The Thomas Worthington High School girls track and field team expects the core of its roster to return next season after tying for fifth in the Division I state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
"To finish tied for fifth out of 211 Division I teams is an awesome accomplishment as the team scored in all events that qualified to the state (meet)," coach Andy Cox said. "After establishing a new school record in both the (1,600- and 3,200-meter relays), seven of those eight will be coming back. We also will continue to develop depth in the sprint and field events."
At state, the 1,600 relay of freshman Carina Napoleon, junior Allyicia Diggs-Hall, junior Gia Napoleon and senior Jazzlynn Gaiters finished second in 3 minutes, 48.82 seconds, behind Gahanna (3:47.99), while the 3,200 relay of sophomores Lydia Miller and Cassidy Shaver and the Napoleon sisters placed fifth in 9:02.26, smashing the previous record of 9:09.2 that was set in 1997.
Gia Napoleon also placed third in the 800 in 2:10.49 after winning the event last season in 2:07.47. She suffered a stress fracture in her right ankle near the end of indoor season and lost more than two months of training.
Also at state, Gaiters finished fourth in the 400 in a season-best 56.01, as the Cardinals totaled 23 points to tie Youngstown East and finish behind Gahanna (51), Lancaster (31), Twinsburg (31) and Dublin Coffman (28) as 64 teams scored.
"This season the team enjoyed quality depth at the 400-meter distance, with eight girls able to break 60 seconds," Cox said. "With that type of depth, the team should continue to be competitive. The coaching staff is excited to have the core of the team back next season."
Thomas is losing six seniors, including Gaiters and Curt'Lynn Garner.
In the regional meet May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North, Gia Napoleon was runner-up in the 800 (2:10.67) and the 1,600 relay placed second (3:50.47). Gaiters was fourth in the 400 (56.83) and the 3,200 relay placed fifth (9:15.57) but earned one of two at-large state berths based on regional times statewide.
Also at regional, junior Sarah Charley placed fifth in the long jump (17 feet, 5 inches), Carina Napoleon was fifth in the 1,600 (5:14.28), Miller placed sixth in the 1,600 (5:17.05), the 400 relay of Charley, junior TyLisha Roy, Garner and Diggs-Hall finished eighth (50.19), junior Breanna Beatty was 10th in the 300 hurdles (46.1) and 12th in the 100 hurdles (16.48), junior Riley Adams tied for 15th in the pole vault (9-0), freshman Anasia Parks-Morris did not compete in the 100 and the 800 relay of Gaiters, Charley, Parks-Morris and Diggs-Hall did not compete.
Thomas placed seventh (37) at regional behind champion Gahanna (84) as 32 teams scored.
Competing in the district 1 meet that concluded May 19 at Hilliard Darby, the Cardinals finished second (107.5) of 16 teams, behind Pickerington Central (112).
Winning district titles were Gia Napoleon in the 800 (2:17.48), Carina Napoleon in the 1,600 (5:03.97), the 1,600 relay (3:54.16) and the 3,200 relay (9:14.53).
Thomas finished second (141) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet May 10 and 12 at Coffman, behind Darby (146.5) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (116), Delaware (93), Dublin Jerome (63.5), Kilbourne (39.5) and Hilliard Bradley (31.5).
Winning league titles were Gia Napoleon in the 800 (2:18.5), Carina Napoleon in the 1,600 (5:06.67), Gaiters in the 400 (57.04), Parks-Morris in the 200 (25.89), the 3,200 relay of Gia Napoleon, Carina Napoleon, Miller and Shaver (9:29.65), the 1,600 relay of Carina Napoleon, Diggs-Hall, freshman Jazmine Rodgers and Gaiters (4:03.43) and the 800 relay of Gaiters, Charley, Beatty and Diggs-Hall (1:45.68).
Others expected to return include juniors Olivia Burrell and Chase DeGraffinreed and freshmen Morgan Edwards, Chloe Engel and Mia Jablonski.
Boys track team faces 'end of an era'
The boys track and field team is losing 10 seniors, including two of the top runners in school history in Arjun Jha and Andy Payne.
In the Division I state meet, Jha finished fifth in the 800 (1:54.52) and Payne was fifth in the 3,200 (9:10.15) as the Cardinals scored eight points to tie for 27th behind champion Pickerington Central (58) as 69 teams scored.
Jha missed most of the regular season with a knee injury and wasn't able to train enough to compete in the postseason in his signature event, the 1,600. Last season, he was state runner-up in that event (4:09.09) and was on the 3,200 relay that won the state title.
Between cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, Jha was all-state eight times and Payne was all-state seven times. Jha has committed to run at Indiana University and Payne will compete at Eastern Michigan.
"It was the end of an era with the graduation of Arjun and Andy," coach Bill Darling said. "They were the two greatest distance runners in school history. Arjun leaves with the school records in the 800 (1:53.73), 1,600 (4:09.09) and as part of the (3,200 relay, 7:39.86), which won an indoor and outdoor state championship. Andy has the school record in the 3,200 (9:10.07) and won the indoor state title in that event.
"It's been amazing to have these two at the same time, but now there is an opportunity for some of the other guys to step up and fill their roles."
At regional, Jha placed second in the 800 (school-record 1:53.73), Payne was second in the 3,200 (9:14.34) and the 1,600 relay of sophomores James Gaiters, Theory Schroder and Keegan Ballantyne and Jha placed eighth (3:23.6) as the Cardinals finished 13th (17) behind champion Pickerington Central (97) as 41 teams scored.
Thomas finished sixth (37.33) of 16 teams in the district 1 meet, behind champion Central (158), and finished third (104.5) in the OCC-Cardinal meet, behind Bradley (143.5) and Darby (128.5) and ahead of Jerome (98), Scioto (77.5), Kilbourne (42) and Delaware (35).
Winning league titles were Jha in the 800 (meet-record 1:55), Payne in the 3,200 (9:37.23) and the 1,600 relay of Gaiters, Schroder, freshman Macario Etienne and Ballantyne (3:27.2).
"It was sad that our senior long jumper, Khalil Jones, was not able to fully participate with us due to knee injuries," Darling said. "He finished fifth in the state last season and has a career best of 23-3, the second-best mark in school history. He is headed to Miami (University) and we believe great things are in store for him in Oxford."
Others expected to return include juniors Devin Houdek, Sony Kipre and Clay Wood, sophomores Alie Jalloh, Zubin Jha and Nate Johnson and freshmen Jayvaun Lane, Jamir Lewis, Luka Srsic and Jimmie Turner.
"The coaches are very excited about the future," Darling said. "We were one of the youngest teams in the OCC-Cardinal this year. We had four freshmen score at the league championships, an amazing stat in a league this tough.
"Over half of our points last year were scored by freshmen and sophomores, so there is a lot to be excited about. The future is very bright in the program if these kids put in the work."