In Denzell Feagin and Evan Matthews, the Pickerington High School Central boys track and field team has what coach Jason Roach called "once in a lifetime kids … except that we have them both at the same time."
True to form, Feagin and Matthews turned in superlative performances as Central repeated as Division I regional champion May 24 at Pickerington North.
Central earned 101 points to more than double the total of runner-up Olentangy Orange, which had 50.
Gahanna used its depth to capture a fifth consecutive girls regional title. The Lions scored 89 points to easily defeat runner-up Westerville Central (54).
Both Pickerington Central's boys and Gahanna's girls will return to Ohio State on May 31 and June 1 as likely favorites to repeat their 2018 titles.
Feagin won the 100 meters (10.82 seconds) and 200 (21.69) and anchored the winning 400 relay (41.69) and 800 relay (1:25.63).
Matthews, an Ohio State signee, ran a regional record and U.S.-leading time of 36.12 in the 300 hurdles and ran on the winning 800 and 1,600 (3:17.01) relays. He beat the 20-year-old meet mark held by eventual Olympic finalist Ryan Wilson of Westerville North. The 800 relay lowered Central's 3-year-old mark.
"Four firsts? That's kind of what I wanted to do coming in, but getting to state is the No. 1 priority," Feagin said. "Those relays are a top priority to us. I won't lie. We were going for records."
Matthews came in ranked No. 1 in the state.
"I wanted to set the state record," he said, referring to a time of 35.96 set seven years ago by Donovan Robertson. "That number has been burned in my mind as far back as last year. Breaking the regional record and running a U.S. No. 1, though, that is cool. It's kind of surreal right now."
The Tigers got half of their points in sweeping the four relays. Perhaps the most exciting race was the meet-ending 1,600 relay when Pickerington Central edged Canal Winchester by 0.14 of a second.
Sophomore Korbin Martino of Canal Winchester edged freshman Justin Braun in a thrilling 400, which could be the beginning of a great rivalry. Martino ran 47.3 and Braun 47.58.
"We're great friends and rivals," Martino said. "I love that kid. We're going to keep pushing each other for two more years. We've only raced three times. He beat me by two one-hundreths of a second and I beat him by two one-hundreths the last two races."
Gahanna's girls left with one just one regional event title, in the meet-ending 1,600 relay (3:49.4). But the Lions have plenty of top-notch entries to make a run at a third state title in four years.
"We've been a depth team all year long, but we have our share of outstanding individuals and relay teams as well," Gahanna coach Roger Whittaker said. "I'd say this is as much quality depth that we've had, but how that translates to next week, I'll have to look at the results from around the state. I do think we'll be one of three or four teams in the picture."
The shining star of the girls meet was Pickerington North senior Jemeila Hunter, who won the 100 (12.18) and 200 (24.41) and ran on the Panthers' winning 400 (47.99) and 800 (1:41.41) relays.
The Bowling Green signee splashed onto the scene this spring.
"It was definitely a goal to win all four events, but it was certainly not expected." Hunter said. "I give all the credit to my coach and trainer (Jamie Hence). "All of my training has been based on peaking at the end of the season. I'm really excited to get to state and see how I can do."
Aman Thornton of Mifflin narrowly missed the regional record in winning the 800 (1:51.27). Last year, he was tripped in the regional race and was unable to finish. In 2017, he refused to run the event because of anxiety issues.
"That's the best race I've run and it came at the best time for me," said Thornton, a senior who remains unsigned. "I wanted this so bad, to make up for last year and everybody in the City League. That was a great field. I usually kick about the 100 mark, but those guys were on me and I start kicking a lot earlier to hang on."
Thomas Worthington sisters Gia and Carina Napoleon had a remarkable meet.
Gia, a senior Ohio State signee who won the state 800 title in 2017, beat 2018 champion Madison Martinez of Gahanna in a sensational race. Napoleon ran 2:08.65 — just missing her regional record — and Martinez 2:09.41. Carina placed second in the 1,600.
Both also ran the final two legs of the winning 3,200 relay (9:03.05). That time ranks No. 3 in the U.S.
"It was really cool to set a PR in the relay, but we're going to have to run low- to mid-8:50s to win the state," Carina Napoleon said. "That's a super-competitive race."
Defending 400 state champion Jaydan Wood of Pickerington Central won her specialty (53.8) and added a second in the 200 (24.45).
Folake Olujide-Ajibade of Dublin Scioto won the 100 hurdles (14.43) and took second in the 300 hurdles (43.35).