 24. The regional final is May 27.
The Tigers defeated Darby 10-9 in overtime on April 4 and Gahanna 9-7 on April 18, but lost to Coffman 4-2 on April 10 and St. Charles 15-4 on March 24.
Girls lacrosse team
Coming off a 25-8 rout of North in its regular-season finale May 12, the sixth-seeded girls lacrosse team was 8-8 before playing host to ninth-seeded Beavercreek in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 16.
The winner plays at third-seeded Jerome or 15th-seeded Kettering Fairmont in a regional quarterfinal Friday, May 19. That winner will visit second-seeded Thomas, seventh-seeded Darby, eighth-seeded Gahanna or 14th-seeded Marysville in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 23. The regional final is May 27.
Central defeated Gahanna 18-7 on April 18 and Marysville 16-4 on April 27, but lost to Darby 11-10 in overtime on April 1 and Jerome 22-5 on May 9.
Tennis duo reach
The doubles team of Leyton Mathias and Jeremy O'Coner advanced to the Division I district tournament Thursday, May 18, at Hilliard Davidson and Saturday, May 20, at Upper Arlington, marking the boys tennis team's return to district after a one-year absence.
Mathias and O'Coner finished fourth in their home sectional held May 11 and 13. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced.
Also competing at sectional were the doubles team of Evan Gibson and Carson Stanley, who went 2-1 and lost to Orange's Alex Heiden and Jordan Phelps in a district-qualifying match, and singles players Stephen Klein, Jacob Scott and Cooper Stang, all of whom went 0-1.
Central was 11-9 after a 3-2 win over Teays Valley on May 10.
A match against Thomas on May 9 was postponed because of bad weather, and coach Kelli Rings was unsure late last week whether it will be made up.
At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to state May 26 and 27 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Volleyball team looks
to regional tourney
Boys volleyball coach Luke Rininger thought his team would be seeded in or near the middle of the 18-team Division I East Region when the tournament draw took place May 15, and he proved to be correct.
Seeded eighth of 18 teams, the Tigers will play 12th-seeded Coffman in a first-round match Friday, May 19, at Darby. The winner will take on top-seeded Darby or 18th-seeded Delaware in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 23, at Darby.
The regional final is May 26.
Central split two OCC-Capital matches with Coffman, losing 18-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-10 on April 11 and winning 25-18, 20-25, 25-13, 25-8 on April 27.
The Tigers were 13-10 before participating in the OCC Challenge on May 16 at Hilliard Bradley.
"The biggest thing with us is communication and energy and having our guys trust each other to do their jobs," Rininger said. "The really good teams talk the whole time."
Central went 2-1 in a home quad match May 13, defeating Mount Vernon 21-25, 25-20, 25-15 and Westerville North 25-19, 20-25, 25-17 and losing to Olentangy 25-16, 24-26, 25-11 in a quad match May 13. The Tigers also defeated Jerome 25-19, 25-19, 19-25, 15-25, 15-9 on May 11.
Softball team reaches
The softball team will seek its first Division I district championship since 2013 this weekend when it plays eighth-seeded Bradley in a district final at Central.
The game will be played Friday, May 19, or Saturday, May 20.
Top-seeded Central rolled into the final by defeating 16th-seeded Watterson 11-2 in a district semifinal May 15 at home. Zoie Smith had three of Central's 16 hits, including a home run, as the Tigers improved to 24-2 and won their 13th consecutive game.
The Tigers routed 28th-seeded Reynoldsburg 17-2 in five innings in a second-round game May 10 at home. Sophia Slack's three-run home run highlighted a nine-run second inning, and Kallie Boren added a two-run homer in the third.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal against Mount Vernon or Teays Valley on Wednesday, May 24, at Ohio State. The regional final is May 27 at OSU.
Baseball team reaches
The baseball team played second-seeded Darby in a Division I district final May 17, and a win would have meant Central's first district title since 2001.
The sixth-seeded Tigers advanced with a 1-0 win over 10th-seeded New Albany in a district semifinal May 15. Tanner Griggs struck out six, walked two and allowed six hits in a complete-game win.
Central scored in the fifth inning when Charlie Gibson singled, then came home from first base on an errant throw after a Jordan Fields bunt.
The Tigers, who were 19-10 before May 17, began the tournament with a 2-1 win over 34th-seeded Reynoldsburg in a second-round game May 10 at home. Central scored both of its runs in the first inning and held on to defeat its OCC-Ohio rival for the third time in four meetings this season.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal May 25 at Coffman.
Four senior student-athletes announced their college choices May 10.
Dalany Boykins will compete in women's track and field at Wingate, Olivia Chapman will run women's cross country at Morehead State, Elizabeth Fee will play women's basketball at Mount Vernon Nazarene and Jack Jaynes will run men's cross country at Ohio University.