Whitehall-Yearling High School girls track and field standout Liana Betts has had ample motivation this season.
Not only is she looking for her first Division I regional berth, but she also has been competing in honor of former coach Dan Gartner, who died Nov. 26 at age 75.
Gartner, who retired from teaching in 1994 but remained in the district as a classroom aide, assistant track coach and football equipment manager, played a role in Betts' development in her first two seasons with the program.
Betts, a junior, set the program record in the discus during the Gary Smith Invitational on April 27 at Thomas Worthington. She finished second with an effort of 118 feet, bettering the previous mark of 117-3 set by Perdita Abbington in 2005.
"I was thinking about (setting the program record), but if I think about it too much before a meet then I usually don't do well," Betts said. "I was just trying to prepare my mind, but I had a good feeling. I had a good feeling when I released it. I'm happy, but I have to try to do better."
Alexis Kefauver, a former field event standout in the program, replaced Gartner as an assistant this season with a focus on the discus.
"I told (Betts) coming into today that she needs to relax, focus and just let it all out," Kefauver said. "This was her dream. She prefers the discus (over the shot put) and that makes this coach happy. Danny would be so proud of her."
Betts credits Gartner and Kefauver for her progress.
"I met Alexis when I was in eighth grade," Betts said. "She was graduating when I came in, but her and Gartner would still help me a lot. She would help me with my form. She's still helping me with my form and helping me do better. I really appreciate her for what she's doing."
Betts nearly qualified for regional in the discus last season, finishing fifth at district with a 105-11 as the top four finishers in each event advanced.
"I hope to go there this season," Betts said. "(An effort of 118) could get me there, but I want to do better. I'm trying to get in the 120s."
Kefauver said Gartner's guidance was a key in her development.
"He coached me from the time I was in seventh grade until I graduated," said Kefauver, a 2016 graduate. "I was a lot closer to him than a lot of the other athletes. He was more of a family figure to me than anything. I needed to carry on his legacy and show the kids all the things that he taught me and keep the program going.
"Liana was his diamond in the rough. I needed to come in and polish it for him."
Betts also was fourth in the shot put (33-4) and Rebekah Revadelo was fourth in the high jump (4-6) in the Gary Smith Invitational.
The Rams finished 12th (21 points) of 14 teams behind champion Thomas (104).
Boys track team places fourth at Thomas
The boys track team finished fourth (68) of 15 teams in the Gary Smith Invitational behind champion and host Thomas (107).
Chris Ceasar helped lead the Rams, winning the 110-meter hurdles (14.89 seconds) and finishing fourth in the 300 hurdles (40.62).
Hezekiah Freeman won the long jump (20-6) and was fourth in the 110 hurdles (15.91), and Anthony Hampton, Daba Hordofe, Alex Rodriguez and Chris Charles won the 3,200 relay (8:27.78).
Keon Freeman was second in the shot put (50-6 3/4) and Raymell Byrd was second in the high jump (6-5).
Softball team preps for district tourney
The softball team was 4-15 overall and 3-5 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing Worthington Christian on May 1.
The Rams defeated Grandview 8-6 on April 29 and lost to Bexley 2-0 on April 24 in league action.
Whitehall is seeded 18th of 24 teams for the Division II district tournament and visits 16th-seeded Beechcroft in the first round Tuesday, May 7.
The winner visits fifth-seeded Granville in the second round May 9.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
May 4 -- At St. Charles
*May 6 -- At Columbus Academy
May 7 -- Home vs. Briggs
*May 8 -- Home vs. Academy
May 2 -- At Wellington
May 7 -- At 16th-seeded Beechcroft in first round of Division II district tournament. The Rams are seeded 18th.
May 6 -- Home vs. Grove City
TRACK & FIELD
May 3 -- Tigers Invitational at Columbus East
May 7, 10 -- MSL-Ohio meet at home