The Groveport Madison High School girls track and field team wasn't able to extend the postseason into the final week, but the Cruisers already are looking forward to next season as they are losing just two seniors.
Competing in the Division I regional meet May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North, junior Toni Woods finished ninth in the long jump (16 feet, 4 inches) and the 400-meter relay of freshmen Atanna Gunnell and Chenise Smith and juniors Madi Young and Emily Allen finished 11th in 50.75 seconds.
The top four finishers in each event automatically qualified for the state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
"We did pretty well and I was pleased with what we did under the circumstances," coach Aaron Fenzel said. "With Toni still hampered by (a strained left quadriceps), we figured we'd only get two or three jumps from her. She fouled on her first two attempts, but then qualified for finals on her last attempt. She really felt some pain after her second-jump foul and gutted it out to reach the finals. Then she limped through (the finals).
"With her being such an integral part of our (400 and 800 relays), we made changes going into the postseason and those four pulled together quite nicely. They ran the exact time as they did at district. The best part is that almost all of our scoring will be back next year and we feel we could make a run at a league championship."
Woods qualified for regional by finishing second (16-5) in the district 2 meet that concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby, where the top four finishers in each event advanced. The 400 relay placed fourth in 50.75, as the Cruisers scored 26 points to finish eighth of 16 teams, behind champion Gahanna (164).
The same four who comprised the 400 relay finished fifth in the 800 relay (1:47.33), missing a regional berth by .26 of a second. Freshman Danasha Winfield competed with the 400 relay in the preliminary.
Also scoring were Gunnell in the 100 (sixth, 13.55) and 200 (seventh, 28.15), Allen in the 200 (sixth, 28.74) and sophomore Melanie Torres in the 3,200 (eighth, 12:45.93).
In the OCC-Capital Division meet May 10 and 12 at Olentangy Orange, Groveport finished fourth (81), behind Big Walnut (137), Canal Winchester (126) and New Albany (113) and ahead of Newark (50) and Franklin Heights (16).
Gunnell won the league title in the 100 (12.86), while finishing second were Young in the 400 (1:01.5), Torres in the 3,200 (12:47.34), junior Asya Mosley in both the shot put (34-10) and discus (95-11), the 400 relay of Gunnell, Smith, Allen and Winfield (51.64) and the 800 relay of Gunnell, Young, Allen and Smith (1:48.32).
Sophomore Madison Newsome placed third in the shot put (33-10 3/4).
Others expected to return include junior Victoria Williams, sophomore Cherub Clarke and freshmen Emani Anthony and Isabella Burholt.
"Melanie Torres missed our school record in the (1,600) by one second in the league meet and I expect her to set school records in the (1,600 and 3,200) next year," Fenzel said. "We have our top two throwers back in Newsome and Mosley, and Victoria Williams made big strides in the 400 after we moved her from the 800. I just see a lot of talent coming back and we're excited about it."
Young boys team showed growth
Many young athletes were pressed into service for the boys team this spring, leading to a rebuilding season.
The top four expected returnees from last season did not compete for the Cruisers, as three transferred to other school districts and the other was academically ineligible.
"We knew going into this year that we were extremely young, so we tried guys in different events and kind of took it for a test drive," said Jason Brooks, who announced before the season that he would be stepping down after 12 years as coach. "We looked for combinations and strengths and tried to build on them and I think the young boys did pretty well. I think we've got some talent, as long as everyone who should come back does next year. I was happy with the way the freshmen and sophomores responded."
Vincent Gay, the school's cross country coach who headed the distance runners this spring, will take over for Brooks.
"Both of my daughters will be in high school next year and I'm having hip replacement surgery this summer," Brooks said. "It's time to concentrate on being a full-time dad and on my health."
The Cruisers did not have any Division I regional qualifiers and finished 15th (10) of 16 teams in the district 1 meet, behind champion Pickerington Central (158).
At district, freshman Jalil Underdown placed sixth in the 100 (11.69) and joined freshman Kahari Davis and sophomores Tyrell Floyd and Esco Davis on the sixth-place 400 relay (44.85) and sixth-place 800 relay (1:33.78), while sophomore Keimare Burnett was eighth in the long jump (19-6 1/4).
Groveport finished sixth (60) in the OCC-Capital meet, behind Big Walnut (164), Canal Winchester (120), Newark (76) and New Albany (75) and ahead of Franklin Heights (26).
Winning league titles were the 400 relay of junior Tahzmere Givens, Kahari Davis, Esco Davis and Underdown (44.43) and the 800 relay of Kahari Davis, Ford, Esco Davis and Givens (1:32.82).
Finishing second were sophomore Rafael Soler in the 800 (2:03.99) and Underdown in the 100 (11.4), and placing third were Givens in the 300 hurdles (42.74) and junior Peyton Baker in the 1,600 (4:46.74).
Other athletes expected to return include freshmen Jashawn McGraw (throws) and Jon Motton (long jump).