Although they weren't the results he was looking for, Westerville South High School track and field coach Jimmy Gaul proudly watched his athletes compete in the Division I state meet May 31 at Ohio State.
Junior Ibukunoluwa Alfred finished 12th in the 300-meter hurdles (39.14 seconds) and joined seniors Gideon Abimbola and Austin Fickeisen and junior Aaron Powell on the 14th-place 800-meter relay (1:29.57).
The top nine finishers in both events advanced to the finals June 1. South did not score at state.
"Our season didn't end exactly as we hoped it would, but it did end running under the lights at Jesse Owens (Memorial Stadium)," Gaul said. "It's so competitive throughout the state. We know what it's like in central Ohio, but it's like that everywhere. If your season ends here at Jesse Owens, you've had a pretty successful season.
"There's no shame in being the 14th best 800 relay out of all the Division I schools in the state or the 12th best 300 hurdler."
Abimbola will continue his track career at Kent State.
"It was a great experience being here," he said. "I was here sophomore year, so it was great coming back. It was amazing. It felt fast. It felt perfect."
Abimbola and Alfred were members of the 400 relay that finished ninth (43.19) at state in 2017.
The four athletes qualified for state this season by earning at-large berths from the regional meet May 22 and 24 at Pickerington North. Abimbola, Fickeisen, Alfred and Powell finished fifth in the 800 relay in 1:29.07, and Alfred was fifth in the 300 hurdles in 38.38.
Other key athletes eligible to return include juniors Isaac Combs (distance), Joseph Simms (pole vault) and Donovan Slattery (distance), sophomores Jaiden Guice (sprints, long jump) and Tate Marcelain (200, 400, long jump) and freshman Kaden Saunders (sprints).
The girls team's season ended at regional, as junior Makayla Roberts finished 10th in the discus (111 feet, 2 inches) and freshman Brooke Holloway did not record a height in the pole vault.
Other key athletes eligible to return include juniors Josephine Appiah (high jump, sprints), Kaitlyn Ginn (pole vault), Cara Jennings (pole vault), Shae Johnson (hurdles, sprints) and Melanie Kowalski (hurdles, sprints), sophomores Taylor Hughes (distance) and Caroline Sheridan (pole vault) and freshman Emily Ellsworth (distance).
"The message that we have been talking about all season is all we can control is ourselves and we can only do what we can do," Gaul said. "Not everything always works out to the best of what you hoped it would and you have to take it as a learning experience and take the positives away from it."