Pickerington High School Central boys track and field coach Jason Roach is around his team's elite talent on a daily basis, but the manner in which the Tigers won a Division I regional championship May 24 at Pickerington North left him looking for words.
All 10 individuals competing in running events qualified for the state meet Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State, and the Tigers swept the four relay titles to amass 101 points and more than double the point total of runner-up Olentangy Orange (50) as 42 teams scored.
"This doesn't happen every day," Roach said. "I've never been around a team where everybody got in (to state). For every event to get in, I've never seen it done. I didn't think we had a chance to do that, but when our little freshman (Jailen Willis) got in in the (3,200 meters, finishing third in 9 minutes, 26.4 seconds), then I started to think we had a chance."
Denzell Feagin won the 100 (10.82) and 200 (21.69) and was on the winning 400 relay (41.69) with Darnell Bonner, Keith Moton and Lorenzo Styles and the first-place 800 relay (regional-record 1:25.63) with Bonner, Evan Matthews and Styles.
Matthews won the 300 hurdles in a regional-record 36.12, a time that according to MileSplit.com was best in the country as of May 24. He also placed third in the 110 hurdles (14.37) and anchored the winning 1,600 relay (3:17.01) with Brady Johnson, Terry Simuel and Garner Wallace.
The 1,600 relay edged runner-up Canal Winchester by .14 of a second.
"That (300 hurdles time) was my ultimate goal and I got it," said Matthews, an Ohio State recruit and the defending state champion in the 300 hurdles. "Every race, prelim or final, I try to run fast just to get in the groove and know where I stand in the field. It's amazing to know what I've accomplished as part of this team, and I know there's more left to do."
Feagin admitted he fulfilled all of his goals at regional.
"I kind of knew what I wanted to do coming in. Just setting the record in (the 800 relay) and winning both of my events was the main goal," he said. "I'm just trying to work hard enough to be No. 1."
Johnson, Max Smart, Wallace and Willis comprised the winning 3,200 relay (7:50.06).
The top four finishers in each regional event automatically qualified for state. In addition, two at-large berths were awarded in each event based on time, height or distance statewide.
Also advancing were Styles in the 100 (third, 10.91), Johnson in the 800 (fourth, 1:52.37), Wallace in the 1,600 (fourth, 4:17.65) and Simuel in the 400 (sixth, 49.15). Simuel earned an at-large berth.
"Maybe we can win another (team state championship)," said Roach, whose team won last year's state title, scoring 58 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Centerville (36.5). "... I keep telling the guys that winning it would be great, but this is about getting the top four out, keeping healthy and moving on. They want to break regional records and that's great, but championships are forever."
On the girls side, Jaydan Wood cruised to a win in the 400 (53.8) and narrowly finished second in the 200 (24.45). The Ohio State recruit beat runner-up Alexis Thigpen of Gahanna by 3.25 seconds in the 400, in which she will try to defend last year's state title, but finished just .04 of a second behind North's Jemeila Hunter in the 200.
Grace Adegoke placed fifth in the high jump (5 feet, 3 inches) but earned at-large berth.
Simone Mahan was 13th in the high jump (5-1) as Central finished 10th (22) behind champion Gahanna (89) as 38 teams scored.
Baseball coach reflects on progress
The baseball team went 6-3 in a nine-game stretch to reach a Division I district semifinal, and although the season came to an end May 20 with a 1-0, 11-inning loss to seventh-seeded Upper Arlington at Hamilton Township, coach Colin Wilson is hoping that late surge will provide a springboard toward next season.
Central finished 12-13 overall and 5-10 in the OCC-Ohio Division, fifth behind champion Lancaster (12-3), and was seeded 30th in the 48-team district tournament.
"Toward the end of the season was when we finally started to put everything together," Wilson said. "It's always difficult getting a new coach. It's been a blast getting to know these guys and I look forward to the next couple of years, because while we lose a lot of talent, we have a lot coming up, too. The seniors leave a strong legacy these underclassmen will have to work to uphold."
Senior Justin Maynard (P/3B/OF) pitched 10-plus innings in the district semifinal, allowing only two hits, and went 5-3 on the season with a 2.49 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 16 walks in 53 1/3 innings.
Central also is losing its top hitter in senior first baseman DeWayne Carter, who led the Tigers in batting average (.434), hits (33) and RBI (17) and also had a home run. Carter is a Duke football recruit who was named first-team all-league.
Junior Dustin Morehart (OF) batted .274 with 15 hits and a home run and junior Cameron Ramey (C) batted .273 with 15 hits.
Junior Michael Shinohara (P) was 2-4 with a 3.81 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 23 walks in 44 innings, and classmate Seth Crandall was 0-2 with a 2.24 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 12 walks in 25 innings.
Junior Drew Bookman (SS) was second-team all-league and Crandall was honorable mention all-league.
"We'll bounce back," Wilson said. "For these seniors, this was a heck of a last two-and-a-half weeks. We have a good nucleus coming back, too. We'll take some time to be a family for a bit. The seniors will go on to their next step and we'll get back to work."
Boys lacrosse team pleased with season
Boys lacrosse coach Garyck Todd said this season helped set standards for the program, as the Tigers finished 11-6 overall and 4-3 in the competitive OCC-Central.
Senior attacker Morgan Morrell, a John Carroll recruit, had a team-high 51 goals and 24 assists, second to freshman attacker Ben Hayes' 27. Hayes also had 49 goals.
Sophomore attacker A.J. Terbovich had 29 goals and senior midfielder Owen Henry added 23 goals and seven assists.
"Our staff is very happy with how this year went," Todd said. "This season, we defined the brand of lacrosse that we want to play here at Central. We're definitely going to miss our seniors as they were a major part of the team, but now it's time for our underclassmen to step up."
Central finished fourth in the OCC-Central behind champion Dublin Coffman (7-0). UA (6-1) was second, and both the Shamrocks and Golden Bears won Division I regional championships last weekend.
The Tigers were seeded eighth in the 16-team Division I, Region 3 tournament and lost 17-4 at second-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in a regional quarterfinal May 16.
Junior defender Dominic Marasco was second-team all-league and Morrell was honorable mention all-league.
Senior goalkeeper Brendan Chong stopped 145 of 260 shots (55.8 percent).
Others eligible to return include Chong's backup, sophomore Max Schillig.
Volleyball team falls to Panthers
The boys volleyball team finished 15-11 overall after losing to host and top-seeded Hilliard Darby 25-8, 25-14, 25-16 in a Division I East Region semifinal May 21.
Central was seeded 11th in the 19-team tournament.
With a class of six seniors led by Coleton Landis (middle hitter), Nathan Lee (defensive specialist/outside hitter), Zach Nestor (outside hitter) and Jason Orr (libero), the Tigers went 6-8 in the OCC-Ohio to finish fifth behind champion Gahanna (14-0).
Landis is a Rio Grande basketball recruit.
Among those eligible to return are juniors Jared McLean (middle blocker) and Chance Oakley (defensive specialist) and freshman Landon Tackett (setter).