The Pickerington High School Central track and field teams entered the Division I regional meet this week with multiple competitors in three events -- the boys 100 and 1,600 meters and the girls high jump.
When it comes to high jumpers Grace Adegoke and Simone Mahan, they would not want to prolong their season any other way than with each other.
"We're kind of like sisters. We do everything together and we feed off each other's energy, for sure," Adegoke said. "My vertical has improved a lot and I've done a better job edging over the bar. We help each other a lot. We record each other a lot to study our form and we encourage each other."
Mahan and Adegoke both jumped 5 feet, 1 inch in the 17-team district 1 meet that concluded May 18 at Hilliard Darby, placing third and fourth, respectively. Their finishes, along with Jaydan Wood's wins in the 200 (24.88 seconds) and 400 (54.06), led Central to 45 points and fifth place behind the host and champion Panthers (106).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional, which began May 22 and concludes Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North.
Both Mahan, a junior, and Adegoke, a sophomore, have high-jumped for three years.
"I just wanted to do something different. I'd done some different sports but never tried track and I found out I loved it," Mahan said. "I trained with the sprinters, even though I don't like running, in order to get stronger. I practiced a lot, as much as I could. It's helped me mentally. They run so hard for so long and in high jump, you only run for a few seconds. But if you have the mindset that you're in it for the long haul, you're going to do better."
The boys team rolled to the district 1 championship, winning eight events and amassing 137 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Lancaster (73) as 17 teams scored.
It was a familiar result for those two teams, as in the OCC-Ohio Division meet that concluded May 11 at Groveport, when the Tigers scored 158 points to beat the runner-up Golden Gales by 50 points.
At district, Central got individual wins from Denzell Feagin in the 100 (10.84) and 200 (21.46), Brady Johnson in the 1,600 (4:17.31) and Evan Matthews in the 110 hurdles (14.66) and 300 hurdles (36.66).
The Tigers won three of the four relays, finishing first in the 800 relay (1:27.22) with Darnell Bonner, Feagin, Terry Simuel and Lorenzo Styles, the 1,600 (3:18.79) with Johnson, Matthews, Simuel and Garner Wallace and the 3,200 relay (8:03.95) with Johnson, Max Smart, Wallace and Jailen Willis.
Earning runner-up finishes were Johnson in the 800 (1:53.92), Simuel in the 400 (49.13), Styles in the 100 (10.92), Wallace in the 1,600 (4:20.13), Willis in the 3,200 (9:58.41) and the 400 relay of Bonner, Marvin Brooks, Keith Moton and Styles (43.03).
"We know how capable we are of repeating (as state champions)," Matthews said. "We're a lot stronger and a lot faster. I feel like we've picked up where we left off. We love the pressure because it holds us to a high standard."
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
Although his team was seeded 30th in the 48-team Division I district tournament, baseball coach Colin Wilson was confident his team could win at least a few postseason games in part because of its draw.
The Tigers did exactly that last week. After winning 5-1 at 23rd-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in the first round May 13, they used a six-run fourth inning May 15 to come from behind and upset host and 10th-seeded Dublin Coffman 6-4 in a second-round game.
Central's run came to an end May 20 when it lost to seventh-seeded Upper Arlington 1-0 in 11 innings in a district semifinal. Justin Maynard threw a complete game, limiting the Bears to two hits in 10-plus innings as the Tigers finished 12-13.
"We looked at where the top three or four teams were (on the bracket) and saw that if we took the slot we did, we wouldn't have to see a top-three or -four team until the district finals. With tournament baseball, anybody can win if you play your game and we felt like this was our best avenue," Wilson said. "We knew this was the best route to get as deep as we possibly could."
DeWayne Carter had three hits and Andrew Bookman and Cooper Martell each added two against the Shamrocks, and pitcher Michael Shinohara pitched a five-hitter while striking out four.
Central also benefited from three Coffman errors.
Boys volleyball team edges Cardinals
The 10th-seeded boys volleyball team won its postseason opener for the third consecutive year, defeating 14th-seeded Thomas Worthington 18-25, 25-17, 25-20, 19-25, 15-13 in the Division I East Region tournament May 18 at Darby.
Central was 15-10 before playing top-seeded Darby in a regional semifinal May 21. The Panthers also were top-ranked in the state last week.
The win over Thomas was the Tigers' fifth in a row dating to May 7.
