The Olentangy Orange High School boys track and field team took full advantage of the new qualifying rules for the Division I state meet.
The top four finishers in each running event from the regional meet May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North advanced to state Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at Ohio State. Also, for the first time, two at-large state berths were awarded for each running event based on times statewide.
Seniors Tyler King and Andrew Schroff fell into that category. King finished fifth in the 800 meters, but his effort of 1 minute, 54.2 seconds was good for a program record and a state berth.
The same happened to Schroff, who was sixth in the 1,600 (4:18.43) and is seeded 11th at state. King has the ninth-best 800 performance entering state.
The two additional qualifiers only applies to running events.
"There are nine lanes on the track at Jesse Owens (Memorial Stadium), so they thought they could add one more competitor in each running (heat)," coach Adam Walters said. "They may add additional competitors for field events in future seasons, but they have not been able to break ties to keep from having 25 or more athletes in an event. When you have timed events, even with ties, you can break it down to three decimal places or four or five and so on."
Jaeschal Acheampong led the way at regional for Orange, which was runner-up (60.5) to Pickerington Central (97) as 41 teams scored. The sophomore won the long jump (22 feet) and was a member of three state-qualifying relays.
Acheampong was on the runner-up 1,600 relay (3:18.65) with Christian Wright, Manny Anderson and King and the runner-up 800 relay (1:27.73) with his senior brother, Kevin Acheampong, Joel Sarpong and Max Stewart. The Acheampongs also were on the fourth-place 400 relay (42.96) with Sarpong and Brandon Ransom.
"It's great to be on the relays with my brother," Jaeschal Acheampong said. "He makes sure that I work hard in practice and get the sleep I need when I want to stay up late. I learn so much from him."
Schroff and King also were on the district championship 3,200 relay (program-record 7:46.63) with Tommy Wintering and Alex Kenish.
Jayden Rodgers finished first in the 110 hurdles (14.16).
Grace Frye qualified in three events for the girls team, which finished fourth (43) behind champion Gahanna (84) as 32 teams scored. The junior was runner-up in the discus (132-8) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (program-record 44.47). She also qualified as part of the first-place 400 relay (program-record 47.73) with Brenda Agyekum, Mackenzie Blendick and Maya Patterson.
"Last year I made it in discus and I'm so happy to make it in three events this time," said Frye, who was 11th in discus (120-4) at state last year. "I'm so excited to be able to run (at state). I have wanted to run there for so long."
Agyekum was runner-up in the 100 (12.27) after setting a program record of 12.09 in the preliminaries, and Blendick was fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.2).
"I didn't think I made it (in the 100 hurdles) to be honest because it was so close," Blendick said. "I was seeded sixth, and I was so happy to make it out in such a tight race."
Doubles team goes 1-1 at state
Senior Jordan Phelps and junior Alex Heiden finished 1-1 in doubles for the boys tennis team in the Division I state tournament May 25 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
They defeated district champions Alan Fahoury and Dev Laungani of Toledo St. John's 6-4, 6-2 before losing to Cincinnati Sycamore's Sam Marcus and Nathan Zhang 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Marcus and Zhang went on to finish third.
"The two matches they played at state were by far the best they had played together all season," sixth-year coach Matt Rutherford said. "They were staying focused on the situation at hand.
"They were down 3-1 in the first set of the first match. ... They were incredibly composed and poised."
Phelps and Heiden placed fourth at district May 19 at Olympic Indoor Tennis Club, earning the final state-qualifying berth.
Senior David Cavote and junior Ben Thompson finished 1-1 in doubles at district.
The Orange doubles teams met in a sectional final May 12 at Hilliard Bradley, with Phelps and Heiden winning 6-0, 6-0.
Senior Cameron Glassburn, junior Zach Shaver and freshman Pranav Krishnan played singles at sectional. All three went 2-1.
The Pioneers finished 8-3 overall and won their second consecutive league title by going 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, ahead of Olentangy (4-1), Liberty (3-2) and Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South (all 1-4).
Boys lacrosse team learns from adversity
The boys lacrosse team had high expectations, but a tough schedule and injuries kept it from reaching its potential.
The eighth-seeded Pioneers finished 10-10 overall after losing at second-seeded Liberty 11-6 in a Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal May 18.
"I think the players all grew in different ways throughout a very difficult season," said second-year coach Andrew Boyce, whose team defeated seventh-seeded Medina 15-5 on May 15 in its postseason opener. "The seniors all learned to deal with adversity and become leaders. The younger players all raised their level of play and in many ways exceeded expectations."
The Pioneers finished fourth (4-3) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Olentangy (7-0), New Albany (6-1) and Liberty (5-2) and ahead of Central (3-4), North (2-5), South (1-6) and Big Walnut (0-7).
Senior midfielder Lake Harris was Regional Face-Off Specialist of the Year and first-team all-league. Senior attacker Mason Handa (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league) led the Pioneers in scoring with 36 goals and 17 assists, and senior attacker Luke Schmeling (second-team all-region and all-league) had 30 goals and 18 assists.
Senior midfielder Cooper Durst (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league) had 28 goals and 18 assists, senior attacker Jack Applegate had 20 goals and 10 assists and senior midfielder Drew Row was honorable mention all-league.
Orange had a 14-player senior class.
"This group was the largest senior class in program history and they have all played a major part in the program's growth over the past four years," Boyce said. "They will all be greatly missed and their efforts and leadership will never be forgotten."
Sophomore defender Zach Hill was named second-team all-league and all-region.
Other key players expected to return are juniors Ethan Adkins (defender), Mitchell Gifford (midfielder), Sam Hughes (midfielder) and Evan Secrist (defender) and sophomore Bo Roby (attacker; 21 goals, 6 assists).
Girls lacrosse team leaves 'legacy'
The girls lacrosse team finished 11-9 overall after going 6-13 last season.
The fifth-seeded Pioneers defeated 15th-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 22-4 in the first round of the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 14 before losing at second-seeded Liberty 13-5 in the second round May 18.
"This group was beyond special, and it was by far one of my favorite groups to coach," said coach Megan Noone, who is leaving after four seasons to take a break after earning a master's degree. "This team lived and breathed our motto of 'Leaving a Legacy.' That meant leaving your jersey better than you found it. These girls really accomplished that this year."
The Pioneers finished fourth (4-3) in the OCC-Buckeye behind New Albany (7-0), Liberty (6-1) and Olentangy (5-2) and ahead of North (3-4), Central (2-5), Big Walnut (1-6) and South (0-7).
They had eight seniors, led by defender Regan Keane (second-team all-region, first-team all-league), attacker Bella Lindell (second-team all-league), attacker Hannah Lower (honorable all-region, second-team all-league) and midfielder Kailee O'Brien (first-team all-region, honorable mention all-league).
"This senior class was amazing," Noone said. "Every one of them brought unique personalities to the team. We had a great season, and I would attribute that to their leadership. They were aware of the expectations and exceeded those expectations."
Noone said juniors Maddie Girard (attacker), Taylor Houston (defender), Allie Holdcroft (midfielder) and Grace McAninch (goalkeeper) and sophomores Hannah Brown (midfielder), Katelin Shane (defender), Josie Vance (midfielder) and Lila Xenakis (midfielder) are expected to play key roles next season.