The Pickerington High School Central track and field teams enter the Division I state meet Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, at Ohio State with a healthy contingent of nine individual qualifiers across 15 events, including five relays.
And even though the Tigers ended the regional meet held May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North by setting records in consecutive races, they still fell short of the team championships.
Matt Scrape of the boys team had a come-from-behind win in the 3,200 meters and the 1,600 relay pulled away for a victory, but both Central teams finished second. The boys scored 67 points to finish behind Thomas Worthington (73) as 37 teams scored, and the girls had 97 points to finish behind OCC-Ohio Division rival Gahanna (97) as 35 teams scored.
Despite having a strained right quad that forced him to withdraw from the 200, Zavien Parker used a blazing third leg to put the 1,600 relay ahead for good en route to a regional-record time of 3 minutes, 15.74 seconds.
"I didn't want to get injured and I wasn't even sure I could do the (1,600 relay). I just had to do it for my team," Parker said. "We beat the regional record. That is what we wanted. We wanted a 3:15 or 3:14, just to beat the record, basically."
Rounding out the relay were Zach Robinson, Crockett Schooler and Terry Simuel.
Scrape provided the boys team with its only other win, finishing first in the 3,200 in 9:02.07. He edged Olentangy Orange's Hunter Moore at the finish line by .44 of a second.
"I've always had good finishes," Scrape said. "I am pretty confident in my kick. I think I have the best kick of any of the two-milers out there. If anybody was going to get Moore, it was going to be me. I knew I had him with 50 to go. I've run up on people, but I am pretty sure I've run up on him and given him a little bit of a scare (in the past). I made sure to beat him across the line this time."
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
Also advancing for the boys team were Schooler in the 300 hurdles (second, 38.45) and 110 hurdles (third, 14.43), the 3,200 relay of Jack Jaynes, Brady Johnson, Cameron Kanney and Scrape (second, 7:55.17), Robinson in the 400 (third, 48.24), the 800 relay of Evan Matthews, Parker, Robinson and Simuel (third, 1:27.83), John Brown in the discus (fourth, 144-10) and Simuel in the 400 (fourth, 48.67).
Brown was one of two Central throwers to advance to state, along with Grace Luther of the girls team. Luther, who placed second in the shot put (39-4 1/4) at regional and will throw at state for the first time, credited coach Jason Roach dialing back the throwers entering the regional as one reason for her success.
"We've been scaling back in hopes of popping the big one here, and that's what happened," Luther said. "I've been in the 38- to 40-foot range and this was right there. This is the first time I've been over 37 since last year. I finally passed it, and that felt great."
McKenzie Long was second in both the 100 (12.08) and 200 (24.16) and was on the third-place 400 relay with Shayla Boyd, Trinity Brown and Destinee McGrady (47.97), while Jaydan Wood placed second in the 400 (54.76) and fourth in the 200 (24.95).
Other state qualifiers were Amirah Strauther in the 100 hurdles (third, 14.58) and the 1,600 relay of Brown, Olivia Chapman, Brittany Miller and Wood (fourth, 3:53.51).
Also competing at regional for the boys were Matthews in the high jump (tied for sixth, 6-0) and 300 hurdles (eighth, 41.18), Jaynes in the 1,600 (ninth, 4:28.03) and Alex Morgan in the shot put (11th, 46-1).
Other regional competitors for the girls were Chapman in the 800 (fifth, 2:15.08), Lauren Marvin in the 3,200 (fifth, 11:10.72), Shae Douglas in the 100 (sixth, 12.23), Boyd in the long jump (seventh, 16-11), Dalany Boykins in the discus (seventh, 116-11), the 800 relay of Douglas, Long, McGrady and Wood (eighth, 1:44.72), the 3,200 relay of Chapman, Amber Hamelin, Marvin and Maddie Schmidt (eighth, 9:31.61) and Hamelin in the 3,200 (12th, 11:33.38).
Boys volleyball team
ousted by Panthers
The boys volleyball team finished its second consecutive winning season on a down note, losing 25-10, 25-9, 25-7 at top-seeded Hilliard Darby in a Division I East Region semifinal May 23.
Eighth-seeded Central finished 14-11 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Ohio, placing fourth behind Hilliard Davidson (10-0) and Gahanna and North (both 6-4) and ahead of Dublin Coffman (2-8) and Upper Arlington (1-9).
