With junior Toni Woods still struggling with an injury, the Groveport Madison High School girls track and field team was forced to change its lineup in relays during the Division I, district 2 meet that concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby.
"Toni has been trying to recover for three weeks from a strained left (quadriceps) muscle and since her best chance to qualify for state is in long jump, we made changes in our (400, 800 and 1,600-meter relays) and just had her concentrate on long jump," coach Aaron Fenzel said.
Woods finished second in the long jump (16 feet, 5 inches) to advance to the regional at Pickerington North. The meet began May 23 and concludes Friday, May 25.
The top four finishers in each district event advanced to regional, where the top four qualify for the state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
The 400-meter relay of Atanna Gunnell, Chenise Smith, Madi Young and Emily Allen finished fourth in 50.75 seconds to advance, while the same four finished the 800 relay in 1:47.33 to place fifth and miss a regional berth by 0.26.
"I'm happy considering the way the season went that we were able to piece the (400 relay) together to advance," Fenzel said. "The 800 relay got beat at the very end, but I was proud of those girls for persevering. They got through it and almost made it to regionals. In the (400 relay), we moved Emily from third leg to anchor and added Madi in there. The good news is that all four of those girls return (next season). Atanna and Chenise are freshmen and Madi and Emily are juniors. We also had another freshman, Danasha Winfield, in the (400 relay) prelim."
The 400 relay competed in the regional preliminary May 23, while Woods will compete in the long jump Friday, May 25.
"Toni gets a few extra days to try to recover and get healthier and hopefully that will be enough time that she can be on top of her game and make it to state," Fenzel said.
The Cruisers finished eighth (26) of 16 teams at district, behind champion Gahanna (164).
Also scoring were Gunnell in the 100 (sixth, 13.55) and 200 (seventh, 28.15), Allen in the 200 (sixth, 28.74) and Melanie Torres in the 3,200 (eighth, 12:45.93).
The boys team did not have any regional qualifiers. The Cruisers finished 15th (10) of 16 teams in the district 1 meet, behind champion Pickerington Central (158).
Jalil Underdown was sixth in the 100 (11.69) and joined Kahari Davis, Tyrell Floyd and Esco Davis on the sixth-place 400 relay (44.85) and sixth-place 800 relay (1:33.78).
Keimare Burnett was eighth in the long jump (19-6 1/4).
Bad inning dooms softball team's quest
One bad inning thwarted the softball team's quest to play in a third consecutive Division I district final, as sixth-seeded Gahanna scored five runs in the third en route to a 7-3 win over the fourth-seeded Cruisers in a semifinal May 14 at Pickerington Central.
"We gave up a couple of walks and had two balls hit over our center fielder's head in that inning," said coach Chris Downing, whose team finished 18-10. "It was a tight but fair strike zone both ways. We're an aggressive hitting team and we changed our approach midway through the game and that seemed to work. We had a lot of baserunners, but unfortunately we left 13 runners stranded."
Lanie White was 3-for-4 with a solo home run in the fifth that pulled the Cruisers to within 6-3, and Makayla Smith was 2-for-4. Groveport stranded runners on second and third in the fifth and left the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh.
"We had our chances," Downing said. "We hit three balls to the fence that were outs because (Gahanna was) playing us so deep. I think we should've probably played our outfielders deeper, too. It was a strange night around the district with almost all of the higher seeds getting upset."
It was a frenzied semifinal round that day, as No. 1 Marysville, No. 2 Central Crossing, Groveport, No. 5 Delaware and No. 7 Hilliard Bradley all lost.
Baseball team had successful season
The baseball team had its most successful season in recent history, as it finished 14-11 overall and 8-7 in the OCC-Capital Division.
It was the Cruisers' first winning season in 14 years.
"It was a very successful season and the goal now is to continue that success for a period of time and to build on it," coach David Eft said. "We are all excited about what we did, although there were a few games we'd like to have back because we think our record could've been that much better."
The Cruisers' season ended May 7 when they fell at 17th-seeded Dublin Jerome 6-4 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. Groveport was seeded 28th of 48 teams.
"We had a small senior class, but it was a good class because most were starters and very productive," Eft said. "They led us to our major goal of a winning season."
Groveport finished fourth in the league behind Big Walnut (12-3), New Albany (11-4) and Canal Winchester (9-5) and ahead of Newark (4-10) and Franklin Heights (0-15).
The Cruisers beat Big Walnut in one of their three meetings, 4-2 on May 1. They also went 1-2 against Canal Winchester, winning 10-0 on April 6 and losing 2-1 on April 10 and 3-2 on April 27.
The seniors included starters Caleb Caldwell (RF/P), Daniel Fairchild (CF/P) and Luis Pantoja (3B/P) as well as Chase Milner (RF).
Fairchild batted a team-high .437 with a team-best 23 runs scored, and he also had 13 RBI. Pantoja batted .390 with 22 runs, nine RBI and a team-high seven doubles, and Caldwell batted .295 with 15 RBI and six doubles.
On the mound, Pantoja went 4-1 with a save and posted a 1.41 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. Primarily relievers, Caldwell was 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA in 13 innings and Fairchild was 0-1 with two saves and a 3.81 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.
Pantoja and Fairchild were named first-team all-league, and Pantoja also was honorable mention all-district.
Expected to return are juniors Logan Marburger (2B) and Logan Mayes (INF/P) and sophomores Caden Lowe (3B/1B/P), Austin Gautier (C), Austin Snyder (SS), Robbie Morgan (C/SS), Colin Rice (P/1B) and Jeremiah Slonaker (LF).
Snyder batted .409 with 14 runs, Marburger batted .306 with 18 runs, Slonaker batted .278 and Gautier batted .250 with 14 runs and 13 RBI.
Lowe was 3-4 with a save and posted a 3.47 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. Rice was 2-1 with a 5.15 ERA in 17 2/3 innings, and Mayes was 2-3 with a 7.00 ERA in 23 innings.
Lowe was named second-team all-league, Gautier was special mention and Snyder was honorable mention.
"We feel really good about what we have coming back next year," Eft said.