With one last throw to qualify for the Division II state girls track and field meet in the shot put, Nya Harris performed better than expected.
The Bexley High School junior's final effort in the regional May 23 at Lexington didn't feel right coming out of her hand. But instead of falling short of advancing, Harris propelled herself into first place with a program-record effort of 40 feet, 2 inches and a berth to state Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.
"I did not expect it to be 40 feet because it did not feel good coming out of my hand," Harris said. "I thought it went about 38 feet, but then I saw everyone's reaction. When they said 40-2, I screamed at the top of my lungs. I couldn't believe it."
Throwing coach Carleton McGrady said the final throw is always a competitor's most important.
"Nya almost gave me a heart attack waiting until the very last throw to do it," he said. "That's why we always say 'last throw, best throw.' We know it's never over until that last throw. It only takes one throw to do it, and she put it together for that one throw."
McGrady said the two tweaked Harris' technique a little for the final throw.
"The whole time, she had a great grouping when she was throwing 37," McGrady said. "I told her all she needed to do was make some small adjustments like dropping her elbow and getting her chest up, and that's all she did.
"Nya made it to state in her first time at regional and she became the first Bexley female thrower to qualify for state. That's great."
The top four finishers in each event at the regional meet, which concluded May 25, advanced to state. Also, two at-large state berths were awarded for each event based on times and distances statewide.
The girls tied for 10th (25 points) at regional behind champion Creston Norwayne (65) as 39 teams scored.
Freshman Claire MacDonald qualified for state with an at-large bid in the 3,200 meters after finishing fifth at regional in 12 minutes, 0.11 of a second.
The boys team will have its first representatives at state since 2016 with the 3,200 relay of sophomore Spencer Stevenson, seniors Nicholas Hall and Grant Halliday and junior Miles Feinknopf. They finished fourth at regional in 8:08.79.
In 2016, the 3,200 relay of 2016 graduates Robert Myers and Jack Allen, 2017 graduate Peter Hayden and Halliday finished ninth (8:07.56). Hayden also finished seventh in the 1,600 (4:23.27).
"We definitely thought we had a shot to make it (to state)," Halliday said. "As a freshman when we made it, I wasn't expecting it and I wasn't much of a leader at the time. This year I have more of a leadership role and have an idea of what to expect."
Stevenson also placed sixth in the 400 (51.09). Senior Bailey Garside was ninth in the long jump (20-8), and senior Reid Wagenbrenner did not clear the initial height of 5-8 in the high jump.
The 1,600 relay of Feinknopf, Stevenson, Halliday and senior Edward Schoedinger was 11th (3:34.12), and Garside, junior Patrick Beck, Wagenbrenner and Schoedinger were 16th in the 800 relay (1:42.66).
The boys tied for 15th (12) behind champion Shelby (77) as 44 teams scored.
Also for the girls, senior Freddie Collins placed sixth in the discus (115-1) and sophomore Maria Stienke was sixth in the 1,600 (5:26.92). Sophomore Hannah Hayden placed eighth in the 3,200 (12:18.8) and sophomore Karleigh Place was ninth in the 800 (2:26.81).
The 3,200 relay of Steinke, Hannah Hayden, MacDonald and Place placed fifth (9:52.68), and the 1,600 relay of juniors Caroline Bunker, Lucy Powers and Elisabeth Owen and sophomore Samantha Nack was 13th (4:19.78).
Girls lacrosse team grows during season
A large group of underclassmen helped the girls lacrosse team double its win total from last season.
Bexley finished 6-11 overall after losing to fifth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 18-6 in a Division II, Region 7 quarterfinal May 18 at Dublin Coffman. Last season, the Lions were 3-14.
Seeded 10th for the postseason, Bexley defeated eighth-seeded Big Walnut 14-13 on May 15 in the first round, avenging a 6-5 loss to the Golden Eagles on April 14.
"We really improved a lot and really looked good in the second half," said second-year coach Maggie Pope, whose team finished seventh (1-6) in the Central Independent League behind champion DeSales (7-0). "We started meshing late in the season. I think it was more that the team started working together than anything else.
"We spent a lot of time in the preseason and in practices early on working on fundamentals and weren't able to work on team concepts as much. Halfway through the season, we started working on playing as a team. We started having fun and saw the season turn around."
The Lions lose two seniors in attacker Emma Dressel (second-team all-league; 32 goals, 4 assists, 30 ground balls) and midfielder Makenzie Cory (first-team all-league; 34 goals, 7 assists).
"We will only have two holes to fill next year, but filling those voids won't be easy," Pope said. "Emma was a four-year varsity player and was critical to our midfield transition and draws and she brought all-out hustle. Makenzie led our attack from the left side and was our most valuable offensive player."
Freshman midfielder Grace Heilman (honorable mention all-league and all-region) led the Lions in goals (34) and assists (12) and also had 31 ground balls. Junior midfielder Katie Benedict (second-team all-region) had 16 goals and a team-leading 48 ground balls.
Other key players expected to return are junior attackers Claire Heilman (21 goals, 2 assists) and Joanna Howson (22 goals, 4 assists, 23 ground balls), freshman attacker/midfielder Emma Magee (11 goals, 4 assists) and freshman goalkeeper Molly Esque (23 saves, 183 ground balls).
"We had a large, impactful freshman class," Pope said. "We're excited to see where we can grow and flourish in the next couple of years."
Boys lacrosse team adds four victories
The boys lacrosse team rebounded from going 2-13 last spring, finishing 6-12.
The 11th-seeded Lions lost at sixth-seeded Big Walnut 17-0 on May 13 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 tournament.
Bexley had four seniors in attacker Hunter Hilgeman, defender Tommy Lee and midfielders Bo Collier and Alec Russo.
The Lions did not play in a league and did not have any all-region performers.
Top players expected back include juniors Tyler Behl (attacker), Jake Brigdon (defender) and Jack Dawson (attacker) and sophomores Matt Cohn (midfielder) and Tyler Owens-Terwilliger (goalie).