Clint Barnett wishes he could turn back the clock and compete all four years for the Hilliard Darby High School boys track and field team.
But Barnett has made the most of his two years with the Panthers, and he's one of eight members of the team who will compete in the Division I state meet Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at Ohio State.
"Coach (Matthew) Fox asked me to give (track) a try last year and I decided I would do it for fun and see how I liked it," Barnett said. "It turns out, I fell in love with the sport. I am going to Xavier next year and I plan to try to join the team as a walk-on. I wish I had gone out for track as a freshman.
"I was always big into football and I did enjoy that, but I only went back to football last fall to be with my teammates and finish what I started. I was really looking forward to this track season."
Barnett finished third in the 100 meters (10.87 seconds) in the regional meet held May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North. He qualified for the finals in the 200 but did not compete because he felt tightness in his quadriceps after running the 100.
"Clint was probably a surprise to a lot of people in central Ohio, but we knew going in he was one of the top guys in (the region)," Fox said. "He would have likely been out in the 200 also if not for a quad strain. We didn't want to risk it because he was already a state qualifier and we wanted him at his best at state."
That didn't sit well with Barnett.
"I was fighting my coaches," he said. "I didn't want to scratch the 200. I wanted to at least medal and maybe be a state qualifier in both events, but they want me to be 100 percent at state. This is just a surreal feeling, to qualify for state in my second year running against some unbelievable sprinters."
Barnett will be joined at state by sophomore Malachi McGill, who will be looking to defend his title in the 800, as well as junior Chris Burkhart in the discus and the 3,200 relay of McGill, seniors Josh Baldridge and Jason Fleishman and freshman Sean Carney.
At regional, McGill (1:54.09), Burkhart (151 feet, 7 inches) and the 3,200 relay (7:56.86) all placed fourth, as the top four finishers in each regional event advanced to state.
"Malachi once again showed what a competitor he is, whether it's the open 800 or the (3,200 relay)," Fox said. "He always leaves it out there and does his all and it usually ends up paying off big time. I'm also very happy for Josh and Jason to finish their careers at state.
"Chris has proven himself to be a big-meet thrower. He always rises to the occasion and gives his very best. All of the boys did well, not just the ones who advanced. We finished in the top-10 at regional for the second year in a row."
The Panthers tied for seventh (29 points) behind Pickerington Central (97) as 41 teams scored.
Also competing at regional were Dylan Litreal, who placed fifth in the discus (151-0), and Michael Cornathan, who was fifth in the shot put (51-6).
Sophomores Emma Kowalski and Naomi Walters will represent the girls team at state.
At regional, Kowalski placed second in the shot put (40-1/4) and third in the discus (130-0). Last year at state, she finished eighth in the discus (126-1).
"For only being a sophomore, Emma is one of the most mature throwers I have ever seen," said Fox, who specializes in throws. "She is always focused and in control, showing up to every big situation. Even when she is a little off technique-wise, she can will herself through."
Walters was regional runner-up in the long jump (18-3/4). She will be competing at state as an individual for the first time, but was on the 800 relay that finished 11th at state last season.
"Naomi was solid," girls coach Don Seymour said. "Emma broke 40 (feet) for the first time in the shot put, and we're happy for both of them. Unfortunately, Stacia Rispress just missed in the high jump and Maliyah Ellis had a rare off-day in the long jump. They were disappointed, but I wasn't. Both had great, great seasons.
"They'll come back hungrier next year and reap the fruits of their labor."
Rispress cleared 5-3 in the high jump to tie for fourth place, but lost a jump-off to Big Walnut's Kaley Rammelsberg. Ellis was 10th in the long jump (16-2 3/4).
The Panthers finished 12th (26.5) behind champion Gahanna (84) as 32 teams scored.
Boys volleyball team extends state streak
The boys volleyball team has advanced to the state tournament for the 13th consecutive year.
The top-seeded Panthers defeated Dublin Jerome 25-22, 25-11, 25-10 in a Division I East Regional final May 25 at Westerville Central.
Darby improved to 19-8 and will play Cincinnati St. Xavier in a state quarterfinal at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at Capital. The winner plays Cleveland St. Ignatius or Clayton Northmont in a state semifinal at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 3, at Capital. That winner faces Beavercreek, Cincinnati Moeller, Massillon Jackson or Olentangy in the state final at 4 p.m. June 3.
"Jerome gave us a bit of a challenge in the first game, but we stayed focused and competed as a team and that carried us through," first-year coach Evan Bell said. "... This gets us one step closer to our big goal. We're fired up about the opportunity to get back to Capital.
"This isn't about me. It's about the kids in this program and, although that changes every year, advancing to state never gets old. That is the goal every year."
Darby won state titles in 2013 and 2015 and was state runner-up last season, falling to St. Ignatius 25-18, 26-24, 25-19 in the final.
The Panthers lost to St. Ignatius 25-17, 25-23, 25-19 and fell to Northmont 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 in the Centerville Elite tournament April 28 but defeated Olentangy 25-17, 19-25, 25-21, 25-22 on May 9.
Sophomore setter Noah Platfoot, who was named Player of the Year in the OCC-Cardinal Division as well as in the East Region, missed half of the season with an injury and did not play in the Centerville Elite tournament.
"I think everyone is playing well in general, but (against Jerome), I'd have to say Noah Platfoot was excellent and made wise decisions, Dominic Melchiorre was strong in the middle and Collin Buelow was strong on the outside," Bell said. "We'll need them and everyone on the top of their game to be successful at state against some great programs."