Returning to a familiar formula paid off for the Worthington Christian High School boys track and field team June 1 at the Division III state meet at Ohio State.
At last year's Division II state meet, the 3,200-meter relay of Jake Bertelsen, Kyle Smith, Luke Smith and Jordan Jackson captured the championship in 7 minutes, 50.65 seconds.
The Smith brothers and Bertelsen were joined throughout this year's postseason by junior Taylor Vallangeon and won district and regional championships.
However, minutes before the event at this year's state meet, the Warriors substituted Jackson in for Vallangeon and the results were nearly identical to a season ago as the Warriors ran 7:50.92 to win another title.
The all-senior relay helped Worthington Christian score 38 points to finish third behind East Canton (64) and Smithville (40) as 72 teams scored.
"We didn't know who the lineup would be and we put in Jordan Jackson 20 minutes before the race, but we thought we had it and it ended up all good," Kyle Smith said. "It was very fun."
Kyle Smith placed second in the 800 (1:55.68) and Jackson was runner-up in the 400 (49.04).
Then in the 1,600 relay that closed the meet, senior Ethan Crary and the Smith brothers ran the first three legs and had the Warriors in second place behind East Canton.
In the final leg, Jackson went head-to-head with East Canton's Josh Conrad, who had won the 800 championship, and couldn't quite catch him as the Warriors finished second (3:21.87) behind the Hornets (3:20.9).
"We did good," Jackson said. "It's so frustrating because we needed (a first-place finish in the 1,600 relay) to get second (as a team). I should have run smarter and stayed in the middle of the lane or something. I had to get ahead of him a little. Sometimes when you do that, it hurts them and sometimes it motivates them, and it made (Conrad) run amazing."
Also at state, Bertelsen placed fifth in the 1,600 (personal-best 4:18.62) and 12th in the 3,200 (9:45.62) just behind Vallangeon (11th, 9:45.22), and senior Seth Parsell finished ninth in the discus (143 feet, 11 inches) to miss placing by one spot.
Jackson also qualified in the 200 but did not compete during the preliminary.
"It's just been amazing running with these guys," Crary said. "I've known (the Smith brothers) my whole life. We PR'd by quite a bit (in the 1,600 relay). It's amazing the way they pushed me to get here."
The Warriors won the MSL-Ohio Division title, scoring 130 points May 8 and 11 to finish ahead of host London (121), Columbus Academy (101), Whitehall (63), Grandview (57) and Bexley (48). They then scored 135 points to win the district 3 meet that concluded May 19 at Watkins Memorial and scored 70 points to win the regional that concluded May 25 at Fairfield Union.
Worthington Christian's previous district title came in 1993 and its previous regional championship was in 1994.
In addition to Vallangeon, the Warriors expect to return juniors Michael King and Kanyin Oladejo-Lawal and sophomore Montell Edwards from the sprint corps. Edwards was a regional qualifier in the 100 and joined King, Crary and Jackson on the 800 relay that qualified for regional, while Edwards, King and Oladejo-Lawal joined Crary on the regional-qualifying 400 relay.
Others eligible to return include juniors Noah Denorme (distance), Derek Holston (shot put) and Peter Sherfey (middle distance) and sophomores Dillon Fulks (hurdles), Alex Harrison (hurdles, high jump) and Jake Thompson (high jump).
Girls track team places in three events
The girls track and field team reached the podium in three events at the Division III state meet and scored 10 points to tie for 23rd behind champion Minster (57) as 62 teams scored.
Sophomore Ashley Hall turned in a fourth-place finish in the 100 (12.34), placed sixth in the 200 (25.57) and ran on the seventh-place 800 relay (1:46.24) with seniors Emily Hall and Emma Kasich and sophomore Mianna Hartings.
"Last year I (competed at) the regional in both (the 100 and 200) so I was definitely looking to improve on that, but those were some steps I didn't know if I could take," Ashley Hall said. "My teammates kept pushing me mentally. They're always like, 'Think positive.'"
It was the fourth state appearance for Kasich and third for Emily Hall, who also joined Ashley Hall and Hartings on the 400 relay that finished 12th (51.54).
Worthington Christian won district and regional titles in the 800 relay.
"The last 40 meters (up until state) we were always by ourselves, so it was good to be pushed and to have people cheering," Emily Hall said.
The same foursome also took seventh at state in the 800 relay last season but had to overcome a slew of nagging injuries during this year's regular season to make it back to the same point.
"We were all pretty much injured this year, so being back on the podium even though we got seventh place, we had a good time," Kasich said. "It's a really good opportunity to all come together again."
The Warriors finished fourth (68) in the league meet, behind Bexley (128), Academy (121) and Grandview (116) and ahead of London (61) and Whitehall (22).
After taking third (67) in the district 1 meet behind Grandview (89) and Northridge (82.5), Worthington Christian placed eighth (27) at regional behind champion Mount Gilead (62).
Ashley Hall and Hartings are expected to be the team's most experienced competitors next season.
"I wasn't expected to make it to the finals (in the 100 at state)," Ashley Hall said. "It was just adrenaline and a lot of prayer. I want to get stronger and definitely want to improve on my starts. I PR'd so it was good, but I definitely felt like there's room to improve."
Others eligible to return include junior Caroline Mousa (middle distance), sophomores Isabelle Gilham (middle distance), Jaclyn Hamilton (discus), Morgan Hoffman (shot put), Maddie Patrick (distance), Joy Pitzer (distance) and Jackie Siefert (discus) and freshman Oyinda Oladejo-Lawal (sprints).
Most of tennis team expected to return
Of the seven players who competed in the postseason for the boys tennis team, the only seniors were AjAi Smith and Isaac Deskins.
Smith played first singles most of the season and finished fourth at the Division II sectional that concluded May 12 at Academy before losing in the first round of the district tournament May 17 at Academy.
Deskins lost in the first round at sectional in singles.
Worthington Christian went 7-4 overall and finished fourth in the MSL-Ohio at 3-3, behind Wellington (6-0), Academy (5-1) and Bexley (4-2) and ahead of Grandview (2-4), London (1-5) and Whitehall (0-6).
"When you consider the strength of our conference and our sectional, to be able to get some guys into district was an accomplishment," coach Dino Tsibouris said.
Sophomores Benjy Homoelle and Tommy Robinson finished third at sectional in doubles before losing in the first round at district, while the doubles team of sophomores Jake Flanagan and Aaron Pettit lost in the first round at sectional.
Also competing at sectional in singles was sophomore Peter Tsibouris, who lost in the first round. He played second singles for much of the season and could end up taking over at first singles next spring.
Others eligible to return include sophomore Caleb Slagle and freshman Davis Homoelle.
"Peter was our No. 2 singles player and he's trying to up his game," coach Tsibouris said. "We've got some (junior varsity) players moving up that are going to be just as good. We've seen some guys increase their abilities, and the camaraderie was really good this season. There's one eighth-grader who I saw and he takes lessons, so we have at least one coming up who could help us."