Trailing by 28.5 points after the opening day of the Division I boys state track and field meet, perceived favorite Pickerington Central wasn’t about to panic.
“I told the guys, ‘We’ve got the math right in front of us. Just do what you’re supposed to do and we'll be just fine,’ ” Tigers coach Jason Roach said. “Well, we did what we were supposed to do, and maybe even a hair better.”
Closing out the meet June 2 at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium with a victory in the 1,600-meter relay (3 minutes, 17.7 seconds), Central amassed 58 points to easily dispatch field-heavy Centerville (36.5) for its first state title. The Tigers’ relay team was made up of Zach Robinson, Evan Matthews, Terry Simuel and Crockett Schooler.
But the real damage was done when Matthews won the 300 hurdles (37.13) and Matt Scrape won the 3,200 (9:02.01) in the meet’s penultimate event.
“This feels amazing,” Matthews said. “We knew we had a chance to get big points in the hurdle, and that was a big motivation as I was pushing over that last hurdle to the finish.”
Scrape beat Dustin Horter of Lakota East, who was sapped of strength after winning the 1,600 earlier in the day. State runner-up to Horter in cross country and runner-up in the 3,200 a year ago, Scrape pulled away with his signature final-lap kick. Horter came in ranked No. 2 in the U.S. in the event.
“The game plan went exactly as planned,” said Scrape, a Syracuse signee. “I pushed the pace the first five laps because I had to take his legs away from him. I’m just ecstatic. Most people will never know much time and effort went into this. Dethroning Horter is the greatest feeling ever, but I had help.”
Gahanna ran away with titles in both the 400 (41.79) and 800 (1:25.99) relays. Alexander Drenski, LaCarr Trent, Joseph Gathuru and Jerome Buckner made up both quartets.
Buckner, an Ohio University football signee, did not compete in the regional meet because of a groin strain.
“Our goal was to win both and we knew we were capable of it,” Buckner said. “We take pride in our handoffs and they went perfectly. This was a true team effort, including the alternates who got us through to this point last week.”
Jayden Rodgers of Olentangy Orange was the only other area boys champion in the big-school meet, winning the 110 high hurdles (13.83).
“That’s the best race I’ve ever run and I saved it for the best time,” Rodgers said. “I missed the first half of the season with ankle surgery and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get back to this point.”
In Division II, Zach Kreft of Buckeye Valley capped his brilliant career by winning the 1,600 (4:16.18) and coming back for runner-up in the 3,200 (9:22.38).
“My top goal was to get my first title in track,” said Kreft, a Notre Dame signee who won the state cross country title. “I knew it was going to be tough to double in the heat, so I laid it all out there in the 1,600 and just decided to see what I could do in the 3,200. It was well worth it.”
In winning the 800, Chandler Wilhelm of Heath followed up the feat turned in by teammate Taylor Hopkins last year. Wilhelm, who grabbed the lead with 500 meters left and held it the rest of the way, clocked 1:53.22, more than a second faster than Hopkins.
“Taylor told me last year at state, ‘It’s your turn next year. … It’s all yours,” Wilhelm said.
In Division III, Worthington Christian capped an outstanding meet with a third place. East Canton repeated as champion with 64 points, followed by Smithville (40) and the Warriors (38), who won the 3,200 relay on Friday and got seconds Saturday from the Kyle Smith in the 800 (1:55.68), Jordan Jackson in the 400 (49.04) and the 1,600 relay (3:21.87).
Jackson stormed from fourth to first on the backstretch of his anchor leg, but ran out of steam.
“It’s so frustrating because we needed to win the relay to get the runner-up trophy,” Jackson said. “In one sense, maybe I should have run smarter, but I had to go for it.”
Tyler Boales of Centerburg took second in the 200 (21.91) and third in the 100 (10.91).