Kelvin Gilliam has become the first state qualifier for the Centennial High School boys track and field team since 2015.
Competing in the Division I regional May 22 at Pickerington North, the junior threw the discus 156 feet, 9 inches to place fourth and earn the final qualifying berth for the state meet Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.
The mark was a personal best for Gilliam, who was making his second regional appearance and was the only member of the boys team to advance past district.
"We were all waiting for the result and crowding around waiting for the announcement and they (announced) me fourth," Gilliam said. "I was very surprised because I thought I needed (a better mark) on my last throw and I fouled. It was easily a 160, but I stepped on the toe board and thought I was done.
"But when I heard my name we all screamed and my mom was right there giving me a big hug. I was surprised."
The last boys athlete to compete at state for Centennial was Chisom Ifedi, who placed fourth in the high jump (6-8) in Division II in 2015 and 15th in the long jump (20-6 1/2) in Division I in 2014.
Assistant coach Bobby Witcher, one of the team's two throws coaches with Floyd Tatum, played a little motivational trick on Gilliam.
"I knew he was already (a state qualifier entering his last attempt), but I kept it a secret and told him he had to go for it," Witcher said. "I wanted to see what he could do. The 156-9 is his personal best, but I know he has more in him. I guess you could say I was being secretive, but I wanted to motivate him and make him reach his best.
"Kelvin deserves to go to state. He works so hard and he's not a full-time thrower. He also runs, so he's not one of those guys who puts all his time and focus with us. Floyd and I can't imagine what he could do if his focus was on throws only. But Kelvin just works so hard at everything he does. He's such a competitor."
Gilliam qualified for regional by winning the district 1 title with a 154-2 on May 16 at Hilliard Darby.
The only regional representative for the girls team was senior Dayja Franklin. Competing in the shot put, she finished 13th (31-4 1/2) on May 22 after advancing to regional by finishing fourth (36-0) in the district 2 meet May 14 at Darby.
"Making it here as a senior was Dayja's big moment," Witcher said. "She was so happy to make it. She didn't have her best day, but so what. Kelvin was (at regional) last year and nerves got him. This was Dayja's first time (at regional). We're so very proud of her to reach her goal. It's finishing her time with Centennial with a bang."
Baseball team falls in City-North playoff
The baseball team came up just short of playing for the City League championship, as the Stars lost a home playoff game to Whetstone 9-8 in nine innings May 21.
The Braves represented the City-North Division in the City final against Briggs on May 24. The playoff game was needed after the Stars beat Whetstone 7-5 on May 6 and the teams shared the City-North title at 11-1.
Centennial finished 13-11 overall and loses Logan Baldogo (3B), Myles Martinez (P/1B) and Cameron Vasquez (P/LF) to graduation.
Martinez, who will play for Ohio Dominican, did not play this season after undergoing elbow surgery following basketball season.
"Myles was a huge coaching help after (assistant coach) Brian Knisley left in February to be head coach at Beech-croft," coach Pat Nance said. "I told him it was his job and he could learn from coaching. He brought new drills and showed everyone how to improve in workouts in the gym. He was tremendous and he's meant a lot to this program.
"So, we'll miss all three seniors, even if only two played this spring. Cameron became our pitching ace and played well in left field, and Logan was very solid, too."
Vasquez batted .349 and was first-team all-league while Baldogo was second-team all-league.
The Stars will have high expectations next season after defeating 16th-seeded Independence 17-3 on May 14 in the first round of the Division II district tournament and losing at ninth-seeded Granville 9-4 on May 16 in second round. Centennial was the 13th seed.
"When Myles went down, some of the guys' heads dropped some, but I figured Myles was going to have that surgery and I had been working to develop more pitching," Nance said. "So I was prepared, even though it took the kids a while to believe that they could have a strong season without Myles. I think they finally bought in and took ownership.
"We didn't get blown out by Granville. We gave up six runs in a nightmarish first inning and trailed 6-1, but played them evenly the rest of the game. We played Watterson three days earlier to prepare for the tournament and it was a scoreless game into the fifth before we made pitching changes (and lost 7-0). ... Granville (played) Watterson in a Division II district final (May 23), so that shows our kids where we could be."
Expected returnees are juniors A.J. Grumbling (P/1B), Jaden Kimbrough (2B), Evan Teeters (C) and Joe Theis (P/3B), sophomores C.J. Dean (SS/P) and Nate Dorinsky (P/OF) and freshman Blake Bennett (RF).
Dean batted .480 and was first-team all-league, along with Teeters (.347). Theis was second-team all-league and Grumbling (.340) and Kimbrough were honorable mention all-league.
Dean also was first-team all-district.