Even before she catapults into the air, Jessie Kinder knows if her pole vault is a keeper.
More often than not this season, Kinder has been happy with her efforts, but she isn't satisfied.
The Pickerington High School North senior entered the OCC-Ohio Division track and field meet tied for the area's third best vault of the season at 11 feet. Kinder is hopeful that she can add at least another foot during the next few weeks, which not only would give her the program record but also likely put her in contention to compete at her first Division I state meet.
"I know right before my plant whether it will be a good vault. When I plant, I can just feel it all come together," said Kinder, a Murray State recruit. "The biggest thing is to make sure your run is explosive. To set up on a good vault, you have to have good arms. As long as your plant is good, then the rest will come into action, I guess. You feel like you're getting a green light. If it feels good, you'll be fine."
Kinder won the title in the league meet that concluded May 12 at Dublin Coffman with a vault of 10-9, helping the Panthers score 97 points and place fourth behind Gahanna (164), Lancaster (123) and Pickerington Central (107) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (23) and Grove City (7). She also placed eighth in the long jump (15-6).
Kinder has trained at Buckeye Pole Vault Academy in Lewis Center since her freshman year.
"It's a strange event when you think about it," girls coach Jim Langenderfer said. "You have to be upside down. It's a huge thing to get over that, and when they do, they turn into very good vaulters."
Kinder called Olentangy's Siobhan Szerencsits, the top vaulter in the area as of last week (12-0) and a Central Michigan recruit, her best friend, but Kinder has a teammate pushing her as well in junior Avery Hart.
Hart reached her lifetime best of 10-6 on April 18 - the same day Kinder vaulted 11-0 - and finished second at the league meet with that height.
"We push each other to do better in practices and meets, and if the other person isn't there, it doesn't feel quite right," Hart said. "I am just as happy when she does well as I do."
The program record is 12-0, set by Meggie Hanzlik in 2008. Kinder was tied for third in program history and Hart was fourth entering the league meet.
North recorded three other runner-up finishes at the league meet. Mayson Bates was second in the 100-meter hurdles (15.06 seconds), Amara Okpalaoka was second in the long jump (16-9) and the 800 relay was runner-up (1:43.75).
Behind wins from Ashwin Briggs in the 800 (1:55.59) and 1,600 (4:13.42) and Tyrik Carter in the 110 hurdles (14.31), the boys team finished fourth (76) behind Central (166), Gahanna (108) and Lancaster (94) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (44) and Grove City (33).
Finishing second for the Panthers were Matt Duvall in the 3,200 (9:23.75), Zhane Wallace in the long jump (21-5 1/4), the 400 relay (43.51) and the 3,200 relay (7:59.68).
Both teams are competing in the Division I district meet this week at Hilliard Darby.
The boys are in district 2, for which field events took place May 15, followed by preliminaries for running events May 16 and running finals Saturday, May 19. The girls are in district 3. Field event finals were May 16, followed by running preliminaries Thursday, May 17, and finals for running events May 19.
The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional meet Wednesday, May 23, and May 25 at North. At regional, the top four finishers in each event qualify for state June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
Kinder plans to focus on the pole vault for the postseason, but said one of her college coaches recently messaged her about participating in the long jump next year.
"She's such a good athlete that she could do the heptathlon in college if she wanted," Langenderfer said. "She doesn't have off days. It makes you nervous when you are a pole vault coach, high jump coach (or a) throws coach when you see an athlete have a good day followed up by one or two bad ones. But she's always on."
Schroeder reaches district in tennis
Grant Schroeder has been a mainstay atop the boys tennis team's lineup for two years, but until now had never competed at the Division I district tournament.
Schroeder went 4-1 and finished third in a sectional that concluded May 12 at Central. He qualified for district with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Logan's Nicholas Kudlapur on May 10 and beat St. Charles' Patrick O'Neil 1-6, 6-0, 6-1 in the third-place match May 12.
The senior had advanced to district-qualifying matches each of the previous two seasons but never further.
"It's one last go. I had to give it my all," said Schroeder, who said he has had a stronger first serve this season. "It feels awesome. It's been a goal since freshman year. It's been a very tough year. (Playing) first singles is quite challenging. You get everybody's best player. It's been rough, but I've saved it all for this."
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district Thursday, May 17, at Hilliard Bradley and Saturday, May 19, at Upper Arlington.
