The Westerville South High School boys track and field team took advantage of a recently implemented rule to secure a pair of berths to the Division I state meet.
Ibukunoluwa Alfred finished fifth in the 300-meter hurdles (38.38 seconds) and the 800 relay also placed fifth (1:29.07) to earn at-large state berths. It's the second year of the rule, which allows the fifth- and sixth-best times or distances statewide to advance.
The top four finishers in each event earned automatic berths to state.
"It's the same mindset being a wild card, just add another layer to our mindset the entire championship season," coach Jimmy Gaul said. "It's just about finding any way possible to get to the next race. If it comes to finishing in the top four, that's what we were hoping for, that's what we were aiming for and it didn't quite happen. But there's another avenue in and we're very thankful that there is that avenue."
Alfred's time in the 300 hurdles is a program record. Aaron Morton, a 1992 graduate, held the previous record of 38.4.
The 800 relay consisted of Alfred, Aaron Powell, Gideon Abimbola and Austin Fickeisen.
"I'm very happy," said Abimbola, who has committed to Kent State. "We made it out. I wasn't sure, our time is pretty fast, but it definitely would have been better if we got fourth place and secure the spot immediately, but it's fine. I'm definitely going to run a lot faster at state."
The state meet is Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.
"We're very happy to take advantage of the (rule) and make sure that our absolute best is what we leave on the track Friday at Ohio State, and hopefully that means we get to race on Saturday as well," Gaul said.
The Wildcats tied for 25th (8 points) at regional behind champion Pickerington Central (101) as 42 teams scored.
For the girls, Makayla Roberts was 10th in the discus (111-2) and Brooke Holloway did not record a height in the pole vault as the Wildcats did not score.
Girls lacrosse coach receives award
After guiding the girls lacrosse team to a winning season, second-year coach Wynleux Henderson was recognized for his contributions to the athletics department.
Henderson was named the recipient of the Ron Jones Sportsmanship Award, which is given annually to a South coach.
"It was for boys soccer and girls lacrosse, and that was a surprise," said Henderson, who also is the boys soccer coach. "I was definitely shocked and honored to receive that award."
South finished 10-8 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.
"There were a few (league) games that we really competed in like Westerville North (10-5 loss April 9)," Henderson said. "(The) Westerville Central game (16-13 loss April 30), that was probably the closest that game has been in a while. There were a few games that I thought we should have played better and won, but our (league) is extremely difficult."
Sophomore midfielder/attacker Kaitlyn McBride was named second-team all-region in Division I and honorable mention all-league.
Sophomore attacker/midfielder Carizjah Wright was honorable mention all-region.
South loses just one player to graduation in MiaBella Kisker, a midfielder/attacker who was a four-year starter and will play at Akron.
"She's been through the downs of the program and stuck with playing," Henderson said. "She got to go out on a high note with the girls who came in and experienced 10 wins and has the opportunity to play in college. It's really a testament to Bella's determination and perseverance."
Other players eligible to return are juniors Andrea Garcia (midfielder/attacker), Ava Montemarano (attacker/defender) and Jordan Pettway (mid-fielder/attacker), sophomores Nylenn Green (goalkeeper), Morgan Kisker (attacker/midfielder/defender) and Sabrina Pesce (attacker/defender) and freshmen Kayla Arens (midfielder/attacker), Isabelle Balla (defender), Yaretzi Centeno (defender/attacker), Erin Coonfare (attacker/defender), Hewan Esayas (attacker), Corinne Femia (defender), Abigail Reagan (goalie) and Madison Yanichko (defender).
The 13th-seeded Wildcats lost at fifth-seeded Medina 19-3 in the first round of the Region 1 tournament May 14.
"These girls have definitely propelled girls lacrosse at South in the right direction," Henderson said. "It's been so long since the program has had any type of a winning season and these girls are a big part of it."
Boys lacrosse team showed progress
The boys lacrosse team finished 7-13 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Buckeye under third-year coach Michael Spatafore.
The Wildcats also earned their first postseason win under Spatafore, defeating 17th-seeded North 10-7 on May 13 in a Division I, Region 1 play-in game. The 16th-seeded Wildcats lost to top-seeded and eventual regional champion Dublin Coffman 25-1 in the first round May 14.
"Two wins the first year, four wins my second year, a playoff win, they beat North, we are definitely moving in the right direction," Spatafore said.
South will lose seven players to graduation.
"Three of the guys I had for the last three years and they put a lot of work in and were really good leaders," Spatafore said. "We're going to miss them big time. It's a sad goodbye, but we're excited for those guys and their future."
Midfielders Ethan Hollern, Adam Wartel and Bryce Wilson played all three years.
Wilson led the Wildcats in scoring with 44 goals and four assists and added 45 ground balls.
Junior midfielder Noah Raber had 13 goals, 12 assists and 63 ground balls, sophomore midfielder Jack Trimble had four assists and 75 ground balls, junior midfielder Braden Mulick had 51 ground balls and Hollern had 50 ground balls.
Hollern and Wilson were honorable mention all-league.
Players eligible to return are juniors Christian Mehlo (midfielder), Thomas Ray (defender), Montana Swoboda (defender) and Huy Vu (midfielder), sophomores Nathan Fitzgerald (defender), Kenton Flood (defender), Donovan Hunt (defender), Gavin Miller (goalie) and Sam Swisher (attacker) and freshmen Andy Badu (attacker), Tavion Giles (defender), Karson Lane (midfielder), Aidan Moses (attacker), Ben Predragovich (midfielder), Oliver Smith (attacker), Miles Wilke (goalie), Bronson Wren (attacker) and Thomas Zerman (midfielder).