The Canal Winchester High School boys track and field team had the kind of day May 18 that even when something went wrong, everything ultimately turned out well.
With coach Kurtis Robinson estimating that the Indians' first district championship in 48 years was a best-case scenario, the team lost a member of its 400- and 1,600-meter relays when Yohannes McLeish suffered an ankle injury before the running finals in the Division I, district 2 meet began at Hilliard Darby.
The 400 relay still managed a win in 42.63 seconds with Gibson Cornett, Dylan Randall, Nathan Simons and Tyler Toledo, but in the 1,600 relay to end the day and with the team title hanging in the balance, Elike Heh -- substituting for McLeish -- set the tone by running a 51.1 in the opening leg and Randall, Simons and Korbin Martino made the lead stand with a win in 3:19.34. That gave the Indians 84 points and a first-place tie with Pickerington North ahead of third-place Olentangy Liberty (67) as 16 teams scored. It was Canal Winchester's fourth district title but first since 1971 in Class A.
The other two came in 1958 and 1969.
"I am absolutely in awe," Robinson said. "We as a team just won a district championship. It is amazing what these guys came out here and did. I was looking at the meet ahead of time and I knew it was going to take every single point we possibly could get to do this and every single guy came through. They all put it on the line."
Other first-place finishes came from Martino in the 400 (47.53), Randall in the 100 (11.1) and the 800 relay of Cornett, Martino, Randall and Simons (1:27.42). Simons was runner-up in the 200 (22.05), one spot ahead of Cornett (22.67), and Will Butler placed third in the 800 (1:58.03).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional May 22 and Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North.
All three of the boys team's sprint relays set program records.
After finishing 12th at state in the 400 last year as a freshman, Martino said he set a goal to be a more diverse athlete this season.
"Last year, it was all about being a 400 runner. That was my thing," Martino said. "This year has been about expanding my horizons more. I've run the 200 a little more; our (800 relay) has been amazing. I've enjoyed being moved around. I don't want to be the one-trick pony I was last year. I really did not expect our (800 relay) to be this great. Our team is so young with Dylan (who is a freshman) and a few other guys. It's exciting to see how we are starting to develop."
Led by Ariana Coleman's championship in the long jump (18 feet, 5 1/2 inches), the girls team finished fifth (51) in district 2, behind champion Gahanna (186) as 14 teams scored.
Allena Klamorick was runner-up in the 800 (2:20.49), and she and Coleman were on the third-place 1,600 relay with Anaya Edwards and Angela Postage (4:05.56).
Klamorick has been hampered this season by tissue in her knees that get inflamed when she runs, but has run 2:30 or faster in the 800 most of the year.
"I ran the open 800 (in the Cruiser Invitational on April 13) at Groveport and I ran faster than I ran last year (2:24.84, finishing first). That was a huge thing mentally for me," Klamorick said. "I was always told that I had the foot speed of a sprinter, but I could go the miles of a distance runner. I have a lot of foot speed. I don't know how, but I am in the middle of cross country and track, being able to sprint here and focus on middle distance. I do better in the 400 and 800 than in the (1,600)."
At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to the state meet May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
Baseball team falls in district semifinal
Baseball coach Tyler Kuhn hoped any struggles during the regular season would pay off with success in the Division I district tournament, and he believed that was the case even though the 21st-seeded Indians lost 6-1 to fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty in a Division I district semifinal May 20 at Darby.
After edging 32nd-seeded Reynoldsburg 4-3 in a first-round home game May 13, the Indians came from behind to upend 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto 3-1 on the road in a second-round game May 15.
Canal Winchester scored a run in the third inning to tie the game and went ahead on Joey Young's two-run double in the sixth. Bryce Palmer pitched a complete game, allowing six hits and striking out six.
"We turned three double plays, which was huge," said Kuhn, whose team finished 14-14. "We were battle-tested during the regular season and even though we finished below .500, we learned how to play tough. That showed (last week). Scioto had been a hot team before we played them and Reynoldsburg came from a tough league (the OCC-Ohio Division).
"We have a grit and a grind to us and that's been prevalent the past few games. That grind factor is critical this time of year. (The players) appreciate that and they trust the process. They let things happen how they're supposed to happen. They let the game develop."
Young had two hits to lead the Indians against Liberty, which broke a 1-all tie with two runs in the third inning and added a run in each of the next three innings.
Welsh retires as boys tennis coach
After three seasons as boys tennis coach and more than four decades of coaching overall, Doug Welsh announced his retirement last week.
Welsh's wife, Jill, also retired as girls tennis coach after four seasons. She also was assistant boys coach, a role Doug Welsh filled with the girls team.
"It's been just great," said Doug Welsh, who made his decision during the spring but did not inform the team until after the season ended at the Division I sectional tournament May 9 at Pickerington Central. "We love Canal Winchester. It's been great, but it's time to do something else. We love the team and the community."
The couple's twin daughters, Elizabeth and Sara, played tennis for the Indians and graduated in 2018. They now attend Ashland and Muskingum, respectively, and Sara is on the Fighting Muskies' women's team.
Doug Welsh was Otterbein's head track and field coach from 1991-2009 and coached the same sport at Bexley in 2010 and 2011. His coaching career dates to the early 1970s, when he was an assistant football coach at Van Wert.
Canal Winchester went 6-8 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Capital this season. Much of the lineup is eligible to return, including singles players Jeremy Irby and Caden Sweeney and doubles players Drew Adams, Jake Chapman and Jake Diehl.
The Indians are losing two seniors in four-year first singles player Connor Clark and doubles player Corey Berner.