Imani Babatunde always seems to do what is necessary for the Columbus School for Girls track and field team.
The senior sprinter willed herself onto the podium at the Division II state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State in the 200 meters. Babatunde leaned forward at the finish line to edge Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph's Jayla Curry to place eighth in 25.61 seconds. Curry was ninth in 25.64, as the top eight finishers made the podium.
"Imani was seeded ninth in the (200) final, but I knew she would be on the podium," third-year coach Jen Bunker said. "She does what she needs to do. She's a competitor and has meant so much to the program.
"Imani is a very quiet and humble leader. She doesn't blow out a PR every time, but she does what she needs to do every single time. She's a very special kid, and I'll miss her dearly."
It was the final high school event for Babatunde, who earned all-state honors in the 200 as well as on the 800 relay.
"I couldn't be happier with the way it ended, and I'm glad I left everything out there on the track," Babatunde said. "I was seeded ninth (in the 200) and got on the podium. It's a great way to go out. I'm going to miss this team and miss the people (at CSG)."
Babatunde also anchored the fifth-place 800 relay (1:44.74), running behind sophomores Peyton Jackson and Asia Nguyen and freshman Nyah Funderburke.
"It was great to get up there (on the podium) with them (on the relay)," Babatunde said. "We did a great job, and we have had a great year. I'm satisfied with what we have done."
Also at state, the 400 relay of Jackson, Nguyen, junior Emily Dewolf and Babatunde finished ninth (49.78) and Jackson finished 11th in the 400 (59.75).
"Our goal was to get on the podium (in the 800 relay), and we did," said Bunker, whose team scored five points to tie seven others for 37th behind champion Beachwood (38) as 75 teams scored. "Really, our goal is always to get on the podium, and even though we missed it in the (400 relay), we were under 50 (seconds) again and that was our goal all year."
In the regional meet May 24 and 26 at Lexington, the 400 relay (49.26) and 800 relay (1:44.15) both finished first, Jackson was third in the 400 (59.13) and Babatunde placed fourth in the 200 (25.63) as the top four finishers in each event advanced to state. In addition, two at-large state berths were awarded for each running event based on regional times statewide.
Also at regional, Dewolf finished ninth in the 100 (13.03) and 12th in the 100 hurdles (17.07), freshman Eva Nicolosi was 12th in the long jump (15 feet, 3 1/2 inches) and junior Elizabeth Johnson was 16th in the discus (70-2) as the Unicorns finished eighth (31) behind champion Orrville (70) as 38 teams scored.
CSG placed fifth (45) in the CCL meet May 8 and 10 behind Watterson (175.5), host Hartley (116), DeSales (107) and Ready (47.5).
"The girls ran well on the first day (of state) and the second as well," Bunker said. "Sometimes we take for granted how good our program is. We have tough times on our record board that we are trying to beat, and we had two relays and two individuals at state.
"There are more than 150 (Division II) teams in the state, and if you (qualify for state) in one of the events, then you are in the top 10 percent. Anytime you can say that, you have had a good season, and these girls did great this year."
Lacrosse coach leaving after four seasons
Kellen Morrissey has stepped down as coach of the lacrosse team after four seasons.
The Unicorns finished 13-7 overall this season and were 42-32 during Morrissey's tenure. After going 5-11 in her first season in 2015, CSG went 37-21 over the next three.
"It was a very hard decision, but my full-time job (in human resources) has changed and doesn't accommodate early practices anymore," Morrissey said. "I am still going to be involved in the lacrosse community somehow, but unfortunately, I won't be able to commit to the time it takes to coach a successful varsity team."
The Unicorns lost their first four contests this spring before winning their next nine games and 12 of their next 13. Seeded fifth, they defeated 12th-seeded Wellington 19-5 in their Division II, Region 7 opener May 16 at home before losing at fourth-seeded Granville 12-6 in a regional quarterfinal May 19.
CSG went 1-2 in the CCL to place third, behind DeSales (3-0) and Hartley (2-1) and ahead of Watterson (0-3). The Unicorns finished fifth (3-4) in the Central Independent League, behind DeSales (7-0), Columbus Academy (6-1), Granville (5-2) and Hartley (4-3) and ahead of Watterson (2-5), Bexley (1-6) and Wellington (0-7).
Midfielder Lily Berger (second-team all-state, first-team all-region and all-CIL) and defender Bethany Yamamoto (second-team all-CIL) led a seven-member senior class.
"This group of seniors will be greatly missed," Morrissey said. "Their presence on the field and their leadership and personalities brought so much to our team."
Expected to return are junior midfielder Katie Wagenbrenner (second-team all-CIL), junior defender Annie Feibel (honorable mention all-CIL), sophomore midfielders Maura Donnelly and Ellen Monahan (first-team all-region and all-CIL) and freshman goalkeeper Olivia Barry-Wilson.
"We only have a small group of juniors, but they will be impactful as seniors, I'm sure," Morrissey said.
"I expect great things from soon-to-be seniors Katie Wagenbrenner and Annie Feibel, and the midfield will be intact with Ellen Monahan and Maura Donnelly returning. We will also have our goalie, Olivia Barry-Wilson, for the next three years, which should add some consistency there."