After getting nosed at the line by a scant 0.11 of a second by champion Mason in the Division I girls 3,200-meter relay state championship race a year ago, Gahanna was taking no prisoners this time around.
In fact, anchor Madison Martinez was thinking about nothing else but setting the state record as she coasted alone down the backstretch of her final lap June 1 in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
"I was watching the scoreboard and I had coaches yelling times at me every 200 meters," Martinez said after the Lions ran 8 minutes, 53.49 seconds to smash Mason's 1-year-old mark of 8:56.62. The time ranks No. 1 in the nation this year by some 3.6 seconds.
"We knew exactly what our goal was and what we hoped to achieve," Martinez said. "Everyone on the team had individual goals they wanted to meet to make it happen."
Shynae Deas, Allison Groves and Claire Steigerwald ran the first three legs. The Lions were in front from the third lap in the race. Steigerwald — a long-distance specialist by trade — stretched the lead significantly on her third leg.
"We knew if we got the stick to Madison in good position we'd be set because she's very difficult to beat," Steigerwald said.
Two other central Ohio teams also ruled the 3,200 relay on the opening day of competition at the storm-delayed meet.
With the same foursome it used to win the Division II relay last year, Worthington Christian repeated the feat in Division III. Twin brothers Kyle and Luke Smith, Jake Bertelsen and Jordan Jackson won easily with a time of 7:50.92 — just 0.27 slower than it ran a year ago.
Primarily a 200-400 specialist, Jackson was added as the anchor just a few hours before the race. It was only the second time he had run the distance this season.
"Coach mentioned something a couple days ago, but wasn't very definitive about it," said Jackson, who had a huge lead when he got the baton from Bertelsen. "I took a little peek behind and was amazed to be so far ahead."
In Division II, Heath — made up of Wyatt McQueen, Nick Lee, Xavier Foehl and Chandler Wilhelm — took the 3,200 relay title with a time of 7:47.56. The Bulldogs moved from fifth to fourth to second, then Wilhelm surged past Vincent Warren anchor Ethan Yost, then withstood a late charge in the final 50 meters for the win. Warren ran 7:48.03.
"I was looking at the scoreboard, and that probably wasn't a good idea," Wilhelm said. "I think I got the idea I was farther ahead than I was. I had no clue that he was getting ready to pass me until the crowd reacted and I had to reach down for a little more."
Added Lee, "We knew we were sitting good coming in. Anytime you have Chandler on the anchor you feel like you can win. But it took everyone to run their best for this to happen."
Allaying any fears that she might be hobbled by a tweaked hamstring a week ago, Dublin Coffman standout Abby Steiner lowered her own meet, stadium and all-time Ohio records in the 100 (11.49) and 200 (23.17) preliminaries. She will attempt to win her fourth 200 title and third 100 title on June 2.
"I don't really look at it as getting the records out of the way," Steiner said. "Coach told me to shut it in the prelims, but I don't like to do that. I see it as a wasted opportunity."
Jonathan Alder took second in the Division II girls 3,200 relay (9:30.92). Chagrin Falls won the race easily.
"We really went after second in the last 200," anchor Lexi Thorpe said. "This was really exciting for all of us."
Anthony Bowman of Africentric was runner-up in the Division III high jump (6 feet 8 inches), surpassing his previous career best by some 3 inches.
"This is my first year of high jumping, but from watching me in basketball, my coach said he knew I could do it," Bowman said. "How did I make such a big improvement? Adrenaline, competition, confidence. I came in here thinking I could win it."
Lyssi Snouffer of Delaware Christian took second in the Division III girls high jump (5-6).
In the Division I boys 3,200 relay, Olentangy Orange placed third (7:44.89). So did Columbus Academy in the Division III race (7:59.45). Mount Gilead also was third (9:34.83) in the Division III girls relay.
Two-time state champion Demtrious Johnson of Northmor failed to defend his Division III long jump title, placing third (21-9 1/2).