Crockett Schooler of the Pickerington High School Central boys track and field team had so little energy after the OCC-Ohio Division meet concluded May 12 at Dublin Coffman that he couldn't stand for more than 30 seconds.
As the senior found a place to rest after gutting out a grueling win in the 1,600-meter relay, the public address announcer shared that Central's winning of time of 3 minutes, 20.65 seconds -- as well as the 3:20.73 mark from runner-up Gahanna -- broke the conference record of 3:21 that had stood for 38 years.
All Schooler knew was that he felt Gahanna's Jerome Buckner practically breathing down his neck for the entire final leg of the relay, and that the Tigers' win capped a day that saw them steadily pull away to the league title.
"I felt (Buckner) right when I got the baton. I knew he was going to come up on me. I just had to get it home for the team and get it done," said Schooler, who followed Brady Johnson, Zach Robinson and Terry Simuel on the relay. "The attitude was that the big guns would come out (last) week and (this) week (for the Division I, district 1 meet). (District) is when it really counts. We've been pointing at this weekend. We all came together (May 12)."
Six other event wins helped Central amass 166 points to finish well ahead of Gahanna (108), Lancaster (94), Pickerington North (76), Reynoldsburg (44) and Grove City (33).
Individual winners were Malcolm Briley in the long jump (21 feet, 6 1/2 inches), Denzell Feagin in the high jump (6-2), Evan Matthews in the 300 hurdles (38.26), Robinson in the 400 (48.68) and Matt Scrape in the 3,200 (9:20.44). The 3,200 relay finished first in 7:58.9.
Feagin placed second in the 100 (10.73) and 200 (21.6), Matthews was runner-up in the high jump (6-2) and Schooler was second in the 110 hurdles (14.49) and 300 hurdles (38.83).
"The times I got will do until (this) week, then I'll see if I can keep improving," Matthews said. "We're starting to come together. We have to work together on some things here and there, like handoffs and making sure everyone stays healthy."
Led by Jaydan Wood's wins in the 200 (25.18) and 400 (55.3), the girls team scored 107 points in the league meet to finish third behind Gahanna (164) and Lancaster (123) and ahead of North (97), Reynoldsburg (23) and Grove City (7).
Wood also helped the 800 relay finish first (1:42.67) with Dalajah Long, Destinee McGrady and Iyonna Ross. McGrady was second in the 100 (12.26) and third in the 200 (25.75).
"I had a solid day, but I have more work to do to get down to the point I want to be at," said Wood, who did not run until April 27 because of off-track issues. "I definitely feel like not getting as much track time in as usual has affected me, but that also might help me not wearing on my body as much when things really count."
The district meet began May 15 at Hilliard Darby with preliminaries for the running events, followed by field events on Thursday, May 17, and running finals on Saturday, May 19.
The top four finishers in each event advance to regional Wednesday, May 23, and May 25 at North. At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
Mathias, O'Coner return to district
Leyton Mathias and Jeremy O'Coner played first and second singles for the boys tennis team most of the regular season, but the two seniors again are proving to be a solid doubles pairing in the postseason.
Mathias and O'Coner placed fourth in Central's home Division I sectional tournament that concluded May 12 and will compete in their second district tournament Thursday, May 17, at Hilliard Bradley and Saturday, May 19, at Upper Arlington.
Mathias and O'Coner went 2-2 at sectional, losing to St. Charles' Jack Dabek and Reese Yakubov 6-1, 6-0 in the third-place match.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district, where Mathias and O'Coner went 0-1 last year.
"Leyton is more offensive and hits bigger shots than I do. I play a careful style, but I'm more aggressive at the net than he is," O'Coner said. "So when he's at the baseline and I'm at the net, those are our power positions. We can just read each other very well."
Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were singles players Brady Phelps (2-1 at sectional), Stevan Klein (1-1) and Cooper Stang (0-1), and the doubles team of Evan Gibson and Karson Stanley (0-1).
At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the state tournament May 25 and 26 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Central finished the regular season at 16-4 on the strength of a three-match winning streak last week, defeating Olentangy Liberty 3-2 on May 8 before winning twice May 9, 5-0 over Groveport and 5-0 over Westerville North.
Boys volleyball team righting ship
After a rough start, the boys volleyball team continued its best stretch of the season when it defeated host UA 17-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-18 on May 8.
That was Central's third win in five matches dating to a 25-18, 18-25, 25-13, 25-22 win over Hilliard Davidson on April 24. The Tigers were 2-11 before that match and were 5-13 before competing in the OCC Challenge on May 15 at Darby.
