Despite missing two of its top athletes for at least a portion of the City League meet because of injury, the Northland High School girls track and field team won its third consecutive championship.
The Vikings are hoping the depth that helped them achieve their seventh league title in 11 seasons also helps them in the Division I, district 1 meet this week at Hilliard Darby. The meet began May 15, continues Thursday, May 17, and concludes Saturday, May 19.
The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional meet Wednesday, May 23, and May 25 at Pickerington North.
Jeana Weatherspoon missed the opening day of the City meet May 7 at Africentric but returned for the running finals May 9 to help Northland score 101 points. Whetstone (85) was second, followed by Beechcroft (81), Centennial (68.5), Eastmoor Academy (64), East (45), the host Nubians (43), Walnut Ridge (36), Briggs (28), South (25), Mifflin (20), Independence (11), Linden-McKinley (5) and Marion-Franklin (3.5).
Winning City titles for Northland were Jordan Saffold in the high jump (4 feet, 10 inches) and the 3,200-meter relay of Isabella Alberto, Oajah Alcorn, Michole Martinez and Tyra Thomas (10 minutes, 31 seconds).
"What we try to do is gather up as many points as we can," Saffold said. "It was hard. I'm happy that Jeana did come back (May 9). It was a lot of reassurance for me since I had one of my rocks back."
The Vikings' Charlea Henley missed the entire City meet with an injury but was expected to return for the postseason after joining Saffold, Weatherspoon and Iyanna Ross on the 800 relay that placed fourth at state last season. Ross now competes for Pickerington Central.
Henley also placed sixth at state in the long jump a year ago.
Weatherspoon competed in City finals on the runner-up 400 relay (50.42), the second-place 800 relay (1:47.96) and the fourth-place 1,600 relay (4:30.75), while Saffold added a third-place finish in the 100 (12.57).
Alcorn placed second in the 1,600 (4:45.29), third in the 800 (2:33.62) and fourth in the high jump (4-2), Sha'ekia Jackson was fourth in the long jump (15-2), Martinez was third in the 3,200 (13:48.24), fourth in the 800 (2:35.34) and fourth in the 1,600 (6:05.93) and Shaniya Samuel was fourth in the 300 hurdles (51.31).
"We only got two firsts, but I told the girls that second and third place is better than first when you combine the points," coach Tom Fast said. "We hope to have Jeana and Charlea back to try to get them to state again."
The top individual point scorer at the City meet was Beechcroft's Makiya Montgomery, who won the 100 (12.13) and 200 (24.66) and ran on the winning 400 relay with Larissa Bronte-Agbor, Jaymie Roberts and Zha'Mia Vick (50.42) and the winning 800 relay with Amara Allen, Bronte-Agbor and Vick (1:46.68).
Beechcroft is competing in the Division II, district 1 meet that began May 15, continued May 16 and concludes May 19 at Westerville North.
Montgomery entered the postseason as defending state champion in the 100. She also was runner-up in the 200 and placed fourth in the 400 at state last season.
"It feels amazing just to be here with my team to run again at the (City) championships," Montgomery said. "I'm thankful. I haven't (run) 24 (seconds) all season (in the 200), so I'm getting back into it. I'm getting my 100 time back down."
Also winning girls City titles were Africentric's Alexia Smith in the long jump (16-3), East's Azana Draughon-Williams in the discus (116-5), South's Kennedy Stokes in the shot put (32-7) and Walnut Ridge's Naveah Reaves in the 3,200 (13:24.38).
Eastmoor boys add to City title streak
The Eastmoor boys track and field team continued its dominance in the City by winning its eighth consecutive league title, but coach Jason Lewis doesn't believe it's getting easier for his program.
"It's a credit to this senior class and the guys that came before because they've been awesome," Lewis said. "But Northland was great. This City meet, pound for pound, this has been (the toughest) field when you look at how fast the times were."
Eastmoor scored 160 points in the league meet held May 7 and 9 at Africentric to finish well ahead of runner-up Northland (118), which had its best showing in the City meet since 2005.
Walnut Ridge (65) was third, followed by Mifflin (55), Whetstone (53), Centennial (41), East (38), Africentric (36), Marion-Franklin (25), Linden (12), Briggs (5), Beechcroft (4), South (2), Independence (1) and West (1).
Eastmoor's Omavi Hamilton won his fourth City championship in the 1,600 (4:32.67) and also finished first in the 3,200 (10:15.28), while teammate Chris Chandler was runner-up in both the 1,600 (4:36.85) and 3,200 (10:15.43).
