The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys track and field team lost a talented group of athletes to graduation, including three Division I college recruits in Blake Heriot (Florida), Herman Washington (Michigan) and Harry McFann (Columbia).

The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys track and field team lost a talented group of athletes to graduation, including three Division I college recruits in Blake Heriot (Florida), Herman Washington (Michigan) and Harry McFann (Columbia).

Heriot won both the 200 meters (21.47 seconds) and 400 (47.16) and finished second in the 100 (10.98) at the Division I state meet as a junior. Last season at state, he injured his left hamstring while running in the preliminaries of the 100 and wasn't able to qualify for the finals in the 100, 200 or 400.

Washington placed second in the 110 hurdles (14.49) and third in the 300 hurdles (38.66) at state as a junior, but couldn't compete at state last year after suffering a right hamstring injury at regional.

McFann placed second in the 800 (program-record 1:52.48) at state a year ago.

Coach Ed Rarey, now in his 59th season with the Lions, acknowledges that he doesn't have any athletes who are capable of filling that trio's shoes, but said that doesn't mean the Lions can't put together another successful season.

"We had some outstanding individuals in that senior class in regards to talent and it's going to be hard to find replacements for them on the stopwatch, but I think we'll have some championships, both individually and team-wise, again this year," said Rarey, whose team opens Saturday, April 2, at the Newark Invitational.

"I'm not going to make any stupid comments about where we're going to finish down the road, because we have a very young team and the strength of this team is going to be our underclassmen. But by the time our younger kids are juniors and seniors, they're going to make their own mark on this program."

Leading the pole vault unit are junior Jacob Blankenship and senior Lucas Rogers. Blankenship finished fourth (15 feet, 8 inches) at state last year.

"Blankenship has set our team indoor record this year by clearing 16 feet, 1 inch, and I expect that he'll do quite well for himself this spring," Rarey said.

Juniors Julian Low and Aaron Roberson, and sophomores Jeff Helms and Riak Resse are the top returning sprinters. Senior Luke Pietrykowski and junior Eric Butler are the leading hurdlers, and junior Jason McDonald is the top distance runner. Senior Nick Rozler will throw the shot put and discus, and sophomores Eric Buckner and Demarcus Graham will long jump.

Last season, the Lions finished third (147 points) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet, behind Pickerington North (171) and Lancaster (148), and ahead of Reynoldsburg (70.5), Pickerington Central (38), Groveport (31.5), Newark (30) and Grove City (25).

But Gahanna bounced back to score 120 points to win the district 1 meet at Dublin Coffman ahead of runner-up Westerville North (77), as Blankenship won the pole vault (program-record 16-0).

The Lions scored 63 points to edge Brookhaven (62) for first at regional at Pickerington North, as Heriot won the 100 (10.65), 200 (meet-record 21.28) and 400 (47.81).

Gahanna then scored 13 points to tie Twinsburg for 18th at the state meet at Ohio State behind champion Warren Harding (47).

"I'm excited about this team's potential," Rarey said. "It's hard to tell how we'll fare against some of the top teams in central Ohio, but when the season is over, they'll know we've been there."

•The girls team opened March 26 by scoring 120 points to place second in the 15-team Icebreaker Invitational behind host Watkins Memorial (140).

Leading a deep sprint corps are juniors Dominae Gaston, Abby Grooms and Mieshia Parker, and sophomores Francesca Bowsher, Lynnsey Brim and Daniella Johnson. Sophomore Reyna Montgomery is one of the Lions' best sprinters, but she is expected to miss the season with a knee injury.

Senior KayKay Garber and junior Colleen Hall are the team's top distance runners, and Grooms and sophomores Chrishna Butler and Tevan Carruthers are its top hurdlers.

Sophomore Rayne Jones has returned to compete in the high jump, while Bowsher and Poches will compete in the long jump, senior Becca White will throw the discus and sophomore Kiesha Steinhouser will throw the shot.

"We were missing some girls who were gone on spring break and we didn't enter anyone in six of the 17 events at Watkins Memorial, so we did well to finish second there," 23rd-year coach Roger Whittaker said. "We have some holes to shore up, but we have some quality performers in the sprints and some other events, so we'll do well in the bigger meets."

The Lions scored 171 points to win the OCC-Ohio meet last season ahead of Reynoldsburg (135), Central (127.5), North (85), Lancaster (59.5), Groveport (31.5), Newark (30) and Grove City (25).

Gahanna scored 132 points to easily win the district 1 meet ahead of runner-up Coffman (97.5) and finished sixth (32.42) at regional behind champion Reynoldsburg (95). The Lions then scored 12 points at state to finish 15th behind champion Reynoldsburg (56).

At state, Brim finished third in the long jump (18-8 3/4), and graduate Stephanie Stewart, Montgomery, Parker and Brim placed third in the 400 relay (48.24).

Grooms, Parker, Montgomery and Gaston also placed 14th in the 800 relay (1:44.56).

"If I had to pick a favorite to win the OCC, I'd probably pick us, but Pickerington Central could make it a dogfight," Whittaker said.

"If we can patch some holes, I think we can compete for another district title, too."