Walking into the Olentangy Orange High School gymnasium, track and field coach Adam Walters notices something is missing. However, that is about to change.
The boys team will join the other squads at the school that have a banner on the gym wall honoring them for a top-four state finish.
In fact, athletics director John Betz will be ordering two additional banners before he leaves to take the same position at Berlin. Along with recognizing the baseball program for reaching a Division I state semifinal, he will make sure the boys track team is honored for finishing fourth in the Division I state meet, which concluded June 3 at Ohio State.
"The kids get excited about it," Betz said. "They know that the white banner means they have made the big time. The white banners are different than anything else on the wall."
The Pioneers finished a program-best fourth (25 points) at state as 80 teams scored. The top five teams were from the Central District, with Thomas Worthington (36) winning ahead of Gahanna (31), Canal Winchester (29), Orange and Reynoldsburg (24).
"I asked Mr. Betz about it and he said we would get (a banner)," said Walters, who completed his fourth season leading the boys. "It's the perfect end to a great season. It's the most fun we've had at state."
Senior Hunter Moore won the 3,200 meters in a program-record 8 minutes, 58.47 seconds, and junior Jayden Rodgers was runner-up in the 110 hurdles in 14.09 after setting a program record of 14.01 in his preliminary heat.
Senior Tommy Heiden, sophomore Christian Wright, junior Tyler King and senior T.J. Coates were on the sixth-place 1,600 relay (3:21.18). Rodgers joined Coates and juniors Joel Sarpong and Kevin Acheampong to finish seventh in the 800 relay (1:29.27).
Missing on both relays was sophomore Zach Harrison, who suffered a strained hamstring during the opening day of state June 2.
Moore joined Heiden, King and sophomore Andrew Schroff on the seventh-place 3,200 relay (program-record 7:49.39).
The 400 relay of junior Brandon Ransom, Coates, Sarpong and Rodgers was 11th (42.69), and senior Nate Roush was 12th in the pole vault (13 feet, 6 inches).
In the regional meet May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North, the Pioneers were third (62) behind Thomas (73) and Pickerington Central (67) as 37 team scored.
On May 20, Orange won the title in the 15-team district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby with 124 points, outdistancing runner-up Reynoldsburg (92).
The Pioneers won the OCC-Buckeye Division meet May 11 and 13 at home with 187 points, ahead of Westerville South (117), Olentangy (84), Liberty (60), Westerville Central (42) and Westerville North (20). They won the OCC-Capital title last year.
"We're going to lose some good seniors like Hunter and T.J., but we have a lot of good kids coming back," Walters said. "Now that we have seen how well we can do at the state level, we could have a really fun season next year. I feel we can make a run (for state titles) in our relays as well. There's no doubt that we will have high expectations next year."
Girls team expects
The girls track team won its third consecutive league championship and will lose some key senior leaders, but Walters believes it will show continued improvement next season.
Orange tied Strongsville for 13th (14) at state behind champion Cincinnati Withrow (58) as 62 teams scored.
Senior Anna Watson finished second in the pole vault after losing to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit's Allie Stern in a jump-off. Both cleared 13-1 but needed four jumps to determine the champion. Watson, an Indiana recruit, won the pole-vault title as a junior and set the state record of 13-6 1/4 on May 16 in the district 2 meet at Darby.
"I have coached the girls team for four years and this group of seniors is my first four-year group," Walters said. "Anna, Brynna (Johnson), Angel (Frye) and Tiere (Richardson) were all big leaders for us. Finding girls to replace their leadership will be the toughest thing."
Sophomore Allison Guagenti was third at state in the 1,600 in a program-record 4:48.23, and sophomore Grace Frye finished 11th in the discus (120-4).
The Pioneers were second (97.5) of 16 teams in the district 2 meet behind Gahanna (158.5) and won the OCC-Buckeye with 155.67 points, ahead of Central (132.33), Liberty (96), South (59) and Olentangy and North (both 40). They won OCC-Capital titles the past two seasons.
Sophomores Brenda Agyekum (sprints, relays), Mackenzie Blendick (hurdles), Lindsay Ott (middle distance, relays) and Elizabeth Schneider (middle distance, relays) and freshman Ahtiona Carter (sprints, relays) are other key performers expected to return.
"Our sophomore class is extremely strong and we expect to return quite a bit of girls," Walters said. "It should be a lot of fun to see how much we can improve in the offseason."
Boys lacrosse team
grew during season
The boys lacrosse team had an inexperienced roster that continued to improve during the season as it finished 13-6 overall.
The third-seeded Pioneers lost at second-seeded Olentangy 14-2 on May 24 in a Division I, Region 1 semifinal. They defeated 12th-seeded Brunswick 18-4 on May 17 in the first round and ninth-seeded Westlake 7-4 on May 20 in a regional quarterfinal.
Orange tied New Albany and Olentangy for second (5-2) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Liberty (7-0) and ahead of Central (3-4), North (2-5), Big Walnut (1-6) and South (0-7).
"We started with a relatively inexperienced team that learned and grew throughout the season," first-year coach Patrick Boyce said. "They realized in order to achieve our goals we needed to play as a team, not as individuals."
Nick Brandt (Region Attacker of the Year, first-team all-league), goalkeeper Mitch Clifford (second-team all-region), defender Hunter Knipp (first-team all-region and all-league), midfielder Josh Rochon (second-team all-region) and midfielder Adam Scherman (second-team all-region) led a seven-player senior class.
The top players expected to return include juniors Cooper Durst (midfielder; honorable mention all-region), Ryan Forbes (midfielder; honorable mention all-region), Mason Handa (attacker; honorable mention all-league), Lake Harris (midfielder; Region Face-off Specialist of the Year, first-team all-league) and Luke Schmeling (attacker; second-team all-region and all-league).
"The future looks bright for the program despite losing some exceptional seniors," Boyce said. "The lessons they were able to share with our younger players will be invaluable next season."