Having advanced to her first Division I state track and field meet last year as a sophomore, Pickerington Central high jumper Grace Adegoke set lofty goals for this spring.
Adegoke didn't want to add just a few inches to her personal best effort of 5-foot-3.
"I had high hopes of jumping maybe 5-8. I worked really hard. I wanted to go to state again," said Adegoke, a rising senior.
That height would have won Adegoke a regional championship last year and earned her a tie for second place at state, one inch shy of first. As it was, Adegoke leapt 5-3 at regional to finish fifth and earn an at-large berth to state -- the top four finishers in each event automatically advanced -- and recorded a 5-0 at state to finish 16th of 19 competitors.
Adegoke's hopes of a return to state this year were dashed when the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"The key for me was form. That was the really big thing," said Adegoke, who was OCC-Ohio Division runner-up (5-2) and placed fourth (5-1) in the district 1 meet as a sophomore. "If you have good form, you're automatically going to go up higher and you're less likely to knock the bar off. A lot is about your approach, too. You have to time it right."
Adegoke began high jumping in eighth grade, and first-year Tigers coach Shane Ricker expected that a specialized approach would pay off this season. Former Centennial boys coach Darrin Green joined Central's staff over the winter and was going to work with the boys and girls team's jumpers.
"She was definitely putting in the work during the offseason and really ever since last year and she hadn't had a lot of (specialized high jump) coaching in the past. She was excited. We were excited," said Ricker, who also planned to use Adegoke in sprint events and relays. "In the past, I don't think she'd focused on much more than high jump. She was a girl, I think, who we'd talked into doing some other events. We were excited to see what she could do in the 200 (meters), the 400 and maybe some relays and how she could help the team and how those would help her jumping.
"She would have fit well doing some running events."
Adegoke said she was excited to work with Green because of his experience.
"He has a lot more (experience) than any other coach I've worked with," she said. "I trust that he'll let me know what I need to work on. He's pretty serious about it, too."
Ricker, who coached at Lakeview Junior High last year, had high expectations for Central this season as it tried to improve on a fourth-place finish in the OCC-Ohio meet and feed off the boys team, which won the Division I state championship in 2019.
"We were excited to see what we could do. Gahanna was going to be outstanding, but other than that, we didn't know what to expect," Ricker said. "Coach Green was super pumped and felt like we'd make some major noise."
Adegoke ran with the Pacesetters Track Club between her sophomore and junior years but plans to run unattached this summer if any events take place.
"My goal had been to make the Junior Olympics, but now (with that event canceled), the goal becomes getting to indoor state next year," Adegoke said. "I'm hoping to (jump) 5-10. That's my goal by the end of my senior year."