Even on a "bad day" Chris Burkhart of the Hilliard Darby High School boys track and field team seems to finish above his competition.
The senior finished first in the discus in the Division I regional meet that concluded May 24 at Pickerington North with a throw of 165 feet, 4 inches. He is seeded fifth for the state meet Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.
"Regional was not my best meet," Burkhart said. "I was about five feet away from my (personal best) and the rest of my throws didn't even get to 160. But I guess everyone is entitled to a bad day. I've got to do much better than that at state to finish on the podium or in the top five, which is my goal.
"I don't like saying top five is my goal, because every time I compete, I want to win. That's the main goal. You have to shoot for the stars."
Burkhart relies on technique to have success in the discus.
"I've worked really hard with my technique and I feel I have to because I'm not the biggest of guys," he said. "I knew when I was younger and competing against some bigger, heavier guys that I was going to have to be better than them in my technique. You go against a lot of stockier guys when you're throwing weights.
"I think my rhythm was off at regional. I had a disconnect between my arm and hip. I've got to get that fixed for state. I'm not far off. I had a 179 at district that was a foul because it was just outside the right sector."
Also advancing from regional was sophomore Sean Carney, who placed sixth in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 20.1 seconds) and earned an at-large state berth.
The top four finishers in each event automatically advanced to state. In addition, two at-large berths were awarded in each event based on time, height or distance statewide.
Also competing at regional were Michael Cornathan in the discus (eighth, 142-3) and shot put (eighth, 50-6 1/4), the 3,200 relay of Malachi McGill, Eric Lowery, Matthew Imwalle and Carney (eighth, 8:09.54), the 800 relay of Kris Day, Lucas Fratianne, Eric Williams and Todd Pilkington (ninth, 1:31.01) and Fratianne in the 200 (10th, 22.52).
The Panthers totaled 16 points to tie Central Crossing for 14th behind champion Pickerington Central (101) and 42 teams scored.
"We had some ups and downs," coach Matthew Fox said. "I'm very pleased that Chris and Sean will be at state. Chris has worked so hard for this and we're hoping it all comes together and he lets it rip at state. Sean made it through in a tough regional with an at-large berth and he's only a sophomore and will continue to get better and better.
"But it's always tough when others don't have their best day and make it through, and it's especially tough for the seniors who don't get to be on the big stage in their final year."
The girls team will be represented at state by the 800 relay of Zayna Hampton, Sydney Thomas, Stacia Rispress and Naomi Walters as well as Emma Kowalski in the shot put.
The 800 relay placed third (1:41.72) at regional and Kowalski finished sixth (39-2 3/4) but earned an at-large state berth.
Also competing at regional were Rispress in the high jump (sixth, 5-2), Hampton in the 400 (seventh, 59.0), Santos in the 1,600 (eighth, 5:12.19), Gabrielle Hammonds in the 100 hurdles (eighth, 15.97), Thomas in the 200 (10th, 26.27), Hammonds in the 300 hurdles (11th, 48.39), Walters in the long jump (11th, 16-9 3/4), Syd Wyngarden in the 400 (11th, 1:02.26), the 400 relay of Walters, Thomas, Hammonds and Rispress (11th, 50.58), the 1,600 relay of Hampton, Thomas, Jane Vulic and Wyngarden (11th, 4:12.65), Maliyah Ellis in the long jump (12th, 16-9 1/2) and the 3,200 relay of Santos, Mia Wyngarden, Syd Wyngarden and Erin Cowen (12th, 10:03.05).
The Panthers scored 12 points to tie Reynoldsburg and Watkins Memorial for 12th behind champion Gahanna (89) as 38 teams scored.
Baseball team wins fifth district title
The sixth-seeded baseball team defeated third-seeded Olentangy Orange 5-2 in a Division I district final May 23 at Beavers Field in Lancaster to capture its fifth district title.
The Panthers improved to 22-7 and will play Lancaster in a regional semifinal Thursday, May 30, at Dublin Coffman. The winner faces New Albany or Upper Arlington in a regional final Friday, May 31, at Coffman, with the regional champion advancing to a state semifinal June 7 at Canal Park in Akron.
Lancaster, which was seeded second in the district, is 25-3. New Albany was the top seed in the district and is 27-1, while UA was seeded seventh and is 20-9.
First-year coach Mike Weer downplayed his role in Darby winning the district championship.
"This is basically just an extension of what coach (Chris) Fugitt had done for 22 years," said Weer, just the second coach in program history. "It's the same program and the same staff. The kids buy into the program and the things that we do, which is put the ball in play, throw strikes and make the routine plays and then let the process take care of itself."
Against Orange, the Panthers scored three runs in the top of the first inning on RBI singles by left fielder Mason Bowers and second baseman Drew Snyder and a steal of home by Bowers on the back end of a double steal.
The score held up until the sixth inning, as Darby turned a ground-ball double play in the second and Bowers made a diving catch in the fourth on a two-out line drive with runners on first and third.
Connor Maruniak started on the mound for the Panthers and allowed two runs and four hits in five-plus innings. Both runs came in the sixth. The Pioneers tried to score a third run in the inning on a single to left field, but the runner was thrown out at the plate on a relay from Bowers to shortstop Paxton Schwandt to catcher Ryan Eatherton.
"We made a lot of tough plays, including on several pop-ups in the sun to first base (Nick Skelsky) and right field (Garrett Mudgett)," Weer said. "We had a nice game defensively, but it's what we've come to expect from these guys."
Darby added two runs in the seventh, with Bowers leading off with a single, stealing second base and scoring on a one-out single by Snyder, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI. The last run scored on Orange's only error of the game.
"With Mason on third and one out, I just wanted to put the ball in play because we had just given up two in the sixth," Snyder said. "We felt like we had to respond and we matched their two runs. There's not a better feeling than this right now. It's crazy. It's awesome."
"We're on top of the world right now," added Bowers, who also went 2-for-4. "We maintained our composure and got through some tough spots, so this is an incredible feeling."
Darby beat 16th-seeded Watkins Memorial 2-0 in a district semifinal May 21 at Coffman, as Andrew Patrick pitched a three-hitter and Bowers drove in both runs with a third-inning single that scored Patrick and Eatherton.
Boys volleyball team headed back to state
The boys volleyball team overcame a sluggish start against sixth-seeded Dublin Coffman in a Division I East Region final May 24 at Westerville Central.
The top-seeded Panthers weren't sharp in the first game and lost the second game before responding to win 25-19, 6-25, 25-13, 25-21 to improve to 25-2 and advance to the state tournament for the 14th consecutive season.
"I don't think anybody on this team has ever lost a game like that, at least not for Darby," junior setter Noah Platfoot said of the second game against the Shamrocks. "But it made us mad, not discouraged. We went out with a better mindset and got it done and I knew that's how these guys would respond."
Darby will face Beavercreek (20-5) in a state quarterfinal at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at Capital. The winner plays Cincinnati St. Xavier (20-5) or Massillon Jackson (18-8) in a semifinal at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 2, with the state final to follow at 4 p.m.
Darby, which beat St. Xavier 25-16, 25-21, 25-15 on April 27, has not lost to any teams from Ohio this season as both of its losses came in a tournament held March 29 and 30 in Wheaton, Illinois.
The Panthers reached the state final each of the past two seasons, losing to Cincinnati Moeller 25-22, 25-22, 25-18 a year ago after falling to Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-18, 26-24, 25-19 in 2017. They won state titles in 2013 and 2015.