After winning the program's third state championship, the Thomas Worthington High School boys track and field team will need to replace a significant portion of its scoring next season after losing several talented seniors.
"We are losing a lot of talent and leadership off of this year's team and overall we look to be a pretty young group next year," coach Bill Darling said. "Still, we are very excited about the young runners on the team. If they can develop, we should be able to compete in central Ohio next year."
The Cardinals scored 36 points in the Division I state meet held June 2 and 3 at Ohio State to edge runner-up Gahanna (31) as 80 teams scored. They scored in seven of the eight events in which they competed.
Thomas won just one event, as seniors Ty Banks, Joshua Allen and Andrew Morgan and junior Arjun Jha completed the 3,200-meter relay in 7 minutes, 39.86 seconds on the first day of the meet.
Senior Cade Richeson was third in the discus (172 feet, 7 inches) and 14th in the shot put (51-8) and classmate Kainnan Ramsey finished fifth in the 100 (10.81) and seventh in the 200 (21.91).
"Three-fourths of our school-record (3,200 relay) team is leaving via graduation," Darling said. "They were state champions indoors and out and helped establish the new school record of 7:39.86. Cade broke the school record in the shot put (55-9). ... He's going to be tough to replace. He was the best thrower in school history and you don't just replace talent like that.
"Kainnan was all-state in the 100 and 200 in his only season in the sport. He broke the school record in the 100 in 10.65."
Banks and Morgan will compete at Olivet Nazarene University, Richeson will compete at Ohio Wesleyan and Allen will attempt to walk-on at Kent State.
"Kainnan is still weighing his options for next year, but hopes to compete in college," Darling said. "He's considering Ashland and Eastern Michigan."
Other key seniors include Antoine Cole (pole vault) and Zander Wigney (sprints).
"Antoine was runner-up in the OCC meet and at district and finished fifth at regional, the best performance by a Thomas pole vaulter in a long time," Darling said. "He is joining the U.S. Army. Zander was a big points-scorer, mostly in the 400, and will be running next season at Illinois Tech."
Also at state, Jha placed second in the 1,600 (4:09.09), junior Khalil Jones was fifth in the long jump (23-3) and junior Andrew Payne placed seventh in the 3,200 (9:20.02).
"Arjun holds school records in the 1,600 (4:09.09), the 3,200 (9:11.8) and as part of the (3,200) relay," Darling said. "I think Arjun is one of the best runners in the state and will be a cornerstone of the team next year. We are hoping for more great things from him.
"Andy was all-state in the 3,200 indoors and outdoors. He is one of the best two-milers in central Ohio but will be asked to expand his repertoire next year to help his team compete for championships.
"Khalil is a multi-faceted performer. He has performed in 10 events in outdoor track and scored very well in all of them. He was fourth in the state indoors in the triple jump. He went into the outdoor meet seeded ninth in the long jump, but improved by over four inches to finish fifth. He is one of the best all-around track athletes in the state and we are blessed to have him."
The Cardinals also won regional, district and league titles. At regional May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North, they scored 73 points to edge runner-up Pickerington Central (67) as 37 teams scored, with Jha winning the 1,600 (4:10.33) and anchoring the winning 3,200 relay (7:50.3).
In the 15-team district 4 meet that concluded May 20 at Westerville South, the Cardinals (136) won six events to easily beat runner-up Canal Winchester (100.5).
In the OCC-Cardinal Division meet May 11 and 13 at Dublin Coffman, Thomas won nine events en route to 192 points to finish ahead of Hilliard Darby (155), Hilliard Bradley (85), Dublin Jerome (75.5), Delaware (51), Dublin Scioto (44.5) and Kilbourne (22).
Winning league titles were Richeson in the discus (167-5) and shot put (53-7 1/4), Jha in the 1,600 (meet-record 4:16.6) and 3,200 (9:32.08), Ramsey in the 100 (10.78) and 200 (22.09), Jones in the long jump (22-9 3/4), Morgan in the 800 (1:57.56) and the 3,200 relay (7:51.72).
Other key athletes expected to return are juniors Michael Bowen, Antwan Howell, Kace Pleasant and Darrion Wade, sophomore Devin Houdek and freshmen Keegan Ballantyne, James Gaiters and Theory Schroder.
"Theory kept improving every week and eventually worked his way on to the regional-qualifying (1,600 relay)," Darling said. "He had the fourth-fastest 400 time (51.5) among Division I freshmen in the state. James was a very versatile performer. Running mostly on relays, he gained valuable experience and showed tremendous promise. He's going to grow and get stronger for us, and we think his future is bright.
"Keegan showed tremendous potential in the 800 for a freshman. He split somewhere around 2:05, which is a great time for someone that young. He's a big part of our plans in the (3,200 relay) trying to get back to the state meet."
Girls team expects
to return talent
The girls team also is losing some key seniors, but expects to return quite a bit of talent next season.
Seniors Hannah Moulton and Christina Nash were on the 3,200 relay that placed eighth (9:14.63) at state, along with sophomore Gia Napoleon and freshman Cassidy Shaver.
Among other seniors are Kiara Coleman and Kyra Griffith, who were on the sixth-place 800 relay (1:44.04) at regional with sophomores Sarah Charley and Allyicia Diggs-Hall.
Napoleon headlines the expected returnees after winning the state title in the 800 in 2:07.47, marking the fourth-fastest time in Division I state-meet history. The Cardinals totaled 11 points at state to tie three teams for 19th behind champion Cincinnati Withrow (58) as 62 teams scored.
The state-meet and course record is 2:07.27, set by Chardon's Rachel Banks in 2015. The state record is 2:07.04, set by Geneva's Brittani Aveni last season.
At regional, Napoleon won the 800 in a meet-record 2:08.23, breaking the previous mark of 2:10.34 set by New Albany's Taneisha Cordell in 2011, and the 3,200 relay placed fourth (9:20.9).
The Cardinals totaled 33 points at regional to finish fifth behind champion Gahanna (97) as 35 teams scored.
Placing fifth at regional were junior Jazzlynn Gaiters in the 400 (57.93), Charley in the long jump (17-3 1/4) and the 1,600 relay of Napoleon, Charley, sophomore Breanne Beatty and Diggs-Hall (3:54.87). Beatty was seventh in the 300 hurdles (15.64) and junior Lauren Hitt was eighth in the discus (115-8).
Thomas finished third (84) in the 16-team district 2 meet that concluded May 20 at Darby behind Gahanna (158.5) and Olentangy Orange (97.5) and placed second (143) in the OCC-Cardinal meet, behind Darby (189) and ahead of Scioto (91), Delaware (72), Bradley (51), Kilbourne (44) and Jerome (41).
Napoleon won the league title in the 1,600 (4:55.97), setting the school record, the meet record and the overall OCC record, regardless of division. The previous overall mark was 5:00.2, set by Kilbourne's Claire Durkin in 2008.
Also in the league meet, Napoelon won the 800 (2:18.96), was on the winning 3,200 relay (9:26.48) and joined Beatty, Charley and Gaiters on the 1,600 relay that set the meet record (3:59).
Other key athletes expected to return are juniors Haddie Lawler, Moreina Moore and Alix Steele, sophomores JaMeila Brown and TyLisha Roy and freshmen Sarah Anderman, Chloe Engel, Sonia Mustric and Eleanor Weiker.