Notebook: Persistence pays off for Pickerington North Panthers’ Mayson Bates

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
North's Mayson Bates celebrates after clearing the bar in the high jump earlier this season. Bates ran a personal-record 14.49 seconds in the 100 hurdles during the OCC-Ohio meet, an effort she hoped would spark a successful postseason.

May 15 was a landmark day for Mayson Bates.

The Pickerington North senior hurdler verbally committed to compete in track and field at Toledo, joining current teammate Amara Okpalaoka as a Rockets recruit in the hometown of her father, North boys basketball coach Jason Bates.

Hours earlier, Mayson Bates again ran a personal-best time in the 100-meter hurdles, continuing a strong season she hoped culminates in a trip to the Division I state meet.

Bates ran 14.49 seconds in the 100 hurdles during the OCC-Ohio Division meet at Thomas Worthington, finishing second, and also was eighth in the 300 hurdles (51.88) and on the runner-up 400 relay (49.6).

As a sophomore, she placed 13th in the 100 hurdles in the Division I state meet and was on the Panthers’ seventh-place 800 relay and 15th-place 400 relay.

“I didn’t know what to expect this season but after the first meet, I feel like I just took off. The progress I’ve made, I feel like it’s through the roof and I still think I’m a work in progress,” Bates said, noting that she maintained intense training during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and subsequent cancellation of her junior season. 

“I really just focused on not sitting down and progressing every day. This season was going to be my last chance to do anything in high school, so I wanted to make sure through the summer and fall to always be doing my best to make sure this season would be my best, and so far it has been.”

Bates ran a personal-best 46.65 in the 300 hurdles at North’s Stingel Invitational on April 10 and also has cleared 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump.

North’s boys and girls both placed second at the league meet.

Sophia Bartels won the pole vault (11-0) and Okpalaoka was first in the long jump (18-1) to lead the girls to 114 points, behind Gahanna (207) and ahead of New Albany (81), Westerville Central (76), Grove City (44) and Westland (1).

The boys scored 131 points, behind Gahanna (143) and ahead of Central (106), New Albany (88), Grove City (16) and Westland (8). 

First-place finishers were David Alabi in the discus (136-7), Steven McElroy in the 200 (meet-record 21.27), Zamen Siyoum in the 110 hurdles (14.22) and 300 hurdles (39.36) and the 800 relay (1:28.43) and 1,600 relay (3:29.13).

The boys participated in the district 2 meet and the girls in district 3, both of which concluded May 22 at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional May 26 and 28 at North.

At regional, the top four finishers in each event qualify for state June 4 and 5 at Hilliard Darby. Also, two at-large berths will be awarded in each event based on times and distances statewide.

Central's Ellie Tressler (right) celebrates with Colleen Bare after Bare made an inning-ending out against Hilliard Darby in a Division I district final May 19. The Tigers won 5-2, advancing to play Mount Vernon in a regional semifinal May 26.

•The Central softball team pulled one upset and technically pulled a second May 19 to win its first Division I district championship since 2013, but while the Tigers acknowledged an underdog status they also felt they belonged in the regional.

Colleen Bare’s solo home run in the first inning, three hits from Sara Tailford and two RBI from Tori Angles led the 12th-seeded Tigers to a 5-2 win at 11th-seeded Hilliard Darby in a district final. Central was coming off a 7-5 district semifinal win at second-seeded Grove City on May 17 in which Angles blasted two two-run home runs, including the game-winner in the seventh.

“As long as you’re peaking at tournament time, (whether) you’re a 20th seed or a top seed you can win it,” coach Stephanie Peterson said. “Colleen had an unreal game. She’s a great teammate and tries to make better all the time. She’s humble and she deserves any recognition she gets.”

Central had lost in district finals in 2015, 2017 and 2018, all at its home facility, and fell in a district semifinal in 2019.

The Tigers were 20-7 before playing Mount Vernon in a regional semifinal May 26. The winner will face Lancaster or Watkins Memorial in the regional final May 29 at Olentangy Berlin, and the regional champion will advance to a state semifinal June 3 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.

•The Central girls track team began its championship season by winning the OCC-Buckeye meet that concluded May 15 at Lancaster, while the shorthanded boys team finished second to the host and champion Golden Gales.

The girls team won nine events to amass 164 points, finishing ahead of Lancaster (158.5), Newark (95), Reynoldsburg (63), Groveport (38) and Central Crossing (2.5). 

In addition to sweeping all four relays, individual winners were Grace Adegoke in the high jump (5-2), Jordan Archie in the 100 (12.42), Amber Carter in the 1,600 (5:19.43), Ramiya Roy in the 200 (25.47) and Deborah Smith in the 400 (1:02.08).

The boys team also swept the relays and got wins from Derek Grimes in the high jump (6-0), Troy Lane in the 100 (meet-record 10.8), Garner Wallace in the 1,600 (4:32.03) and Jailen Willis in the 3,200 (9:40.61). 

Central scored 168 points to finish behind Lancaster (168) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (115), Groveport (51), Newark (30) and Central Crossing (6).

The boys competed without sprinter Roman Pearson, who was injured in preliminaries May 13 but was expected back for the district 3 meet.

“We told our kids every point counts and that’s the attitude they’re taking,” boys coach Jason Roach said. “We were putting the relays together (before Pearson was injured) but then we had to piece things together. We had to make calls to kids who weren’t even (at the first day of the league meet) and let them know we might need them. There are bigger fish to fry (than the league championship) and we remind them of that. That’s what we’re working toward.”

•Six of Central boys tennis coach Kelli Rings’ top eight players are eligible to return after the Tigers went 14-6 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye but did not advance anyone to the Division I district tournament.

Freshman Quinn Jones fell one win short of advancing, losing 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 to Olentangy’s Vedant Dave in a district-qualifying match in the Tigers’ home sectional May 13.

“(That was) all while battling a recurring back problem the entire day and a bloody tennis shoe from all of the time out on the court,” Rings said of Jones.

Also competing but failing to advance were junior Ricky Caceres-Gamero (1-1) and sophomore Jacob Bennett (0-1) in singles and the doubles teams of senior Brady Phelps and sophomore Spencer Phelps and senior Jack Philabaum and junior Caden Nixt. Both went 1-1.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district May 20 and 22 at Reynoldsburg.

“Overall it was a very successful season,” said Rings, whose team won its first league title since 2018. “Success follows a close-knit team and these boys really enjoyed competing against each other and enjoyed time spent on and off the court.”

Sophomore Cole Dashner also is expected back.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

CENTRAL BOYS TENNIS

Record: 14-6 overall

OCC-Buckeye standings: Pickerington Central (5-0), Reynoldsburg (4-1), Lancaster (3-2), Newark (2-3), Central Crossing (1-4), Groveport (0-5)

Seniors lost: Brady Phelps and Jack Philabaum

Key returnees: Jacob Bennett, Ricky Caceres-Gamero, Quinn Jones, Caden Nixt, Spencer Phelps