As a solo act in the Division I regional meet, Jaiden Stokes was hoping to deliver a pair of strong performances for the Westerville North High School girls track and field team.
The junior sprinter advanced in the 100 meters and 400 to regional, which began May 22 and concludes Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North. The top four finishers in each event advance to state May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
Stokes placed fourth in both events in the district 1 meet, which concluded May 18 at Hilliard Darby, finishing the 100 in 13.01 seconds and the 400 in 1:00.19. She was the only competitor for the North boys or girls to finish in the top four at district and qualify for regional.
"I never know what to expect," Stokes said. "Everybody shows up a little different every meet, including myself, so all I have to do is the best I can whatever day that is."
The 200 normally is Stokes' strongest event, but she placed sixth in 26.37.
"Jaiden had a hard last week, maybe week and a half," coach Johnny Jackson said. "She has run more events two times in a row and the OCC(-Buckeye Division meet) was the same way. It just kind of caught up with her."
The girls placed 10th (25 points) behind champion Darby (106) as 17 teams scored.
Stokes also was a member of the fifth-place 1,600 relay (4:09.21) with Jalyse Cornley, Grace Blanchong and Audrey Smith.
"We tried really hard and did the best we could," Stokes said. "It's really hot today and I'm so proud of my team no matter what."
Smith was sixth in the 800 (2:26.32), as was Lynn Burton in the shot put (35 feet, 9 inches).
The 3,200 relay of Smith, Christina Prokop, Erin Mayle and Blanchong finished seventh (10:27.34).
The boys team was 17th (7) behind champion Pickerington Central (137) in district 1, led by the sixth-place 1,600 relay (3:29.44) of Ryan Cooper, McRandy Achia, Isaiah Hutcherson and Chace Perkins.
Charles Perkins was seventh in the shot put (45-6 3/4).
The 400 relay of Maximus Plaxico, Philip Alston, Cooper and Abdou Keita was eighth (44.61), and the same four runners were on the eighth-place 800 relay (1:32.65).
"I think we underachieved on our sprint relays on the boys side, so we could have done a little bit better, but the kids learned something," Jackson said. "I'm happy with that."
Baseball team still maturing
The baseball team had another growing season under coach Sean Ring, with a youthful roster finishing 7-20 overall and 2-13 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"I think we could have had a better season, but we were really young last year and we were still really young this year," said Ring, whose 33rd-seeded squad lost at 22nd-seeded St. Charles 1-0 on May 13 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. "We have to keep working and keep having a drive to improve and get better for next year."
Senior first baseman and pitcher Mason Lowder batted .283 with a team-high 15 RBI. He also was 3-7 with a 5.73 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 16 walks in a team-leading 36 2/3 innings.
Senior third baseman Brandon Bond had a team-leading .333 batting average with 13 runs and 10 stolen bases. Senior shortstop Adam Stefanelli batted .279 with nine RBI, six stolen bases and team highs in runs (15) and on-base percentage (.425).
"The seniors were a hard-working class and some were late-bloomers, but they were key contributors for us," Ring said.
Junior outfielder Auri Dover leads the expected returnees after batting .297 with eight RBI, 13 runs and eight stolen bases. Sophomore pitcher Ty O'Hearn was 1-5 with a 3.93 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 17 walks in 35 2/3 innings, and junior pitcher Cooper Crawford was 1-4 with a 7.08 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 20 walks in 30 2/3 innings. Sophomore designated hitter Brennen Albertini batted .273 with seven RBI and eight runs.
"Auri and Ty are two guys who carry the torch for us," Ring said. "Now we have to have the other guys step up and do that as well and get after it."
Boys lacrosse team continued to grow
The boys lacrosse team went through a learning process this season.
The 17th-seeded Warriors finished 3-15 overall, losing to 16th-seeded Westerville South 10-7 on May 13 in a play-in game of the Division I, Region 1 tournament. They went 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"It took them a while to learn to play together," coach Austin Ford said. "Over half of the team was sophomores. We had 16 sophomores, five freshmen and six kids that have never played before."
Senior midfielder Andrew Crawford was honorable mention all-league. Attacker Caden Crist, defender Grant Eastwood and midfielders Trent Bobo, Anthony DeMarco and Will Olson rounded out the six-player senior class.
"Almost all of the seniors are four-year or three-year starters," Ford said. "We're excited to see where the future leads. The youth and experience will pay off in the end, just not this year."
Junior midfielder Austin Yanichko and sophomore attacker Ian Evans were honorable mention all-region. Freshman Jack Bichsel began the season as a j.v. midfielder but started at goalkeeper in the postseason loss to South. Freshman Colin Hickey also saw time in goal.
"It's night and day from the beginning of the season until now," Ford said. "We went through five different goalies trying to figure out who was the guy. Colin Hickey and Jack Bichsel came through for us. Once we figured that out, things were good."
Girls lacrosse team edged by Wadsworth
The girls lacrosse team lost to ninth-seeded Wadsworth 8-7 on May 14 in the first round of the Division I, Region 1 tournament.
The 11th-seeded Warriors finished 6-12 overall and 2-5 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"We had lot injuries, but we still were competitive," coach Joe Heighway said. "We had a bunch of players get experience for next year. We played a lot of juniors who got some experience because of our injuries."
Midfielder/attacker Kait Boso (11 goals, 2 assists), midfielder Grace Heighway (15 goals, 8 assists) and defender Kate Smith (second-team all-league) led an eight-player senior class.
The top expected returnees include junior attacker Paige Miller (33 goals, 4 assist), junior midfielders Maddy Morrison (15 goals, 5 assists), Noel Orioli (15 goals) and Ariana Sanabria (17 goals, 9 assists), sophomore midfielder/attacker Aubrey McMahon (10 goals) and freshman attacker/midfielder Alison Gruber (11 goals).
Junior goalie Madi Martin had 179 saves, and junior defender Courtney Hornyak was honorable mention all-league. Coach Heighway said junior midfielder Lauren Harris and junior attacker Gianna Ricci also had strong seasons.
Boys volleyball team falls to Wildcats
The boys volleyball team lost at 10th-seeded Hilliard Davidson 25-18, 25-18, 25-15 on May 17 in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament.
The 16th-seeded Warriors finished 10-12 overall and 1-7 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"There was definitely a lot of growth for us," coach Eva Optiz said. "We had a lot of sophomores playing and a lot of guys who didn't have much varsity experience coming into the season."
Senior setter/outside hitter Austin Hayes was honorable mention all-region and first-team all-league, and senior middle hitter/outside hitter Nick Thompson was second team all-league. Sophomore outside hitter/setter Nathan Gillenwater was second-team all-league, and sophomore middle hitter/outside hitter Collin Cook was honorable mention all-league.
"When you are going against teams who have players playing year-round and your kids don't, you start at a disadvantage," Optiz said. "We're trying to stress playing in the offseason."