Kayla Silva admits she lacked the basic techniques of the sport when she joined the Westerville South High School girls track and field team as a freshman.
Fast forward to her senior season and Silva, who specializes in the sprints, is on verge of shattering a program record while also seeking her first Division I state berth.
Silva has a career best of 12.3 seconds in the 100 meters, slightly behind the program record of 12.0 shared by Chanel Collins (2001) and Edna Akora (2010). Silva holds the indoor record in the 60 (7.97).
Silva, who competed in the sport in eighth grade at Blendon Middle School, needed to sharpen skills such as proper starting-block technique and relay handoffs.
She credits coaches Jim and Jimmy Gaul for her improvement.
"I came into this program not knowing how to do a baton exchange or how to do my blocks correctly and they fixed everything for me," Silva said. "I never thought I'd make it as far as I have for all four years that I have done this."
Jimmy Gaul has been impressed with Silva's commitment to the sport and believes she has a good chance to reach the state meet.
"I hope so," he said. "It's been the hope every year. Central Ohio is so talented and so deep, especially when you have someone like (Dublin Coffman's) Abby Steiner, so that's just a spot gone so every other 100-meter runner in central Ohio is running for three spots (from regional to state). After we get past the league meet, it's survive and advance. The first goal is get into the district finals, from there get back into the finals at regional and if you're in the regional final, you have as good a chance as anybody."
Steiner has won the state title in the 100 the past two seasons.
South is competing in the district 2 meet, which began May 15, continued May 16 and concludes Saturday, May 19, at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each event advance to regional Wednesday, May 23, and May 25 at Pickerington North.
At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
Last season at regional, Silva was 11th in the 100 (12.85) and joined senior Peyton Guice and 2017 graduates Deja Mason and Alexys McClure on the eighth-place 400 relay (49.22).
Silva and Guice again are key members of the sprint relays. They are joined by Izzy Coan and Janai Jenkins in the 400 relay and Coan and Maria Hays in the 800 relay.
Silva also competed at regional in her freshman and sophomore seasons.
"Every time I've been to regional I was thinking I have to get to state," said Silva, who will continue her track career at Ohio Northern. "I think this is going to be the year. I improved a lot over the summer with my block starts and my drive phase in the 100, so I feel this is the year to get to state."
Silva also expected to compete in the long jump in the postseason.
"We want to put our kids in the best spot to qualify on to regional," Jimmy Gaul said. "If putting (Silva) back in the 200 is going to give her a chance or whatever we can do to make sure our relays are in the best position possible, that's where we're going to move her and use her. She's our fastest runner and has been one of our top two or three sprinters since her freshman year, so we owe it to her and her relay teammates to make sure she's in the best position possible."
Silva and her teammates prepared for the postseason by competing in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet May 10 and 12 at Olentangy Orange.
Silva teamed with Coan, Guice and Jenkins to finish fourth in the 400 relay (50.56), and Josephine Appiah was third in the high jump (5 feet, 2 inches).
South finished sixth with 20 points, behind Olentangy Liberty (146), Westerville Central (135), Orange (126), Olentangy (61) and Westerville North (20).
Boys track team prepares for district
The boys track team prepared for the district 2 meet by finishing fourth (71) in the OCC-Buckeye meet behind Orange (195.5), Central (99) and Liberty (71.5) and ahead of North (43) and Olentangy (43).
George-Sedgewick Patil won the 300 hurdles (40.07). He also was second in the 110 hurdles (15.1) and high jump (6-0).
Nathan Ware won the 3,200 (10:21.41), Anthony Parham finished first in the discus (131-11) and second in the shot put (52-1 3/4) and Rehoboth Ogundare was second in the pole vault (13-0).
Guilhem advances to district tourney
Boys tennis player Raphael Guilhem qualified for the Division I district tournament by finishing second in singles in a sectional May 10 and 12 at Upper Arlington.
Guilhem lost to Thomas Worthington's Kai Britz 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final to finish 4-1.
