Pickerington North Roundup: Steven McElroy, Zemen Siyoum spark Panthers boys track team to state title

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Steven McElroy celebrates North's first-place finish in the 800 relay in the Division I state meet June 5 at Hilliard Darby. McElroy anchored the winning 800 and 1,600 relays, helping the Panthers capture the team title. He also finished second in the 200 and third in the 400.

Pickerington North boys track and field standout Zemen Siyoum had just finished third in the 110-meter hurdles in the Division I state meet June 5 at Hilliard Darby, but he wasn’t about to celebrate.

“I was looking for first and nothing less,” said Siyoum, a Purdue recruit. “It’s pretty good knowing I made it (to the final). I’ll be happier when we rack up the points to win the state championship.”

Whether that was confidence in his team or particularly strong foresight, Siyoum found himself celebrating the program’s second team title and first since 2015 a few hours later.

Wins in the 800 relay (1 minute, 25.96 seconds) and 1,600 relay (3:15.56) and five top-three finishes helped the Panthers amass 43 points — 13 ahead of runner-up Westerville Central as 84 teams scored.

Cincinnati recruit Steven McElroy anchored the winning relays and finished second in the 200 (21.5) and third in the 400 (47.86).

“It was a grueling last 400 of my high school career, but I'm glad I did it,” McElroy said of the 1,600 relay. “I like seeing my teammates smile like this, so if I can help them in any way possible, I’ll do it. Getting that baton my mindset just changes (into) ‘let’s get this.’ We came in with the mindset of ‘let’s get this done’ and it paid off.

“We had a little bit of a talk (about winning the team title) and we just let our team do our thing and have fun in the process.”

The 800 relay was rounded out by Siyoum, senior Daylon Duncan and junior Carl Allen. Junior Derrick Amapps joined Duncan, McElroy and Siyoum on the 1,600 relay.

After running 14.46 in the 110 hurdles, Siyoum placed sixth in the 300 hurdles (39.22).

“We all kind of jumped on Steven and Zemen’s backs,” coach Dave Spring said. “Those guys had four events and it’s kind of a matter of getting through the heat and running four events on back-to-back days. They did it and they came through. The other guys on the relays were kind of the supporting cast and those two were kind of front and center all year and did it when the stage was biggest.”

The 400 relay of Amapps, Duncan, senior Devin McShan and sophomore Keegan Matheny finished 17th (43.35).

Led by senior Amara Okpalaoka’s third-place finish in the long jump (18 feet, 2 ¼ inches), the girls team tied Westerville South for 19th place (11) behind champion Mentor (70) as 75 teams scored.

She also was 16th in the 400 (1:00.21) and was a member of the ninth-place 1,600 relay (3:56.96) with seniors Lauren Greegor and Kara Thomas and sophomore Cate Pickering.

Senior Mayson Bates, who like Okpalaoka is a Toledo recruit, was fourth in the 100 hurdles (14.9) and 15th in the 300 hurdles (47.84).

“This senior season was great. I didn’t run how I wanted to (June 5) but I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” Bates said. “Being here and running as many events as I did was a blessing.”

Other key athletes eligible to return for the boys team include junior Carson Jones (distance) and sophomores David Alabi (throws), Aidan Eberhardt (distance) and Justin Schumacher (distance).

Expected girls returnees include junior Lainy Grube (distance), sophomores Ashley Khatib (distance) and Lainey Mack (pole vault, sprints) and freshman Camille Sabau (distance).

Sophomore infielder Madison Cox led the Panthers softball team in batting average (.416), hits (37) and home runs (4).

Majority of softball

players expected back

The softball team lost one player to graduation in outfielder Khloe Bolin and should have a solid core to build around after going 12-12 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division.

Sophomore Madison Cox (2B/SS) led the Panthers in batting average (.416), hits (37) and home runs (4), pacing a balanced lineup that also included freshman infielder Sabrina Jensen (.406, 28 hits), sophomore outfielder Kylie Bolin (.400, 16 hits, 2 home runs), junior pitcher Reagan Coffey (.378, 31 hits) and freshman catcher/outfielder Aubrey Brown (.321, 27 hits, 2 homers, 23 RBI).

In the circle, Coffey struck out 126 and walked 31 with a 3.79 ERA in 153 1/3 innings.

“This group now understands the varsity expectations and are hungry for more. The future is bright,” coach Sarah Looker said. “Reagan is very competitive and I know she only wants more (strikeouts) next year. (Brown) did an amazing job with calling the pitches and becoming a strong leader on the field.”

Boys volleyball team

experienced growth

The boys volleyball team graduated the majority of its roster after going 9-16 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Ohio, led by first-team all-league and honorable mention all-region outside hitter Jackson Nutter and second-team all-league middle hitter Ben Slayman.

“Being able to have the boys play together at a high level so fast when many were first-year players was our ultimate highlight,” coach Marci Truex said. “We had many moments of brilliance and had to be resilient, sometimes at the drop of a hat.”

Slayman led the team in blocks and kill percentage, and senior Isaac Hopkins (setter) led the Panthers in assists and was second in total blocks.

Eligible to return are junior Aidan Rose (setter/defensive specialist), sophomore Demetrius Debellis (libero) and freshman Kyle Buckwalter (middle hitter).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

SOFTBALL

•Record: 12-12 overall

OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (10-0), Westerville Central (8-2), Gahanna (6-4), North (4-6), New Albany (2-8), Westland (0-10)

Senior lost: Khloe Bolin

Key returnees: Kylie Bolin, Aubrey Brown, Reagan Coffey, Madison Cox and Sabrina Jensen

Postseason: Lost to Hilliard Darby 8-7 (8 innings) in second round of Division I district tournament

TRACK & FIELD

OCC-Ohio standings: Boys — Gahanna (143), North (131), Central (106), New Albany (88), Grove City (16), Westland (8); Girls — Gahanna (207), North (114), New Albany (81), Central (76), Grove City (44), Westland (1)

Seniors lost: Boys — Daylon Duncan, Cole Johnson, Steven McElroy, Timothy Noble, Marcus Ray, Zamen Siyoum, Alex Watros and Nick Whitehead; Girls — Mayson Bates, Ella Bertke, Faith Bittinger, Abby Diyanni, Lauren Greegor, Emily Harness, Annabel Malone, Elizabeth Martin, Amara Okpalaoka, Emily Snyder, Kara Thomas and Aiyana Thornton

Key returnees: Boys — David Alabi, Carl Allen, Derrick Amapps, Aidan Eberhardt, Carson Jones, Devon McShan and Justin Schumacher; Girls — Lainy Grube, Ashley Khatib, Cate Pickering and Camille Sabau

Postseason: Boys — First (121) at district, second (57) at regional behind Hilliard Darby (68), first (43) at state; Girls — Third (83) at district behind champion Watterson (139.5), sixth (30.3) at regional behind champion Gahanna (84), tied for 19th (11) at state behind champion Mentor (70)

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

Record: 9-16 overall

•OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (14-0), New Albany (12-2), Pickerington Central (10-4), North and Westerville Central (7-7), Reynoldsburg (3-11), Delaware (2-12), Westerville South (0-12)

Seniors lost: Cameron Bown, Ben Dinsmore, Isaac Hopkins, Jackson Nutter, Sam Prestileo, David Sandhofer, Ben Slayman and Braedan Venetta

Key returnees: Kyle Buckwalter, Demetrius Debellis and Aidan Rose

Postseason: Lost to Westerville North 25-13, 25-18, 25-11 in second round of Division I East Region tournament