As his team prepared to play in a Division I district final May 19, Gahanna Lincoln High School softball coach Jim Campolo reminded his players about some of the program's accomplishments since he took over in 2001.
Among those were that the Lions had a chance to win a sixth consecutive district title a season after they made their third state tournament appearance under Campolo and fifth overall.
Their focus never waned even after falling behind by five runs in the top of the first inning, as they came back to beat Mount Vernon 13-10 at Pickerington Central.
It was Campolo's 600th career victory, with almost 400 coming with the Lions.
"What we talked about is that this started about 18 years ago and it's snowballed," Campolo said. "You're not playing for yourself; you're playing for our program. They're dependent on you to keep it going.
"The great thing about this game is it's seven innings. If they can score five, we can score five. I knew right off the bat that it was going to be a high-scoring game. We're both really good hitting teams, and as a result you're going to put runs on the board."
The Lions were 18-7 heading into a regional semifinal against Olentangy on May 23 at Ohio State, with the winner to play Westerville Central or Teays Valley in a regional final at noon Saturday, May 26, at the same site.
The regional champion plays Canfield, Willoughby South, Brunswick or Massillon Perry in a state semifinal May 31 at Firestone Stadium in Akron. The state final is June 2 at the same site.
Of the four Central District teams that advanced to the regional, Gahanna was seeded the highest in the district at No. 6. Teays Valley was 10th, Olentangy was 13th and Westerville Central was 19th.
Mount Vernon, which was seeded 15th, allowed two home runs to Addie Kittel and one apiece to Gracey Day and Molly Troutman.
The Yellow Jackets trailed 13-9 heading into the seventh. After cutting it to 13-10, left fielder Ericka Harmon threw out a runner at third base for the game's final out.
"The past couple games we've been (practicing) working from behind," said Kittel, who pitched a complete game in the district final. "This game really helped boost our confidence. (My defense) has done a really good job of backing me up. We really just were on top of the ball all day and got it done."
Girls track team again wins district
The girls track and field team is hoping it ends the week with a fourth consecutive Division I regional championship.
The regional began May 23 and concludes Friday, May 25, at Pickerington North. The top four finishers in each event advance to the state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
In the 16-team district 2 meet that concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby, Gahanna earned its sixth championship in a row as it scored 164 points and won nine events. The top four in each event qualified for regional.
Amariah Thomas won the 100 meters (12.77 seconds) and the 200 (26.51), Alexis Thigpen was first in the 400 (56.55), Madison Martinez won the 800 (2:14.0), Faith Hunter was first in the high jump (5 feet, 5 inches) and Lacey Stringer won the shot put (38-11). Also capturing titles were the 800 relay of Joi Bradley, Shaina Rutledge, Thigpen and Thomas (1:42.79), the 1,600 relay of Shynae Deas, Allison Groves, Thigpen and Thomas (3:57.61) and the 3,200 relay of Deas, Groves, Martinez and Claire Steigerwald (9:07.09).
Earning runner-up finishes were Deas in the 800 (2:14.02), Brooke Johnson in the shot put (37-1 1/2), Martinez in the 1,600 (5:14.99), Steigerwald in the 3,200 (11:36.49) and the 400 relay of Nya Bailey, Trinity Houpe, Rutledge and Zoe White (49.6).
Also advancing were Ciarra Carter in the long jump (fourth, 16-0), Houpe in the 300 hurdles (third, 45.53), Bronte Johnson in the discus (third, 111-2), Rutledge in the 100 (fourth, 12.62) and Steigerwald in the 1,600 (third, 5:15.5).
Boys track team defends district title
The boys track team also defended its district title, scoring 109 points to win the 16-team district 2 meet.
The Lions captured four championships as sprinters Jerome Buckner and LaCarr Trent led the way.
Buckner won the 200 (21.8) and Trent won the 100 (10.93), and both joined Lee Bennett and Alexander Drenski on the first-place 400 relay (41.94).
The 800 relay of Bennett, Drenski, Jayden Hill and Joseph Gathuru also was first (1:29.23).
Earning runner-up finishes were Trent in the 200 (22.08) and the 1,600 relay of Davion Bryan, Drenksi, Hill and Ian Slaughter (3:24.56).
Also moving on to regional were Buckner in the 100 (third, 11.15), Cameron Riddle in the shot put (third, 49-8 3/4), A'Che Sanchez-Baccus in the shot put (fourth, 49-5 1/4), Kelly Wilson in the 110 hurdles (fourth, 15.32) and 300 hurdles (fourth, 40.36) and the 3,200 relay of Donovan Hight, Riley Jackson, Caleb Shovlin and Tyler Story (fourth, 8:09.79).