Guilhem will compete at district Thursday, May 17, at Hilliard Bradley and Saturday, May 19, at UA. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to state May 25 and 26 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Also in singles at sectional, Anthony Vilardo came within a win of qualifying for district, finishing 2-1. Quan Phan went 0-1.
In doubles, Allen Liu and Adrian Self went 0-1.
Boys lacrosse team drops first-round game
The 18th-seeded boys lacrosse team lost at 11th-seeded Pickerington Central 12-9 in the first round of the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 12 to finish 4-14.
Bryce Wilson and Sam Swisher each scored three goals for the Wildcats.
Girls lacrosse team falls to North
The 14th-seeded girls lacrosse team finished 4-14 with a 15-4 loss at ninth-seeded Westerville North in the first round of the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 14.
Boys volleyball team readies for tournament
The boys volleyball team was 3-11 before playing Reynoldsburg in the OCC Challenge on May 15 at Darby.
South is seeded 18th of 20 teams in the Division I East Region tournament and plays 17th-seeded Reynoldsburg in the first round Friday, May 18, at Darby. The winner plays third-seeded Hilliard Davidson in the second round Saturday, May 19, at Darby, with that winner playing fifth-seeded Dublin Jerome or 14th-seeded Orange in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 22, at Darby.
The Wildcats defeated Delaware 26-28, 25-22, 25-23, 25-13 on May 10.
Softball coach pleased with first season
Softball coach Emily Swank-Kavanaugh said she was pleased with her first season.
The Wildcats finished 8-18 overall, losing at second-seeded Central Crossing 5-0 on May 9 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Swank-Kavanaugh is a 2007 graduate of Central Crossing.
The 37th-seeded Wildcats defeated 32nd-seeded Briggs 17-7 in five innings May 7 in the first round.
"This season was about building the program (and) expanding to have a j.v. program again," Swank-Kavanaugh said. "It's been two years since we've had that."
McKenna Saunders (INF/OF), who was one of five seniors, led the team with a .468 batting average. Senior Melanie Batchelder (C/INF) batted .352, followed by junior Meghan Bame (P/INF) at .338 and senior Emily Phillips (P/INF) at .300.
South went 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye to tie North and Orange for fourth behind Olentangy (8-2), Central (7-3) and Liberty (6-4).
Others eligible to return are junior Jewelia Smith (INF/OF), sophomore Kate Forrest (INF) and freshmen Mya Binning (INF), Trinity Cole (utility), Nia Cosby (INF), Maddie Faulkner (INF), Audrey Jones (utility), Maggie Musilli (utility), Kyla Nickerson (C/INF), Megan Shoemaker (P/INF) and Isabella Vasquez (utility).
Swank-Kavanaugh replaced Jerry Kelbley, who retired after 36 seasons.
South to fill two coaching vacancies
South will fill a pair of winter coaching vacancies, pending school board approval.
Tomeka Brown-Whitehead will be the next girls basketball coach and CJ Morabito will take over the swimming and diving program.
Brown-Whitehead will replace Silas Williams, who guided the girls team for eight seasons. Brown-Whitehead played at Ohio State from 1998-2002 and was selected by the Orlando Miracle with the 55th pick in 2002 WNBA draft.
She previously coached at the prep level at Marion-Franklin, Harvest Prep and Africentric. She also served as director of basketball operations for the University of Cincinnati women's team for two seasons and was an assistant coach at Morehead State for one season.
"Tomeka brings a high level of energy and enthusiasm for the game of basketball that we are very excited about," athletics director Josh DeVoll said. "The one thing that stood out about Tomeka in this entire process is her ability to foster positive relationships with young people."
South reached a Division I regional final this past season, falling to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 60-52 to finish 21-6 overall. The Wildcats also won the OCC-Buckeye at 10-0.
The Wildcats went 103-83 during Williams' tenure and have had five consecutive winning seasons.
In swimming, Morabito will replace Shane Davis, who guided the program for three seasons.
Morabito is a 1998 graduate of Westerville North and a 2003 graduate of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, where she competed for four seasons.