If everything goes according to plan over the coming weeks, Eastmoor Academy seniors Malik Crockett and Michael Keels should hear a phrase that could send a shiver up their spines.

The Division II state track and field meet will be held June 2 and 3 at Ohio State, and both Crockett and Keels are hoping to be there competing in the 1,600-meter relay.

That would mean they'd have a chance to defend the championship they won in the event a year ago.

"Everybody will be looking at us," Crockett said. "When we line up for the start of the race, (the public address announcer is) going to say 'defending state champions,' so there's going to be a lot of pressure on us."

Not that either one minds the extra burden.

After helping the Warriors finish sixth at state as a team last season, Keels helped the football team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011 last fall.

Crockett decided to give up football after being a two-year regular at slotback and defensive back and ran cross country instead last fall, helping the Warriors reach the Division II state meet for the first time.

"He was a starter for two years in football, so it was a pretty tough thing for him to give that up," coach Jason Lewis said. "He was on the (1,600 relay) that won state last year and said he wanted to try running track in college, and he thought running cross country would help him. He was the catalyst that led us to the state meet."

Crockett acknowledges that he took flak from classmates for not continuing to play football -- which he calls his "first love" -- but doesn't regret his decision, which has helped to prepare him to possibly compete collegiately. He lists Indiana Tech and Notre Dame College as schools he's interested in.

"After (last year's) state (track meet), it kind of opened my eyes about what I wanted to do because I also qualified in the 800, and (Lewis) said I would get better if (I ran) cross country," Crockett said. "As it went on last fall, people understood (why I switched to cross country). I got a lot stronger than I usually am.

"We're a lot further along than we usually are at this point. We're in a good spot."

In 2015, Eastmoor's 1,600 relay was state runner-up in 3:19.45, but three runners on the relay were lost to graduation.

Last year, the relay's only holdover, 2016 graduate Terry Johnson, and classmate LaShawn Robinson teamed with Crockett and Keels to win the state championship in 3:18.62.

On April 19 in the Gahanna Relays, Crockett, Keels, senior Lamont Fields and sophomore Wesley Prater ran 3:27.48 to finish third in the relay, behind Division I programs Pickerington Central (3:16.76) and Gahanna (3:19.34).

As of the day of the meet, the Warriors' time in the relay was the best among area Division II teams this season.

Junior Omavi Hamilton and senior Anthony Cobb are others who could fill out the relay.

Crockett had the 10th-best area time in the 800 (1:59.41) as well.

Also in the Gahanna Relays, the 3,200 relay of Crockett, Hamilton and juniors Chris Chandler and Sean Hathorn won in 8:10.22, which also was the best time in the area in Division II.

Chandler, Hamilton and Hathorn all competed at state in cross country along with junior Bushra Bonkiye, another key middle-distance runner for the Warriors.

"It's been pretty good," Keels said. "We get (personal-best times) like every other meet. The workouts are pretty extreme. The open 400 is my stronger event."

Keels played wide receiver and defensive back last fall as the football team went 8-3 and won the City League-South Division title at 7-0.

He has committed to play football and run track at Notre Dame College in South Euclid.

"It was kind of ironic because the football coach (at Notre Dame College) called me one day and right when I was coming home, their track coach called me," Keels said. "I loved the coaches' attitude toward me and I loved the city.

"It's bittersweet knowing it's my last year (of high school). It's all coming to an end and it's just like a big blur right now."

Bruins softball team
again in title mix

With seven returning starters, the Briggs softball team entered this season expecting to be a strong contender to make it to the City League championship game for the 12th consecutive season.

The Bruins are about halfway to achieving that goal, but the biggest work in that pursuit still remains.

Before playing Independence on April 24 and Walnut Ridge on April 26, Briggs was 5-0 in the City-South.

The Bruins play host to Africentric on Friday, April 28, and then are host Monday, May 1, to Eastmoor, which was 4-0 in the league before playing West on April 24 and Marion-Franklin on April 26.

Briggs and host Eastmoor were tied at 5 in the bottom of the seventh inning April 5 when the game was suspended. It has yet to be rescheduled.

The Bruins were 7-4 overall after beating Fairfield Christian 13-3 on April 19.

"We were ahead (against Eastmoor) and then they scored (four runs) to tie it, and then lightning hit," Bruins coach Herb Sharfenaker said.

If the teams end up with the same final league record, there will be a one-game playoff to determine which team goes to the City championship game, which will be held May 17 at the site of the City-South winner.

Last season, Briggs couldn't hold on to a 3-0 lead and lost 5-3 to Centennial in the City final to finish 15-12. It marked the Bruins' 10th consecutive loss in the league's title game.

The top players for Briggs are senior pitcher Rylee Webb, who has committed to play for Ohio University-Chillicothe, and junior catcher Emily Wickham, who was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district last season.

Other key returnees include seniors Maya Lopez (designated player) and Lara Saad (CF), juniors Linda Collins (LF) and Brey Tirey (3B/P) and sophomore Mykal Yates (RF).

Senior Tabby Browning (1B) and juniors Madisyn Moore (2B) and Kaylee Clark (SS) also are key players.

"This team just fights and fights and fights," Sharfenaker said. "We have to cut down on our mental mistakes and stay positive. Hopefully we'll get over the hump."

Scots track teams
building relays

Coming off strong finishes at last year's City League meet, the Walnut Ridge boys and girls track and field teams have been building depth and putting together relays.

The boys team is coached by former Brookhaven coach Steve Ayers and the girls are headed by former Walnut Ridge standout hurdler Asia Bange.

On April 19 in the Gahanna Relays, the boys placed eighth (39) of 12 teams, behind champion Pickerington Central (114), as the 800 relay of seniors Michael Ayers, Darrick Forrest, Shacqueel Gordon and Erik Knight was runner-up (1:29.87).

Knight added a third-place finish in the 100 (11.03).

Seniors Kwesi Anekwe (sprints), Michael Poole (shot put, discus) and Jerell Greenway (800) have been other key contributors.

"We just want a complete team," Ayers said. "We've got a couple good sprinters and field events people."

The girls scored 18 points in the Gahanna Relays to place ninth of 13 teams, behind champion Gahanna (124).

The sprint medley relay of senior Dymon Beckum, sophomores Chyna Womack and Brooklyn Williams and freshman Michela Ayers placed fourth (1:56.25).

"We've got a pretty young team," Bange said. "We're hoping we can break the school record in the (800 relay)."