Volleyball team wins tourney opener
The sixth-seeded boys volleyball team opened the Division I East Region tournament by beating 15th-seeded Pickerington Central 23-25, 25-16, 25-12, 26-24 on May 19 in a second-round match at Olentangy.
The Lions advanced to a regional semifinal against seventh-seeded Olentangy Liberty on May 22 at Olentangy. The winner plays second-seeded Olentangy or eighth-seeded Westerville Central in a regional final at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 25, at Westerville Central.
The state tournament is June 2 and 3 at Capital University.
Gahanna, which lost to Dublin Jerome 29-27, 25-19 on May 15 in the OCC Challenge, was 15-9 before facing Liberty.
Baseball team falls to Bears
On May 16 in a Division I district semifinal at Marysville, the 20th-seeded baseball team nearly upset fifth-seeded Upper Arlington.
The Lions led 7-4 after two innings but gave up one run in the fifth. Then in the bottom of the seventh, the Golden Bears scored three times to win 8-7.
UA then lost to eighth-seeded Lancaster 8-5 in a district final May 17 at Grove City.
The Lions finished 15-11 after earning back-to-back regional runner-up finishes.
"It was a battle between two good baseball teams," coach Mike Shade said. "Both teams fought hard and we knew it was going to be tough."
Girls lacrosse team posts best record
Although the girls lacrosse team beat Pickerington Central 9-5 on April 17, things didn't go in Gahanna's favor in the rematch May 14 in the Division I, Region 3 tournament.
The seventh-seeded Lions lost one of their players early in the game to a second yellow card and also played most of the game without sophomore midfielder Julia Foresi after she suffered a first-half injury.
The ninth-seeded Tigers went on to beat Gahanna 18-9 in the second-round game.
The Lions finished 11-7 overall to set the program record for wins. They went 10-8 last season.
"We lost Julia, which was rough," first-year coach Maggie Maley said. "This is the best record Gahanna has had, so that's cool. We like to be on the up-and-up."
The Lions won their first nine before enduring a five-game losing streak. They closed the regular season with wins in two of their final three, beating Chillicothe 10-4 on May 8, losing to Darby 10-8 on May 9 and beating Westerville South 18-6 on May 11.
Gahanna went 4-2 in the OCC-Central to finish behind UA (6-0) and Dublin Coffman (5-1) and ahead of Pickerington North (3-3), Pickerington Central (2-4), Hilliard Davidson (1-5) and Marys-ville (0-6).
The Lions lose a five-member senior class that was led by midfielder Stephanie Shirey, goalkeeper Samantha Stafford and defender Makina Walt.
Foresi was among the team's leading scorers along with junior attacker Melanie Whalen.
Juniors Sydney Ankrim (midfielder), Elizabeth Babcock (defender), Lexi Bochenek (goalie) and Morgan McIlwain (midfielder), sophomores Izabella Belesovski (attacker), Julie Bray (defender) and Tatum Myers (defender) and freshmen Casey Bare (attacker), Emily Burkhart (defender), Brooke Gates (defender), Anna Linnabary (attacker) and Haley Meheren (goalie) are others eligible to return.
"We had (three freshmen) who played a decent amount, so this was good experience for them," Maley said. "I'm excited for our attack for next year."
Tennis team had strong senior class
Of the boys tennis team's postseason representatives, all but one was a senior.
Seniors Colin Jordan and Daniel Shtein, who played first and second singles, respectively, during the regular season, had their season end with a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Olentangy Orange's Jordan Phelps and Alex Heiden in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 17 at Hilliard Bradley. Phelps and Heiden went on to finish fourth and advance to state.
Jordan and Shtein finished fourth in a sectional May 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg to advance to district.
In singles at sectional, senior Josh Russell lost in the second round, senior Oliver Cope lost in the first round and senior Josh Miller lost in a play-in match.
Senior Connor Barnette and sophomore Kyle Fout lost in the second round in doubles.
Fout spent much of the season at third singles and is the favorite to take over at first singles next season.
In the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament, the Lions lost to New Albany 4-0 on May 14 in a Division I district semifinal to finish 12-5 overall.
Gahanna won a share of its third consecutive OCC-Ohio title, as it tied Pickerington Central and Pickerington North at 4-1, ahead of Lancaster (2-3), Grove City (1-4) and Reynoldsburg (0-5).
"We'll take a share of the title for the third straight year," coach Chris Schwinnen said. "It's been a great season."