Two-thirds of a second and one place in the final race of 2017 helped change the offseason for the four members of the Grandview Heights High School boys track and field team's 3,200-meter relay.
Seniors Eli Evans, Eli Hall and Liam Kerr are back along with sophomore Chris Miller after they were ninth in the Division III state meet last spring at Ohio State, just one spot from being all-state and standing on the awards podium. They finished in 8 minutes, 13.67 seconds while Mount Gilead placed eighth in 8:12.33, only 0.66 of a second faster.
Being that close to their goal of earning all-state honors left the four runners wanting more. This spring, they want to reach the awards podium at state and shatter the program's 26-year-old record in the 3,200 relay.
"It's looking pretty good because we're all experienced and we really bonded with each other last year," Hall said. "We all came back and have been working hard. We wanted to come back and break the (program) record.
"We all have to run under two minutes (in each leg of the 3,200 relay) and that's very possible. We were all on the cusp of doing that last season."
The program record of 8:00.0 was set in 1992 by Seth Gilbert, Shane Dortmund, Matt Susler and Tyler Gantz. Those four finished third in the Division III state meet in their program-record time.
"We were trying to get (the program record) last season, and we were disappointed we didn't get it," Evans said. "We were happy that we were able to make it to state. This year we came in with the mindset that we were going to break the record."
Breaking the program record is only part of the goal, though. The Bobcats also want to return to state and get as far up on the podium as possible.
Last season, Mount Gilead had an ace in the hole in anchor Austin Hallabrin, a 2017 graduate who won the 800 title in 1:52.54.
"Last year, it was difficult going against a state champion like they had at Mount Gilead," Miller said. "This year it's definitely going to be different. We're a lot better and we don't have to worry about a 1:52 from the anchor this time."
Hall, Kerr and Miller also were part of the boys cross country team that finished eighth of 20 teams in the Division III state meet last fall at National Trail Raceway. It was the program's ninth trip to state and its best finish since taking third in Class AA in 1970.
"Succeeding in track last year helped me a lot in cross country and that will help me this spring in track," said Kerr, who finished 17th (16:24.2) of 183 runners to earn all-state cross country honors as one of the top 20 finishers. "It has been a snowball effect and I have much more confidence than in prior seasons."
Freshman Derek Amicon also was on the cross country team, finishing 50th at state in 16:55.3. He is out for his first season of track and has learned much from his older teammates.
"They have been good at pushing me and they work hard every day," Amicon said. "That has shown me what you have to do to get results and they all have had good results."
The Bobcats finished fourth (66 points) in the 10-team Russ Owen Bexley Relays on April 13 behind champion St. Charles (93). Amicon ran for Kerr on the 3,200 relay, which won in 8:27.2.
The girls team finished fourth (62) behind champion Watterson (99).
Coach Brian Schoch said this year's distance corps is just another in a long line of standout performers for the program.
"Our kids have been willing to work hard and we have some kids with natural ability, which always helps," he said. "We also have kids who are able to work hard and when you find those things, it's nice to have.
"You look back 10 or 12 years ago, there always have been kids who took pride in being distance or a middle-distance runners here, so I think that trickles down from year to year to year. They have seen the success kids have had in the past and they want to continue that tradition."
Baseball team sweeps defending champs
The baseball team defeated four-time defending MSL-Ohio Division champion Bexley in back-to-back contests last week.
The Bobcats were 7-5 overall and 2-2 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Whitehall on April 16.
Sam Amurgis went 3-for-3 and Jon Vetter picked up the victory in a 5-3 win over Bexley on April 10.
Joey Bertani, Glenn Cribbs, Jacob Hollar and Gavin Van Horn all had multiple hits to lead Grandview past the Lions 6-4 on April 11. Luke Berlin picked up the win.
The Bobcats lost their second league contest April 13, falling to Worthington Christian 4-3 in 12 innings. The teams were tied at 2 in the 10th inning April 5 when play was stopped because of darkness.
Tennis team wins first three matches
The boys tennis team won its first three matches before falling to Teays Valley 4-1 on April 11.
The Bobcats, who lost their first nine matches last season, were 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Bexley on April 17.
Matt York, Brett Holcomb and Calvin Horning all won in singles as Grandview defeated Whetstone 3-2 on April 9.
In a 4-1 league win over London on April 10, York, Holcomb and Horning won in singles. The doubles team of Bryan Gilleland and Patrick Rowland also won.
The Bobcats also lost to Hartley 3-2 on April 12.
Below are the coming schedules for the Grandview Heights baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 21 -- At Columbus West (DH)
*April 23 -- At Columbus Academy
April 24 -- Home vs. Briggs
*April 25 -- Home vs. Academy
April 19 -- Home vs. Centerburg
April 20 -- At Hartley
April 23 -- Home vs. Marion Pleasant
April 24 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
April 25 -- At Fairbanks
*April 19 -- At Wellington
April 20 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*April 24 -- Home vs. Academy
April 25 -- Home vs. Ready
TRACK & FIELD
April 20 -- Bobcat Booster Invitational