The Tigers defeated UA without outside hitter Danny Garate, who missed the match because of a schedule conflict.
"We've been able to push forward and not let mistakes stop our momentum," coach Luke Rininger said. "I am hoping (our schedule) will prepare us for the tournament. Our seed might not be as great as we want, but at the same time, we will go in there with confidence to do better against these better teams."
Central earned the 15th seed in the 20-team Division I East Region tournament and will play 13th-seeded Thomas Worthington in the first round Friday, May 18, at Olentangy. The winner will face sixth-seeded Gahanna in the second round Saturday, May 19, at Olentangy, and that winner will advance into a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 22, at Darby against the host and top-seeded Panthers, fourth-seeded Mount Vernon or 20th-seeded Delaware.
The regional final will be May 25 at Westerville Central.
The Tigers lost to Gahanna 25-16, 25-6, 25-13 on April 9 and 25-17, 25-22, 24-26, 25-11 on April 26 and lost to Mount Vernon 25-14, 25-14 on April 21.
Softball team advances to district final
After outslugging host and eighth-seeded Darby 14-12 in the second round of the Division I district tournament May 9, the softball team needed 10 innings and two home runs to edge 12th-seeded Watkins Memorial 3-1 in a semifinal May 14 at Central.
Zoie Smith hit a two-run home run in the 10th inning and Cami Fisk added a solo homer two batters later for the 16th-seeded Tigers, who improved to 17-5 and will play 19th-seeded Westerville Central in a district final Friday, May 18, or Saturday, May 19, at Central.
Central won despite striking out 22 times against Watkins Memorial pitcher Carly Brandon.
Fisk, Smith, Sophia Slack and Anna Villies all homered against Darby. All were solo homers with the exception of Fisk's two-run blast to highlight a three-run first inning.
The district champion plays Lancaster or Teays Valley in a regional semifinal Wednesday, May 23, at Ohio State.
The regional final is May 26 at OSU.
Central, which is seeking its first district championship since 2013, lost to OCC-Ohio champion Lancaster 13-3 in five innings on April 12 and 8-4 on April 25.
Baseball team plays for district title
The baseball team played for its first Division I district championship since 2001 on May 16 when it faced sixth-seeded New Albany.
Tenth-seeded Central used a three-run second inning and a two-run fourth to hold off 15th-seeded Bradley 5-1 in a district semifinal May 14 at Grove City. The Tigers were 15-9 entering the district final.
Central opened the tournament with a 9-1 win over 24th-seeded Westerville Central in the second round May 9 at home. A.J. Thomas' two-run home run in the first inning and a solo homer in the third got the baseball team moving and a six-run fifth inning blew the game open.
Michael Shinohara struck out four and allowed seven hits in a complete-game performance.
The district champion advanced to a regional semifinal May 24 at Coffman.
Boys lacrosse team wins tourney opener
Mark Carberry's six goals carried the boys lacrosse team to a 12-9 win over 18th-seeded Westerville South in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 12 at home, giving the Tigers their first postseason victory since 2011.
A.J. Terbovich added three goals and goalkeeper Brendan Chong made 13 saves for 11th-seeded Central, which improved to 8-9 and visited third-seeded New Albany in a second-round game May 15.
The winner plays host to fourth-seeded St. Charles or 12th-seeded Centerville in a regional quarterfinal Friday, May 18. That winner visits second-seeded Worthington Kilbourne, eighth-seeded Thomas Worthington, ninth-seeded Westerville South or 14th-seeded Bradley in a regional semifinal Wednesday, May 22.
The regional final is May 25 at a neutral site.
Central defeated Bradley 12-8 in its season opener March 17 during the Ohio Machine High School Showcase at Fortress Obetz.
Girls lacrosse team beats Lions
Eight goals from Grace Osborn and seven from Maddie Morrell carried the girls lacrosse team to an 18-9 win at seventh-seeded Gahanna in the second round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 14.
Seeded ninth of 17 teams, Central improved to 10-8 and advanced into a regional quarterfinal at second-seeded Dublin Jerome on Friday, May 18. The winner plays at third-seeded Thomas or fifth-seeded Coffman in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 21.
The regional final is May 25 at a neutral site.
The Tigers split their final two regular-season games last week, defeating Westerville Central 19-9 on May 8 and losing 20-5 at Olentangy on May 10.