The semifinal winner plays sixth-seeded Coffman or eighth-seeded Liberty in a regional final Friday, May 24, at Westerville Central. The regional champion advances to a state quarterfinal June 1 at Capital.
The Tigers lost to Coffman 21-25, 25-22, 25-11, 25-23 on April 2 and 25-16, 25-21, 25-21 on April 22 and fell to Liberty 25-15, 25-18, 26-24 on May 1.
Softball coach reflects on season
Even in her team's season-ending loss, softball coach Jenny Young saw the resilience she considered a defining characteristic of this season.
Both of Central's Division I district tournament games were decided by walk-off home runs. Junior catcher Zoie Smith's homer gave the 11th-seeded Tigers a 4-3 win over 29th-seeded Reynoldsburg in the second round May 8, and Teays Valley's Shaina Rowe blasted a three-run homer to straightaway center field May 13 as the 10th-seeded Vikings edged Central 9-8 in a district semifinal.
Central led Teays Valley 3-0 through two innings and, after falling behind in the middle innings, scored three times in the top of the seventh to take an 8-6 lead.
"They all fought hard and we didn't give up. I couldn't ask for anything else from these girls," Young said. "(The way the season ended) was a heartbreaker, especially for our seniors. We always found a way to claw back and they believed in each other. That was the best part of this season, as far as coaching them."
Despite losing twice to Lancaster by a combined score of 20-1, the Tigers finished 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio to share the title with the Golden Gales.
Smith led Central in home runs (13), batting average (.547), hits (47) and RBI (46). Senior shortstop Sophia Slack, a Walsh recruit, batted .487 with 38 hits and seven home runs.
Three other hitters batted above .400 in junior pitcher Anna Feil (.419, 31 hits) and sophomore outfielders Tori Angles (.411, 21 hits, 5 home runs) and Kassidy Stanley (.405, 30 hits).
Junior outfielder Taylor Whalen also had 30 hits.
Girls lacrosse team to return key players
The girls lacrosse team's top two scorers and both of its goalkeepers are eligible to return after the Tigers went 13-5 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Central, losing at third-seeded Thomas 17-6 in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal May 16.
Sophomore midfielder Grace Osborn had five goals and junior attacker Maddie Morrell scored three against the Cardinals and freshman goalie Megan Liston made five saves. Central was seeded sixth in the 17-team tournament.
Morrell finished the season with a team-high 66 goals as well as 19 assists, 66 draw controls and 20 caused turnovers. Osborn added 64 goals, 15 assists and 102 draw controls, senior attacker Kelsea Friedheim had 28 goals, sophomore attacker Riley Smith had 24 goals and senior attacker Dylan Smith had 23 goals and 22 assists.
Central averaged 14.1 goals per game and, with Liston and freshman Cadence Jobe alternating in goal, allowed 9.3. Liston made 110 saves on 278 shots (42.4 percent).
"We're pleased with the season we had and the overall trajectory of the program right now," coach Brian Walton said. "We'll return a lot of full-time starters and a lot of other girls who started on a part-time basis or rotated in on a regular basis."
The Tigers, who finished third in the OCC-Central behind champion UA (6-0), began the postseason with a 19-7 home win over 12th-seeded Beavercreek on May 14.
Tennis season ends at district
The boys tennis team had a tough draw and a short stay at the Division I district tournament May 16 at Reynoldsburg, as the doubles team of senior Karson Stanley and junior Stevan Klein lost 6-0, 6-0 to New Albany's Devin Boyer and Nathan Jose in the first round.
Boyer and Jose are seeking their second consecutive state doubles championship.
Klein and Stanley were coming off a third-place finish in their home sectional.
While Stanley is one of two seniors the Tigers are losing, Klein is among five players eligible to return, along with classmates Gabe Peck and Cooper Stang and sophomores Brady Phelps and Jack Philabaum.
Central went 14-6 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio, finishing third behind champion Gahanna (5-0).
Boys lacrosse team ousted by Wolves
Ben Hayes and Morgan Morrell each scored two goals May 16, but the eighth-seeded boys lacrosse team fell behind by double digits in the first half and lost 17-4 at second-seeded Kilbourne in a Division I, Region 3 quarterfinal.
Goalie Brendan Chong made nine saves for Central, which finished 11-6.
The Tigers began the tournament with an 11-2 home win over 12th-seeded Beavercreek on May 14 in which Hayes scored five goals and A.J. Terbovich scored three.