In her 15 years as Grove City track and field coach, Jane Taylor has developed a relationship with her athletes that is so strong she considers them to be like her extended family.

Two of those athletes, Spencer Markham and Gracie Yates, graduated May 23 in a drive-thru ceremony at the school that Taylor and her husband, Joel, helped organize. Jane Taylor also is a physical education teacher, and Joel Taylor is a physical science teacher and the school's girls basketball coach.

Markham and Yates were two of the Greyhounds' top performers last spring. Their hopes of a solid senior season ended when the OHSAA canceled spring sports because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"This would have been their fourth year," Jane Taylor said of the pair. "They both lettered as freshmen, so that was a big deal. Four-year letter(winners), that's really rare. ... I gave them workouts on their own and they were still going and working out before we figured out we weren't going to be able to have a season. That says a lot of them, too. They're very self-motivated."

Taylor added that their determination helped set the tone for the program.

"We are a tight-knit group because we spend so much time together," she said. "Coaching is all about helping kids reach their goals and giving them the necessary tools to be successful not only in their specific events, but in life as well. Our kids are so driven, hard-working and exhibit such great character."

Taylor recognized her program's 13 seniors by displaying their banners outside of the school.

"She was such a great coach," Yates said. "She hung up all of our senior banners. She was great in supporting us."

Last season, Markham helped the Greyhounds win their third consecutive Best of the South-West meet by finishing first in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 57 seconds) and 3,200 (10:55.9).

He ranks fifth all-time in boys program history in both the 1,600 (4:46.85) and 3,200 (10:40.2).

"Spencer did really well last year, and he ran a lot in the offseason," Taylor said. "He was hurt in cross country, so that's why he was set to start track because he knew he had done so well last year.

"We had a really good offseason. We started in September with conditioning and plyometrics and worked in the weight room."

Markham was expected to contend for the No. 1 spot last fall in cross country, but missed most of the season with a stress fracture in his left shin.

"I just have to look at the experience I have and see what I can do running in the future," he said.

He also played on the junior varsity boys soccer team in his first three years of high school.

"Doing both was hard for me, so that's why I quit soccer," Markham said. "It was a tough choice to quit soccer, but I just felt like more of a runner than a soccer player."

Markham will attend the University of Cincinnati, where he will major in architecture. He plans to compete for the school's club track team.

Yates is second all-time in program history in the girls long jump (15 feet, 8 3/4 inches) behind 2009 graduate Cierra Smith (16-3 1/4).

"I love long jump," Yates said. "It's one of my favorites. I was really hoping to get up to 16 feet this year."

She will compete in track at Marietta.

"I'm going to miss how close everyone was," Yates said. "Everyone got along. We could always talk to each other and we could talk to any coach as well even if they weren't your coach."

Also in the senior class, Lindsay Donaldson owns the program record in the 800 (2:26.15), Olivia Reed is second in the discus (106-2) behind 2015 graduate Hannah Hawkins (113-0) and Neveah Whittier is second in the pole vault (9-6) behind 2019 graduate Morgan Lemponen (11-3).

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank