Boys Track & Field: Balanced Pickerington Central Tigers aim for another state title

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
The Tigers' Garner Wallace runs in the 1,600 meters during Central's Hammond Relays on March 27. Wallace, a senior, competed on the Division I state championship 1,600 and 3,200 relays in 2019, helping the Tigers capture a second consecutive team title.

Pickerington Central boys track and field coach Jason Roach not only refused to take credit for helping groom a talented class of sophomores, but added he didn’t fully realize their presence in his program until the preseason began.

“I wish I could say I was a genius and planned on this, but I can’t,” said Roach, who is in his 15th season. “I kept walking up to these kids — and we have 70-some on the team, probably the most we’ve had since before the (school district) split (in 2003) — and I’d ask their name and ask what grade. So many of them were saying ‘sophomore.’ We have guys who are fast and guys who are learning quickly.”

Some of those sophomores, including Elijah Carter (throws), Onyedikachi Ikwaukam (sprints, jumps), Troy Lane (sprints) and Samuel Mba (sprints), might ultimately have a say in whether Central competes for a third consecutive Division I state championship.

Seniors Josiah Adams (sprints), Chase Balko (distance), Nick Mosley (sprints), Kenneth Santos (sprints) and Garner Wallace (distance) are expected to provide veteran leadership coming off a 2019 season in which the Tigers won the OCC-Ohio Division, district, regional and state titles by a combined 228 points.

Adams was eighth in the 400 meters in the Division I indoor state meet March 6 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva.

“We have a legit 100 guy (Lane), three or four kids in the 400 who could go under 50 (seconds), a legitimate distance runner in Garner Wallace, we have legit throwers and our pole vaulters are coming along,” Roach said. “You put some solid upperclassmen with them who are getting after it along with them and we have high expectations. We’ll score points. We’ll be in the mix (at every meet). We could be pretty tough.”

Mosley is a Bowling Green football recruit. Wallace — who was part of the state championship 1,600 and 3,200 relays in 2019 and finished fourth in the 1,600 — will play football at Northwestern.

Junior Jailen Willis was 17th in the 3,200 at state as a freshman.

Other expected contributors include senior Josh Harlan (sprints) and juniors Kurabena Asamoah (throws), Kyle Imboden (throws) and Gavin Kelly (distance).

INSIDE THE TIGERS

Coach: Jason Roach, 15th season

Next meet: April 10 at Pickerington North Stingel Invitational

Key athletes: Josiah Adams, Chase Balko, Troy Lane, Nick Mosley and Garner Wallace

North's Nick Whitehead competes in the 1,600 during the Hammond Relays. The senior is a key distance runner for the Panthers.

Deep group of sprinters

to pace Panthers

Division I recruits Steven McElroy (Cincinnati) and Zemen Siyoum (Purdue) bring momentum from strong indoor performances into their senior outdoor season for North, which shared a Division I district championship two years ago.

McElroy, who was part of the Panthers’ sixth-place 3,200 relay at state as a sophomore, won the 200 indoor state title and was second in the 400 and 60. Siyoum was the 60 hurdles state champion.

“Now we’re putting the pieces in around them,” 13th-year coach Dave Spring said. “We’re going to have some pieces to work with and choices to make with our lineups. I see us being balanced. (Senior Nick) Whitehead has been strong on the distance side and we have some sophomores who will contribute there. We have big names on the sprint names and solid guys in distance who will give us points.”

Other sprinters include seniors Daylon Duncan, Devin McShan and Marquise Scott and junior Carl Allen. Allen was part of Groveport’s sixth-place 1,600 relay at state as a freshman.

Whitehead is joined in the distance group by senior Alex Watros, junior Jackson Roes, sophomores Aiden Eberhardt, Justin Reitano and Justin Schumacher and freshman Ian Ricker.

Other expected contributors include senior Cole Johnson (throws) and Tim Noble (jumps), juniors B.J. Donovan (throws) and Hunter Hoskins (jumps) and freshmen Jalen Ford (jumps) and Austin Taylor (throws).

“We’re working to add depth in the sprints and jumps,” Spring said. “We have some very good returning athletes like Hunter Hoskins and Tim Noble in the jumps, but we’re looking to add depth to those areas as well as develop some very strong new throwers.”

INSIDE THE PANTHERS

Coach: Dave Spring, 13th season

Next meet: April 10 at Stingel Invitational

Key athletes: Carl Allen, Daylon Duncan, Steven McElroy, Marquise Scott and Zemen Siyoum

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave