Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions girls team excited to get back on track
As he and the members of the Gahanna Lincoln girls track and field team opened their season, coach Roger Whittaker couldn’t help but feel emotional.
The Lions had some of their athletes compete in the winter indoor season, but March 27 marked the first time since the Division I state meet was held May 31 and June 1, 2019, that they had participated in an outdoor competition.
After winning the 2018 state title, Gahanna finished third in 2019 and was expecting to be among the state’s best last season before it was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“The (1,600-meter relay) was the last high school starting gun (in) June of 2019, so it’s been a while,” Whittaker said. “We’re slowly getting there. I’m just happy to be back.”
Whittaker, who is in his 32nd season, has five athletes who participated in the 2019 state outdoor meet.
Senior Joi Bradley ran on the 1,600 relay that won in 3 minutes, 46.2 seconds. She also competed at state in the 400 and on the 800 relay.
Senior Megan Massmann ran on the 3,200 relay that finished second, and senior C’iarra Carter and junior M’Kaia Trent each ran on the 400 relay at state.
Carter also was a state qualifier in the long jump and will compete in the high jump with 2019 state qualifier Faith Hunter.
Seniors Nya Bailey and Zoe White and sophomores Amryne Chilton and Ayanna Stafford are other top sprinters.
Junior M’Kya Trent is in the long jump, with juniors Camden Bentley and Lauren Stringer, sophomore Nia Alexander and freshman Keena Sanders in hurdles events.
Junior Alyssa Shope, who was fifth at the state cross country meet last fall, and Massmann lead the middle distance and distance corps. Others who should contribute in those events include senior Hannah Reich and junior Olivia Perry.
Senior Savannah Flusche and junior Nahjae Pinager should lead the shot put and discus competitors.
Seniors Hayley Carpico and Ali Reeg are competing in the pole vault, and sophomore Daisha Decree provides depth in the long jump.
“Sprint-wise, this is probably the year I’ve had the most options in a long time,” Whittaker said. “It’s going to be fun.”
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD
•Coach: Roger Whittaker, 32nd season
•Next meet: April 16 at New Albany Invitational
•Key athletes: Camden Bentley, Joi Bradley, C’iarra Carter, Amryne Chilton, Savannah Flusche, Faith Hunter, Megan Massmann, Alyssa Shope and Ayannah Stafford
Boys track team
has younger look
The boys track team is hoping to overcome an overall lack of varsity experience.
Seniors Mondra Curry (long jump) and Donovan Hight (distance) are the top returnees for the Lions, who are in their third season under coach Shawn Johnston.
“Indoor season is always that time where the top guys really bond, so having that this winter really helped some of the young guys move along a lot quicker,” Johnston said. “Those sophomores (have been) able to step right in to a big-meet invite and throw down times that sophomores should not be able to throw down. I don’t think we’ve ever been this fast this early.”
Hight ran on the 3,200 relay that finished eighth (program-record 7:52.47) at the 2019 state outdoor meet.
Curry also is in sprinting events, where senior Ron Blackman is competing for the first time outdoors and junior Tristin Cook-Fisher is another key newcomer.
At the state indoor finale March 5 and 6 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Blackman reached the awards podium in the 60, 200 and long jump while Cook-Fisher placed in the 60 and Curry won the triple jump.
Seniors Kevin Blackwell and Alex Couch and sophomores Maxwell Cummins, Drew Pizzico, Makai Shahid and Romearo Wells are others who should contribute in sprinting events.
Senior Chris Sinklea and junior Dwayne Carter are the top hurdlers, with Hight joined in middle distance and distance by seniors Ryan Amer and Connor Hughes-Hemsoth and sophomores A.J. Eggleston and Charlie Slates.
Junior Josh Kucker and freshmen Malvin Long and Jonathan Whiteside are the top high jumpers, with junior Finn Leffler, sophomore Griffin Flusche and freshman Kaden Ochs in the shot put and discus and juniors Noah Conley and Dylan Johnson in the pole vault.
“It’s just been nice to be around them,” Johnston said. “They’re focused, they’re young and we’re loaded at the sophomore level.”
BOYS TRACK & FIELD
•Coach: Shawn Johnston, third season
•Next meet: April 16 at New Albany Invitational
•Key athletes: Ron Blackman, Kevin Blackwell, Dwayne Carter, Tristin Cook-Fisher, Alex Couch, Mondra Curry, A.J. Eggleston, Donovan Hight and Connor Hughes-Hemsoth
Tennis team will
field deep lineup
The boys tennis team was expected to return most of its top players in 2020 before the season was canceled.
Nearly all of those players, though, have returned this spring.
Sophomore Brandon Carpico was expected to be one of the top players last spring and begins this season at first singles, with five senior returnees expected to be among the regulars.
“(Carpico) has been playing for a long time and he’s someone with very, very good talent and great work ethic,” said coach Chris Schwinnen, who is in his 11th season. “He’s going to be up there this year as a potential state qualifier.”
Senior Shawn Ugbana is at second singles, with senior Nick Wunderlin at third singles and seniors Thomas Giles and Zach Wunderlin at first doubles.
Senior Jacob McFall, who was a contributor in 2019, and freshman Matt Ryan are at second doubles.
Sophomore Quinn Smith is another who should contribute.
The Lions have won at least a share of four consecutive OCC-Ohio Division titles and are now joined in the league by Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westerville Central.
“We’re looking at a team that’s capable of winning 15 or 16 matches,” Schwinnen said. “We’re looking forward to a great year. This team is capable of some wins, has great attitudes and a great work ethic.”
•Coach: Chris Schwinnen, 11th season
•Next match: April 15 vs. New Albany
•Key athletes: Brandon Carpico, Thomas Giles, Jacob McFall, Matt Ryan, Shawn Ugbana, Nick Wunderlin and Zach Wunderlin