A week after all seven of the Pickerington High School North's boys track and field team's athletes who competed in the Division I regional meet qualified for state in an individual or relay event, six found themselves standing on the podium at least once at Ohio State.
The Panthers rode six top-eight finishes to 17 points and a tie with Bedford, Big Walnut and Dublin Coffman for 11th place in the state meet June 1 and 2 behind champion Pickerington Central (58) as 69 teams scored.
The 3,200-meter relay got the weekend off to a strong start with a sixth-place finish (7 minutes, 50.64 seconds) with seniors Ashwin Briggs and Ethan Cale and sophomores Matt Duvall and Hunter Moore.
Briggs, a U.S. Naval Academy recruit and the only Panther with previous state experience, highlighted the weekend with a third-place finish in the 800 (1:53.16).
"You have to be able to calm your nerves. It's a different atmosphere, different type of event that takes some getting used to," Briggs said. "We're all one team. We build off each other. It was good to get back to state."
Briggs led off the relay instead of filling his usual anchor role so that the Panthers could get off to a faster start, a strategy that paid off early as North led after the first leg. Briggs was followed by Moore, Cale and Duvall.
"Our strategy was just to get out as fast as we could because we knew a lot of other teams would run their fastest guys first," said Cale, who was replaced by sophomore Jake Prestileo at regional because of illness. "We needed to get out quick, and that's why Ashwin was in our first spot. We're not upset by any means, but we know we could have done a little better."
Also at state, senior Tyrik Carter placed fifth in the 110 hurdles (14.29), Duvall was seventh in the 3,200 (9:14.62), Moore was eighth in the 1,600 (4:13.97), senior Kavaughn Robinson was eighth in the 100 (11.05) and the 400 relay of Carter, Robinson, junior Jalaun Covington and sophomore Enrique Cabotage was 15th (42.92).
Briggs won the 800 (1:55.59) and 1,600 (4:13.42) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet May 10 and 12 at Coffman and Carter won the 110 hurdles (14.31) to help North score 76 points and finish fourth behind Central (166), Gahanna (108) and Lancaster (94) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (44) and Grove City (33).
In the district 2 meet that concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby, Carter won the 110 hurdles (14.69) and Duvall won the 3,200 (9:34.9) to lead North to 90 points and a second-place finish behind Gahanna (109) as 16 teams scored.
At regional, Briggs won the 800 (1:52.68) as North scored 47 points and finished fourth behind champion Central (97) as 41 teams scored.
Relays lead girls track team at state
Girls track and field coach Jim Langenderfer was not surprised that two relays finished in the top six in the Division I state meet.
The 400 relay of senior Lexi Walker and juniors Alicia Donley, Jemeila Hunter and Celeste Pierce placed fourth (48.04), and Donley, Hunter and Pierce joined junior Nia Grant on the sixth-place 800 relay (1:42.33).
North scored eight points and tied Darby, Geneva, Huber Heights Wayne, North Ridgeville and Olentangy Liberty for 29th behind champion Gahanna (51) as 64 teams scored.
"They ran their best for the last two weeks (leading up to state)," Langenderfer said of the 400 and 800 relays. "I could tell from the looks on their faces how ready they were and they went out there and proved it. That (kind of performance) has been a big goal, but they were pretty pleased with how they did."
Senior Jessie Kinder, a Murray State recruit, tied for 13th in the pole vault (10-6) at state.
North finished fourth (97) in the league meet behind Gahanna (164), Lancaster (123) and Central (107) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (23) and Grove City (7). Winning titles were the 400 relay (49.65) and Kinder in the pole vault (10-9).
In the district 2 meet, freshman Mayson Bates won the high jump (5-2) to help lead North to 109 points and first place ahead of runner-up Liberty (103) as 14 teams scored. Kinder and junior Avery Hart were first (9-8) and second (9-4), respectively, in the pole vault.
At regional, the 800 relay won (1:41.02) and the Panthers scored 37 points to tie Thomas Worthington for seventh behind champion Gahanna (84) as 32 teams scored.
Donley plans to graduate early and attend Tennessee, where she will play soccer.
It was not lost on Langenderfer that OCC-Ohio teams won both the boys and girls Division I team championships.
"Seeing that kind of competition on a regular basis made us better," Langenderfer said. "We're going to enjoy sitting back a little bit and taking some stock in what we accomplished. Our freshman class is very strong and we have some promising sophomores and juniors. We did some great things."