The Tigers finished 17-8 last year.
Central opened the 19-team tournament with a 20-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 win over 12th-seeded Coffman in a first-round match May 19 at Darby.
Senior outside hitter Paul Augenstein was named first-team all-league and all-region. Junior setter Kahle Keys was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-region, senior middle hitter Dylan Lepley was honorable mention all-league and Luke Rininger shared league Coach of the Year honors with Davidson's Rusty Herring.
Other players eligible to return include junior Calen Kovaleski (middle hitter) and sophomores Nathan Lee (libero) and Jason Orr (outside hitter/defensive specialist).
Softball team falls
short of main goals
A potent offense, guided by sophomore shortstop Sophia Slack's school-record 15 home runs, led the softball team to a 25-4 overall record and the top seed in the Division I district tournament.
Still, Central fell short of its first district championship since 2013 when it lost to eighth-seeded Hilliard Bradley 7-6 at its home facility May 20.
"All year they hit strikes and were aggressive on pitches," coach Carrie Eneix said. "We took that approach all year. This (ending) was shocking. At the end of the day, there are a lot of 'what ifs' and I am sure there are things we'll look back and kick ourselves about. But this was a great group to be around. We were solid everywhere."
Led by a class that features Ohio State commit Kallie Boren and Kent State commit Kaitlyn Miller, Central has gone 82-28 the past four seasons. Boren, a first baseman, and Miller, a second baseman, both were named first-team all-league and all-district, and Boren was first-team all-state.
Slack broke the previous home run record of 13, set in 2015 by Boren and 2015 graduate Hunter Brancifort. Brancifort now plays for Kent State.
Central, which was ranked as high as fourth in the state poll during the regular season, went 10-0 in the OCC-Ohio to finish ahead of Gahanna (7-3), Lancaster (6-4), Grove City (4-6), Pickerington North (2-8) and Reynoldsburg (1-9).
The Tigers had a first-round bye in the 45-team district tournament and won their first two postseason games by a combined 24 runs. Central defeated 28th-seeded Reynoldsburg 17-2 in five innings in the second round May 10 and 16th-seeded Watterson 11-2 in a district semifinal May 15.
Senior outfielder Haylie Angelo, senior pitcher Maddi Liston and Slack were named second-team all-league. Freshman catcher Zoie Smith was special mention all-league and senior outfielder Toni Jones was honorable mention all-league.
Angelo has committed to play for Cuyahoga Community college. Senior outfielder Kristen Bales is an Ohio Dominican commit, Liston is a Marietta College commit and senior catcher/third baseman Bethany Redman is a Heidelberg commit.
Boys lacrosse coach
sets long-term goals
The boys lacrosse team put together a season-best three-game winning streak late in the season and won four of six games before consecutive losses to North to end the year.
Central finished 7-11 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Central, concluding league play with a 13-2 loss to North on May 12 and then losing to the Panthers 12-5 in the second round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament five days later.
But coach Lou Fries called a stretch of five games in 10 days in early April as a memorable point in the season, even though Central won just once in that span. That included losses to defending state champion UA (14-1 on April 6) and Coffman (14-2 on April 10).
"It was a key series of games that will impact our boys in future seasons," Fries said. "To play some of the top lacrosse teams in the state at the end of a stretch like that is probably one of the hardest things these boys will have done in their lacrosse careers. We saw an immediate return on that when we played Davidson on April 13, only losing 11-6 to a fantastic team that had upset Coffman earlier. It is extremely encouraging to see how much production was achieved by our underclassmen this season, and that should be a very good sign of things to come."
Sophomore attacker Morgan Morrell led the Tigers in goals (36) and assists (11). Junior attacker Mark Carberry had 25 goals and seven assists, sophomore midfielder Owen Henry scored 13 goals and junior midfielder Tyler Coyen scored 11.
Senior goalkeeper Steven Warren, a University of Detroit Mercy commit, stopped 184 of 343 shots (53.6 percent), while sophomore backup Brendan Chong made 13 saves on 30 shots (43.3 percent).
Central finished fifth in the OCC-Central, behind co-champions Coffman, Davidson and UA (all 6-1) and North (4-3) and ahead of Gahanna (2-5), Marysville (1-6) and Newark (0-7). The Tigers were seeded 10th in the 19-team regional tournament, and North was seventh.