The record the 3,200-meter relay produced June 1 was just the beginning of a weekend of celebrations for the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls track and field team.

By the time the Division I state meet was over June 2 at Ohio State, the Lions had won two other titles, earned a pair of runner-up finishes and, for the first time, captured the outright team championship.

The Lions' middle-distance depth set the tone throughout a season in which most of the team's sprinting and jumping corps featured freshmen and sophomores.

At state, Gahanna's 51 points easily topped the 64-team field as Lancaster and Twinsburg tied for second (31).

The Lions shared the team title in 2015 and were state runners-up the past two years.

"I know coming into it that most people were thinking Gahanna is tough to deal with," coach Roger Whittaker said. "What are you going to do? We've got (athletes) everywhere. We've got baby sprinters. Most of the time we ran four 14-year-old girls in the (400 relay), and our middle distance took control and said, 'We've got this.' "

On the opening day of state, the 3,200 relay of seniors Allison Groves and Claire Steigerwald, junior Shynae Deas and junior anchor Madison Martinez ran a state-record 8 minutes, 53.49 seconds that also is the nation's best time in the event this spring.

"We knew if we could get the baton with Madison in the lead that we'd pretty much be set for the race," said Steigerwald, who helped swing the race with a strong third leg. "The goal was to get the lead or be as close to the leaders throughout all the legs."

Deas, Martinez and Steigerwald ran on the relay last season, when it settled for a runner-up finish in 8:56.73 that was just 0.11 from the title.

"I knew what our team goal was and I wanted to do it for all my teammates," Martinez said. "I (watched the clock during) the whole back stretch; without anyone behind me I couldn't let up. I heard my coach yell out my 200 splits and tried to hold that pace down to the 200 and give it all I've got."

The Lions got a bonus before the running finals began June 2 when freshman Faith Hunter jumped a personal-best and program-record 5 feet, 9 inches in the high jump to earn a runner-up finish. Lancaster senior Hope Purcell's best jump also was 5-9 but she won the title because she had fewer misses.

Hunter landed the state runner-up jump on her third attempt to score eight points for the Lions.

"I was striving to get my (personal record), which was 5-6, but I'm excited to get second," Hunter said. "It felt good."

During the running finals, Gahanna wrapped up the team championship in the 800 as Martinez won (2:08.89) and Deas placed fourth (2:10.6).

The Lions increased their lead with a runner-up finish by Steigerwald in the 3,200 (10:29.85) and capped the meet when the 1,600 relay of Deas, Martinez, sophomore Alexis Thigpen and freshman Joi Bradley ran to the championship in 3:47.99.

"I expected Faith to maybe get two or three points and on a good day four points, but I never expected her to battle for a championship," Whittaker said. "With Claire, I said we'd take a fifth and she got second. Those were big points, and then we did what we were supposed to do in everything else."

For Martinez, winning all three of her state events met one of her goals.

"I didn't know that we were winning (the team title), but I was just wanting to go out and win and it was just super exciting to be able to share it with all my teammates," she said.

Steigerwald, who will compete for the University of Toledo, ran her personal-best time by nearly 13 seconds in the 3,200.

"This was my first race on fresh legs, so I knew I had to do this for the team and to finish off my senior year as a Lion," she said. "It was a really awesome way to end my season."

Also competing at state were senior Amariah Thomas in the 100 (15th, 12.51), the 800 relay of Bradley, Thigpen and sophomores Trinity Houpe and Shaina Rutledge (10th, 1:42.82), the 400 relay of Bradley, Houpe, Rutledge and Thomas (14th, 49.2), Thigpen in the 400 (11th, 57.51), Houpe in the 300 hurdles (12th, 45.52) and freshman Ciarra Carter in the long jump (12th, 16-11).

"It means everything (to be at state)," Carter said. "I've been working to this since the second grade and I got my chance to do it."

The state meet capped a season in which Gahanna won its sixth consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championship, as it scored 164 points in the league meet that concluded May 12 at Dublin Coffman to finish ahead of Lancaster (123), Pickerington Central (107), Pickerington North (97), Reynoldsburg (23) and Grove City (7).

The Lions then scored 164 points to win the district 2 meet that concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby and 84 points to win the regional that concluded May 25 at North. They've won six district and four regional titles in a row.

Freshman Nya Bailey ran on the 400 relay that finished fifth (48.68) at regional but earned an at-large berth to state.

Coming up short of advancing to state from the regional were junior Brooke Johnson in the shot put (ninth, 35-5 3/4), junior Bronte Johnson in the discus (sixth, 117-6) and sophomore Lacey Stringer in the shot put (seventh, 36-8 1/4).

Others eligible to return include juniors Nayana Barksdale (sprints), Arin Owens (long jump) and Ari Redmond (middle distance), sophomores Hannah Schlegel (pole vault) and Tara Shope (distance) and freshmen Savannah Flusche (discus, shot put), Amanda Lee (hurdles), Tamryn Lindsay (hurdles, high jump), Anna Lower (pole vault), Zoe White (sprints) and Alyse Wunderlin (distance).

"I'm looking forward to it next year," Whittaker said. "We'll be all right."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek