BOTH the Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy teams had a change of perspective after this year's district and regional track and field meets.
The WGH girls started the season with many talented underclassmen. Nearing this weekend's state track meet in Columbus, the Raiders look more like seasoned veterans.
This year's Division I team race looks like it will come down to Pickerington Central, Solon (the defending Division I state champion), WGH, Gahanna Lincoln and Mason.
WGH and Gahanna Lincoln are mirror images of each other with the teams loaded with talented sophomores. Mason has the biggest girls contingent out of the Division I teams. However, heading into this weekend's meet, it seems Pickerington Central and Solon will contend for the title.
"They have enough big-time points that can challenge Solon," WGH coach Charles Penny said of Pickerington Central.
It appears the other three teams will be vying to be in the top five, but don't count out the Raiders. Stranger things have happened at state meets.
"For us to be in the conversation, we need to perform at our highest and hope for mistakes from other schools," Penny said.
But this year will give the young Raiders - who are taking the biggest girls representation in their history - some much-needed experience for the next couple of years.
Penny hopes the Raiders come away with a couple of state relay titles, but more importantly lay the foundation for next year.
On the boys' side, the JFK team knows it's been at a disadvantage all year, only having four sprinting point-getters in seniors Carl Zallow and Zach Watt, junior Chad Zallow and freshman Jacob Coates. But the Eagles have utilized their talents in full force.
Kennedy came in second at districts (behind McDonald) and at regionals (behind Gilmour Academy). The Eagles averaged 78 points at both meets and was within 15 points of the Lancers.
"We're still gunning for the state title," Chad Zallow said. "Gilmour is going to have teams coming after them. We have to focus on us."
Chad, who is the defending Division III 110 and 300 hurdles state champion, knows Columbus Academy's John Lint will be chasing him once again. The two are the top two hurdlers in Division III. Chad set the state record in the 300 hurdles (36.87) last year and Lint won state in the event in 2012.
"I know he's coming back this year. He's looking to defend his title. It's going to be a good race between us two," said Chad, who is getting college offers from most SEC and Big Ten schools.
Carl is the defending Division III 100 state champion and has the best Division III time in the state.
"I'd expect to be in the state finals in the 200," said Carl, who will be running at Youngstown State University next season. "It would be one to watch. I'm confident I'll be able to pull the 'W' in that."
The four JFK teammates have been prepping all year for this after finishing third at last year's state meet.
"This is the meet we've been training for all year," Carl said.
The same can be said for JFK senior hurdler Morgan Rice, who will run at Miami (Ohio) University next year. The future Redhawks runners is the defending Division III girls 100 hurdles state champion. She hopes to break 44 seconds in the 300 hurdles.
She'll also take some more Eagles to state as the 4x200 relay of Antonella LaMonica, Natalie Hoso, Amber Brown and Rice is heading to Columbus as well. Nina Macali is the other member of JFK's five-person girls team. She ran in the regional final 4x400 relay with Rice, Brown and LaMonica.
"I like going down with my team. It's a good thing going down to state with my girls," Rice said.
Warren will be well represented at this weekend's state meet.