Also winning titles for the Warriors were Ira Graham in the 300 hurdles (40.96), the 1,600 relay of Tariq Brown, Roshaun Harper, Sean Hathorn and Weslee Prater (3:24.09) and the 3,200 relay of Chandler, Hamilton, Hathorn and Bushra Bonkiye (8:01).
Eastmoor is competing in the Division I, district 3 meet that began May 16, continues Thursday, May 17, and concludes Saturday, May 19, at Darby.
"(Winning another City title) feels good," Bonkiye said. "It's a very special, very strong junior class and a very strong senior class, especially with our distance."
Northland was led by Kalil Branham, who won the 400 (48.7) and 110 hurdles (15.41) but was unable to finish the 200 because of an injury, and Mike Williams, who finished first in both the 100 (10.97) and 200 (22.16).
J.J. Branham, Kalil's brother, won the shot put (45-11) and placed fourth in the discus (110-8).
Also winning for Northland were the 400 relay (43.27) and 800 relay (1:29.54), while Jesse Prewitt III was runner-up in the long jump (21-3/4) and placed third in the high jump (5-10), Jordan McCall was third in the discus (111-6) and the 3,200 relay placed fourth (8:45.5).
Northland is competing in the Division I, district 2 meet that began May 15, continued May 16 and concludes May 19.
"I'm just really impressed," Vikings coach Gerald Baker said. "We had some unbelievable performances (in the City meet), and as a team we finished higher than we have in 13 years. Kalil is unbelievable. It was bittersweet for him because the 200 is his favorite race and really the race he's the best at."
Also winning City titles were Africentric's Anthony Bowman in the high jump (6-2), Mifflin's Aman Thornton in the 800 (1:55.24) and Walnut Ridge's Greco Battles in the long jump (22-10 3/4).
Phillips to coach Linden football team
Andrew Phillips is ready to take a shot at rebuilding a Linden football program that hasn't had a winning season in nearly two decades after being named coach May 4.
It won't be the first time he's been a part of a reclamation project.
During one of his first coaching ventures, Phillips was an assistant at Millersport in 2002 when the Lakers made their only playoff appearance in program history.
He spent the past two seasons as an assistant under Mark Solis at Olentangy, which went 15-8 with Phillips on staff and has made four consecutive playoff appearances.
"I'm really excited to take over the Linden-McKinley football team," Phillips said. "The athletics director (Walter Dudley) really backed me and I've met with the kids twice now, and they're really excited for a new change and a new look."
Linden has proven to be a tough place to build a program. The Panthers' last winning season was 2001, when they finished 6-4. They went 7-23 under former coach Eric Stone from 2006-08, 11-49 in six seasons under Aaron Owens from 2009-14 and 5-25 the past three seasons under Jason Ryan.
Ryan, a former St. Charles assistant who utilized a run-based offense that sometimes featured the option, stepped down over the winter.
The Panthers went 2-8 overall and 0-6 in the City League-North Division last fall, with wins over South (12-6 on Sept. 8) and the Reigning Sports Academy club team (20-6 on Sept. 15).
Phillips is a 1993 Lakewood graduate who went on to play for East Carolina before completing his collegiate career at Heidelberg. In addition to Millersport and Olentangy, he also had tenures as an assistant coach at Harvest Prep, Lakewood, Northridge and Westerville North.
Phillips has been a special education teacher at Olentangy Berkshire Middle School the last two years but could end up on the teaching staff at Linden.
Jamal Luke, who was a member of Ohio State's 2002 national championship team, and former East head coach and Reynoldsburg assistant Eric Smith are expected to be among those on Phillips' coaching staff.
At Olentangy, Phillips coached the defensive line and was one of the defensive coordinators.
Linden's participation numbers last fall were in the 20s, but Phillips had 62 potential players come out for an interest meeting earlier this month and is hoping that's a positive sign.
"I know it's going to be a challenge, but it's nothing I haven't dealt with before," said Phillips, who plans to run a spread offense. "Right now, I'm going to try to get numbers. With (Berkshire) being out of school two weeks earlier (than Columbus City Schools), I'm going to recruit (at Linden). With the juniors coming back, they wanted more of a family environment. I told them that the coaches are going to lift with you. When I was at Harvest Prep, (former coach) Jack (Johnson) made us lift with the kids and the kids trusted us. I think I've put together a pretty good staff."
City title games held in baseball, softball
The Briggs baseball team will play at Whetstone in the City League championship game Thursday, May 17, after winning its 11th consecutive South Division title.
The last time the Bruins won the City title game was 2008. They enter the matchup at 15-10 overall after going 14-0 in the City-South.
On May 16, the Eastmoor softball team played Centennial or Whetstone for the City title. The Warriors beat Centennial 13-5 in last year's City final.