"If anybody deserves to go to district, it's certainly him," coach Brian Hoff said. "He's had some tough draws in the past and he was tired before the (qualifying) match started. He fought back. He was tired from the get-go (May 10). We just haven't had this kind of heat and I am not sure he's played a full three-set match all year. Three matches in one day can take a lot out of you. But he overcame that."
Also competing but failing to advance were singles players Sam Marrison (1-1 at sectional) and Evan Ross (0-1) and the doubles teams of Balakrishna Brahmandam and Vamsi Vanguri (2-1) and Theo Miller and Ethan Reece (1-1).
North lost to Bexley 3-2 on May 8 to finish 8-7 in dual matches.
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.
Softball season ends in semifinal
The softball team's season came to an end May 14 with a 10-2 loss to third-seeded Lancaster in a Division I district semifinal at North.
The Panthers, who finished 12-12 and were seeded 24th, were appearing in their first district semifinal since 2015.
North advanced with a 6-3 win at 14th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in a second-round game May 9, as Casey Madison gave up 13 hits but stranded seven runners on base, including five in scoring position.
Baseball team falls to Braves
Despite a five-inning, two-hit performance from pitcher Mitchell Smith, the baseball team lost to ninth-seeded Olentangy 4-2 in a Division I district semifinal May 15 at Darby.
Smith struck out three as 19th-seeded North finished 16-11.
The Panthers advanced with a 3-2 win at 13th-seeded Canal Winchester in the second round May 9. Jaret Wilcox's two-run double in the first inning May 9 set the tone as North scored all of its runs in the first, and Smith struck out four and allowed seven hits in a complete-game win.
Boys volleyball team seeks strong finish
The boys volleyball team won four of its final five OCC-Ohio matches to finish 6-6 in the league, and three consecutive wins overall last week put the Panthers above .500 entering the final week of the regular season.
North was 12-11 overall before participating in the OCC Challenge on May 15 at Darby. The Panthers defeated Coffman 25-20, 26-24, 25-19 to end league play May 8, then edged Worthington Kilbourne 25-12, 21-25, 17-25, 25-17, 15-9 on May 11 and Westerville North 25-20, 25-16, 21-25, 25-20 on May 12.
The win over Westerville North put the Panthers above .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 after a 22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-16 win over Central on April 12.
North earned the 10th seed in the 20-team Division I East Region tournament and will play 11th-seeded Upper Arlington in the second round Saturday, May 19, at Darby. The winner will face top-seeded Darby, fourth-seeded Mount Vernon or 20th-seeded Delaware in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 22, at Darby.
The regional final is May 25 at Westerville Central.
North split two OCC-Ohio meetings with UA, losing 25-20, 25-20, 25-16 on April 19 and winning 12-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-22 eight days later, and defeated Mount Vernon 25-17, 19-25, 28-26 on April 7 before losing to the Yellow Jackets 25-18, 25-11, 25-14 on April 28.
Lacrosse teams prep for tourneys
The boys and girls lacrosse teams began their respective postseasons with a home doubleheader May 15.
Seeded 10th of 19 teams in Division I, Region 3, the boys were 7-8 before playing host to 13th-seeded Beavercreek in a second-round game.
The winner visits top-seeded UA or 16th-seeded Miamisburg in a quarterfinal Friday, May 18. That winner will play host to a regional semifinal against fifth-seeded Hilliard Davidson, sixth-seeded Westerville Central, seventh-seeded Darby or 19th-seeded Newark on Tuesday, May 22.
The regional final is May 25 at a neutral site.
North lost to UA 16-3 on April 12, lost to Davidson 16-3 on April 17 and fell to Westerville Central 10-9 on April 20.
The girls were seeded eighth of 17 teams in Region 3 and played host to 11th-seeded Centerville in the second round. North finished the regular season at 10-6 with a 13-12 win over Westerville North on May 11.
The winner plays top-seeded UA or 12th-seeded Beavercreek in a quarterfinal May 18. That winner will play host to a regional semifinal against fourth-seeded Springboro, sixth-seeded Dublin Scioto, 10th-seeded Darby or 13th-seeded Davidson on Monday, May 21.
The regional final is May 24 at a neutral site.
North lost to UA 19-1 on April 12 but defeated Davidson 12-3 on April 17 and Beavercreek 6-4 on April 21.