Jemeila Hunter considered giving up track and field the summer before her junior year at Pickerington High School North, mostly because she wasn't seeing as much progress as she had hoped.
Rather than walk away, Hunter chose the kind of hard work that helped her older brother, Jerome, land a scholarship to play men's basketball at Indiana.
On May 1, Jemeila Hunter signed her own letter of intent to run track at Bowling Green.
"Sophomore year, I wasn't very good. I never expected it to go like this," Hunter said. "My sister (Brenna Burke) ran track and got me into this. I wasn't going to come back junior year, but I stuck with it. I did some summer work, a lot of weightlifting and harder workouts I hadn't done before, and I started embracing the competition."
As of last week, Hunter owned the third-best times in the area in both the 100 meters (12.21 seconds) and 200 (25.15), as she and the Panthers are set to compete in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, at Groveport.
Pushing Hunter all the way is classmate Celeste Pierce, who was 11th in the 100 (12.6) in last week's area honor roll and has a personal-best time of 25.5 in the 200.
"They run well together, but if you put them in an individual event, I'm not sure each of them knows the other is there. They're intense and trying to win," coach Jim Langenderfer said. "The surprise is how close to the top they are for the area. That can be double-edged because you like to be there as an athlete, but you also know that everybody is aiming for you."
Hunter and Pierce helped set the program's 400 relay record of 47.48 last year with Burke and Lexi Walker. Both run the 400 and 800 relays.
"We support each other and (Hunter) always pushes me," Pierce said. "I like the 100 best because I'm good at getting out of the blocks and building up speed pretty quickly, but I like the 200 because it gives me some time to get faster gradually."
Both have their eyes on the program's records in the 100 (11.82) and 200 (24.62) that have stood since 2009 and 2011, respectively.
The boys and girls teams both finished fourth in last year's league meet.
The boys scored 76 points to place behind Pickerington Central (166), Gahanna (108) and Lancaster (94) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (44) and Grove City (33).
Coach Dave Spring hopes that a balanced team, including standout distance runner Matt Duvall and Harper Moore, thrower Michael Martello and hurdler Zemen Siyoum, will help the Panthers move up the standings.
In last week's area honor roll, Moore ranked first in the 1,600 (4:22.72), fourth in the 800 (1:57.07) and sixth in the 3,200 (9:36.25). Duvall was third in both the 1,600 (4:23.6) and 3,200 (9:29.87), Martello was seventh in the discus (150 feet, 10 1/2 inches) and Siyoum was eighth in the 110 hurdles (14.96).
"We're revving up things pretty good for the district meet and using the OCC (-Ohio) meet to make some decisions and gauge some things for the postseason," Spring said. "There's a realistic chance that we could have five teams from our league in the top 10 at the state meet. It's that ridiculously good."
The 400 relay was the girls' only league champion last year as North scored 97 points and finished behind Gahanna (164), Lancaster (123) and Central (107) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (23) and Grove City (7).
After the league meet, the Panthers will compete in the Division I, district 2 meet at Hilliard Darby. Field events will take place Tuesday, May 14, followed by preliminaries for the running events Wednesday, May 15, and running finals May 18.
The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 22 and 24 at North.
Baseball team faced big week
The baseball team entered the week tied for second place in the OCC-Ohio with Lancaster, a half-game behind first-place Gahanna, and North was scheduled to play those two teams May 6 and May 7, respectively.
North was 13-7 overall and 8-3 in the league before playing Lancaster and had won six consecutive games since a 7-3 loss at New Albany on April 18.
The Eagles were ranked first in last week's district coaches poll and are the top seed in the Division I district tournament.
"The biggest thing is we're finally making in-game adjustments at the plate and on the mound with situational baseball," coach Tim Thomas said. "We played well last week. It's one of those things where in the first part of the season, everybody was trying to find their role. The kids have figured that out and the seniors have stepped up. It's amazing what a little bit of success does in terms of your confidence."
North won three OCC-Ohio games last week, defeating Grove City 6-5 on April 29 and 8-6 on May 2 and Central 10-0 in six innings May 1. Cam Jenkins had a walk-off home run April 29 and Luke Wilcox and Matt Chadwick each homered against the Tigers.
The Panthers will play host to Hartley on Thursday, May 9, and Bloom-Carroll on Saturday, May 11, before finishing league play at Grove City on a date to be determined.
Seeded eighth in the 48-team district tournament, North will play host to 28th-seeded Hamilton Township or 35th-seeded Licking Heights in a second-round game Wednesday, May 15. The winner advances to a district semifinal May 20.
"I think everybody knew who the top four or five teams were and then everybody else kind of fell into place (at the tournament draw)," Thomas said. "We were looking to see where we best fit to give us a chance (at a district championship). If we get to a district final, we're going to play somebody good. We weren't staying away from anybody or going after anybody."
Lacrosse teams lose to Tigers
The boys and girls lacrosse teams entered their home doubleheader against Central on May 3 with identical league records to their crosstown rivals, but both ended up on the wrong side of lopsided losses.
Led by three goals from Paige Wilson and two from Sophie Zimmerman, the girls lost 18-5 to the Tigers. Goalkeeper Erin Boder made seven saves as North lost to Central for the fifth time in six seasons.
The Panthers were 10-4 overall before playing Westerville Central on May 7 and finished 3-3 in the OCC-Central.
Larry Martin's two goals paced the boys team in a 21-5 loss to Central. Bryce Coleman, Ethan Kevelder and Kalib Severt also scored and goalie Joshua Smith stopped five shots.
North was 5-12 overall before playing Westerville Central on May 7 and went 3-4 in the OCC-Central.
The girls team is seeded eighth in the 17-team Division I, Region 3 tournament and will visit Springboro for a first-round game Monday, May 13. The winner plays second-seeded Dublin Jerome or 17th-seeded Kettering Fairmont in a regional quarterfinal May 17.
The boys are seeded 13th of 16 teams in Region 3 and will visit seventh-seeded Hilliard Davidson in the first round Tuesday, May 14. The winner plays fourth-seeded Centerville or ninth-seeded Darby in a regional quarterfinal May 17.
The Panthers lost to Davidson 13-5 on April 15.
Softball team opens postseason
The softball team began the Division I district tournament May 8 at home against 28th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a second-round game, needing one win to reach a district semifinal for the second consecutive year.
The second-round winner plays second-seeded Mount Vernon or 34th-seeded Central Crossing in a district semifinal Monday, May 13, at a neutral site. That winner advances to a district final May 17 or 18 at Central.
North, which is seeded 27th of 45 teams, was 7-12 overall before playing its final scheduled regular-season game May 7 against Olentangy.
The Panthers finished 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio, losing their final two league games, 8-0 to Grove City on May 1 and 10-0 to Lancaster the next day. The loss to the Golden Gales meant that Central and Lancaster tied for the league championship at 8-2.
Athletes announce college decisions
Three student-athletes recently announced their college decisions.
In addition to Hunter, Grace Cherryhomes will swim at Saginaw Valley State and Jason Miller will play men's volleyball at Indiana Tech.
Below is the coming schedule for the North boys tennis and boys volleyball teams:
May 9, 11 -- Division I sectional at Upper Arlington. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 16 and 18 at Reynoldsburg.
May 9 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
May 10 -- Home vs. Huber Heights Wayne and Westerville North
May 14 -- OCC Challenge at Hilliard Darby