Ashwin Briggs of the Pickerington High School North boys track and field team admitted his mind went almost completely blank as he came down the stretch in the 1,600 meters during the Division I regional meet May 26.
The sophomore did remember one thing.
"I just thought 'finish, finish, finish' and get that fourth spot (to qualify for state)," he said. "My whole plan for the race was to stick with everybody else and let them do the work throughout the race and see what I had left once we got to the last lap.
"Once that happened, I took off with all the rest of the energy I had and went from there."
Briggs overtook Hilliard Davidson's Andrew Tighe in the final lap, finishing fourth in a school-record 4 minutes, 16.42 seconds on his home track to earn his first trip to the state meet Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, at Ohio State. Tighe was fifth in 4:18.81.
Briggs dropped 7.56 seconds from his district 1 championship time of six days earlier -- eighth-best among regional qualifiers -- and had to be helped off the track by coaches, trainers and his mother, Kat, who had tears in her eyes.
"It's just disbelief," said Briggs, who figured he would need to run 4:18 to 4:19 to advance and ended up withdrawing from the 800 final later May 26.
"I figured I'd be getting ready for cross country right now, but I have another week left."
Briggs will be joined at state by girls thrower Jannie Kamara, who won the regional title in the discus (136 feet, 3 inches) and placed fourth in the shot put (37-2 1/4), and boys pole vaulter Ben Pierce, who was third at regional (13-4).
The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
The girls scored 23 points and finished 12th behind champion Gahanna (97) as 35 teams scored. The Lions won their third consecutive regional championship.
The boys finished 15th (13) behind champion Thomas Worthington (73) as 37 teams scored.
Kamara will compete in two events at state for the second consecutive year. She placed sixth in the discus and 15th in the shot put last year.
"Because it's my senior year, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get here and at least get to the finals in both events," said Kamara, a Miami University commit. "I want to go into college on a high note. I just wanted to get to state. Shot put isn't my main event, but I do it because it goes hand-in-hand with discus. I am hoping I can work more on strength before the state meet and get 140 (feet in the discus) and around 40 in the shot."
Pierce thought he would need to clear more than 14 feet to get to state, but ended up falling well short of that height in the final May 24 in a field hampered by a stiff headwind and occasional rain.
"It was a little lower than I wanted, but I'm going to state," said Pierce, who also was 14th in the 300 hurdles (42.33). "Everybody seemed off because of the weather. Luckily, I came in after the rain (at 13 feet). I thought I had to get to 14-4 with no misses, and once everybody else started coming in at 13 feet, I knew I had done enough."
Also competing at regional for the boys team were Kavaughn Robinson in the 100 (10th, 11.15), Tyrik Carter in the 110 hurdles (11th, 15.34) and the 3,200 relay (14th, 8:19.34) of Briggs, Ethan Cale, Keaton McNair and Harper Moore.
Mallory Harr of the girls team was fifth in the 100 hurdles (14.76) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (44.77), and Jessie Kinder was eighth in the pole vault (11-0).
Boys volleyball team
Even though it returned no starters from last year's Division I East Region championship team, the boys volleyball team still went 11-15 overall and earned one postseason win.
Seeded ninth in the 18-team regional tournament, North opened the postseason with a 25-21, 21-25, 26-24, 25-18 win over 11th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a first-round match May 20 before losing to third-seeded Olentangy 25-17, 25-13, 25-22 in a semifinal May 23 at Westerville South.
The Panthers led the Braves for much of the third game.
"I left my seniors on the floor and they did a great job," coach Marci Truex said.
"I am proud of their resilience. They have been that way the whole season. They dug themselves some holes at times, but they always seemed to work themselves out and we got some wins out of that.
"It's been a rollercoaster. We've had some great highs and some not-so-good lows, but they kept on track. They kept working. We didn't see these kids wanting to pack it in. They loved to grow."
North put together a season-high four-match winning streak spanning two days in early May, including a 3-0 performance in the Spike for Tykes tournament May 5 at Columbus Convention Center.
The Panthers went 6-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division to tie Gahanna for second, behind Davidson (10-0) and ahead of Pickerington Central (5-5), Dublin Coffman (2-8) and Upper Arlington (1-9).
Senior outside hitter Andrae Thomas was named first-team all-league and second-team all-region, senior outside hitter Alex Johnson was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-region, sophomore setter Bradley Johnson was special mention all-league and junior outside hitter Jack Kowalczyk was honorable mention all-league.
Boys lacrosse coach
sees bright future
Despite going 8-11 overall and having to replace some of his top offensive players, boys lacrosse coach Danny Gibson cited four games against out-of-state competition as well as overall program growth as reason for optimism.
"Our program grew with the addition of our junior high program, induction to the school and becoming (an OHSAA-sanctioned) sport," Gibson said.
"We played great talent from Pennsylvania and Michigan as well as a top-tier team from Canada (York, Ontario, St. Michael's). ...
"Our games against out-of-state teams really opened our eyes. We saw on many occasions that we could compete at a very high level and we feel we put our program in a good light for out-of-state teams to see. Our seniors carried the majority of the load, but it was very nice seeing our (underclassmen) stepping up when they needed to."
Senior attackers Landon Trout and Bryce Keaton led the Panthers offensively.
Trout had 71 goals and 34 assists, Keaton added 48 goals and 21 assists, and they were named first- and second-team all-region, respectively.
Junior defender/long-stick midfielder Evan Hellmich also was first-team all-region.
Senior defender Glenn Southward was second-team all-region, and senior attacker Blake Coleman and junior goalkeeper Hayden Drennan (159 saves, 147 goals allowed) were honorable mention all-region.
North went 4-3 in the OCC-Central to finish fourth, behind co-champions Coffman, Davidson and UA (all 6-1) and ahead of Central (3-4), Gahanna (2-5), Marysville (1-6) and Newark (0-7).
Seeded seventh in the 19-team Division I, Region 3 tournament, North defeated 10th-seeded Central 12-5 in a second-round game May 17 at home before losing 17-4 at second-seeded Coffman in a regional quarterfinal May 20.
Other players eligible to return include freshman midfielder Keaton Trout.