As their teams mugged for pictures with the championship trophies following the Division I regional track and field meet May 25 at Pickerington High School North, the coaches for Pickerington Central's boys and Gahanna's girls preferred to look at the big picture.
"The guys were a little upset that we got second here last year (to eventual state champion Thomas Worthington) but while I'm happy for the kids and the great effort they put forth, I've told them over and over again that's not about winning today, it's about qualifying people to the state (meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State)," Central coach Jason Roach said.
The Tigers amassed 97 points to easily outscore runner-up Olentangy Orange (60.5). Central also won the title in 2016.
Central put up big-pointers all over the scoreboard with a one-two finish in the 300-meter hurdles by Evan Mathews (37.57 seconds) and Crockett Schooler (38.17), a win by Matt Scrape in the 3,200 (9:10.4) and dominating performances by the victorious 800 (1:26.84) and 1,600 (3:16.15) relays.
Gahanna amassed 84 points to capture its fourth consecutive girls regional title. Pickerington Central (50) was runner-up.
The Lions opened the meet May 23 with an amazing performance in winning the 3,200 relay and closed it by taking the 1,600 relay. The 3,200 relay time (9:01.23) from Shynae Deas, Allison Groves, Claire Steigerwald and Madison Martinez set a regional record and ranks No. 2 in the U.S. Alexis Thigpen joined Deas, Groves and Martinez in the 1,600 relay (3:49.3).
"I'm really, really happy with our performance, but as a coach you tend to dwell on the spots that you wanted to qualify to the state but didn't," Gahanna coach Roger Whittaker said. "We made a few mistakes, blips or whatever you call it today, we just won the strongest region in Ohio by far for the fourth time. We earned it. We have a lot of quality weapons to make a run for it next week at the Jesse (Owens Memorial Stadium)."
Martinez also won the 800 (2:09.51).
"I like the 800. It's super fun being on those relays because it's a team thing," she said. "Our team is based on relays and the atmosphere on them is just super. We can't wait until next week."
Despite the toasty weather, the meet produced a slew of superlative performances.
The boys standout was LaCarr Trent of Gahanna, who won the 100 (10.71) and 200 (21.52) and also ran on the first-place 400 relay (41.92).
"I'm a little more confident in the 100 because my start is really good, but I was especially fired up about the 200 because people doubted me after Tim Rumas (of Big Walnut) ran 21.22 in the prelims," Trent said. "I fed off the underdog role in that race. I've got to admit it feels good to be the king of sprints in the regional, but next week is where legacies are made and Gahanna has a really rich tradition of sprinters."
Brandon Mosher of Big Walnut swept the weight events, winning the shot put (56 feet, 4 1/4 inches) and discus (162-4). Mosher will compete at Ohio State.
"I really have my mind set on throwing 60 in the shot next week," Mosher said. "I fouled on a 61 today so I know I have it in me."
On the girls side, Hope Purcell of Lancaster turned in a rare feat by winning four individual events. Purcell, a senior Indiana signee, won the high jump (5-6), long jump (18-4 1/4), 100 hurdles (14.40) and 300 hurdles (43.09). The defending state long jump champ, Purcell plans to compete in the heptathlon at Indiana.
"My coach (Joe Muck) said that was his plan for me to win four events, but I don't ever think that way," Purcell said. "I was especially excited to PR in both hurdles races. I'm always pretty confident in my jumps."
Multiple-time state champion Abby Steiner of Dublin Coffman, who hopes to cement her legacy as the most decorated female athlete the state has ever seen, won the 100 (11.76) and 200 (24.02). The senior Kentucky soccer/track signee, however, tweaked a hamstring during the prelims May 23 and was forced to scratch from the 800 relay -- an event that Coffman won a year ago with Steiner on the anchor.
"It's pretty sore and tight, but now I have a week to get healthy," Steiner said.
Sioban Szerencsits of Olentangy broke a meet record with a state-leading 13-5 effort in the pole vault. She made three decent attempts at a state record height of 13-7 (the record is 13-6 1/4 by Anna Watson of Olentangy Orange).
"Getting the regional record was in the back of my head," Szerencsits said. "I've trained with Anna and we shared texts already tonight. I think I'm just as proud of clearing the bar on the first attempt at every height except 13-7. I hope to have another round like that next week and, hopefully, get Anna's record."
Worthington Christian boys win Division III regional
The Worthington Christian boys squad won the first running event — the 3,200 relay — and used its depth to capture the team title in the Division III regional May 23 and 25 at Fairfield Union.
The Warriors totaled 70 points to outdistance runner-up Columbus Academy (65) as 35 teams scored. Other local teams scoring were Grandview (tied for eighth, 27 points), Africentric (tied for 13th, 18), Tree of Life (19th, 12) and Ready (21st, 10).
Luke Smith, Jake Bertelsen, Taylor Vallangeon and Kyle Smith ran on the first-place 3,200 relay (8:07.52) for the Warriors. Jordan Jackson won the 400 (49.63) for the team’s only other championship.
Nicholas Robie won the 1,600 (4:28.45) for Academy and was on the champion 1,600 relay (3:24.82) with Angus Soderberg, Nicholas Watson and Karibi Hart. David Barren, Sam Massick, Harry Mills and Hart comprised the first-place 400 relay (43.54).
Africentric’s Anthony Bowman won the high jump (6-4).
Mount Gilead (62) won the girls team title ahead of runner-up Wheelersburg (54) and third-place Academy (42) as 50 teams scored. Other local teams scoring were Worthington Christian (eighth, 27), Grandview (ninth, 23), Africentric (tied for 13th, 18), Grove City Christian (10th, 20), Delaware Christian (19th, 12) and Village Academy (45th, 2).
Academy’s Khloe Dubenion won the discus (120-10), and the Vikings’ 1,600 relay was first (4:03.9) with Hannah Clay, Annalise Grammel, Samantha Kass and Regan Cornelius.
Worthington Christian’s 800 relay of Emily Hall, Ashley Hall, Emma Kasich and Mianna Hartings won in 1:47.16.
Delaware Christian’s Lyssi Snouffer won the high jump (5-6).