Girls Track & Field: Olentangy Orange Pioneers’ Taylor Hill aims for redemption at state
Taylor Hill reached the Division I state girls track and field meet last spring in the pole vault, but the experience wasn’t what dreams are made of. For her, it was more of a nightmare.
The Olentangy Orange senior did not clear the bar in her three tries at the initial height of 11 feet. She received an at-large bid after clearing 11-4 at regional to finish fifth.
Hill said her focus needs to be on the things she can control if she is going to turn heads at state this spring.
“State went poorly for me last year,” said Hill, who will compete in the pole vault and high jump at Virginia Military Institute. “I wasn’t focusing on getting better for myself but for other people. I kind of learned to do things for me and not care about others. I started (vaulting) because it was fun, and I liked doing it. I needed to get back to that.”
Hill’s top vault is 12-0. She is chasing the program record of 13-6 1/4 set by 2017 graduate Anna Watson, who competes at Indiana.
Hill began vaulting after competing in gymnastics when she was younger.
“I know a lot of people got into pole-vaulting after gymnastics, so I thought I would give it a try,” said Hill, who is 5-foot-10. “Gymnastics definitely helped me in everything I have done since I quit that.
“At the time, there was a lot of pressure (in gymnastics). I was only in the fifth grade, but I knew gymnastics wasn’t for me and I was going to be too tall. I thought I would try other things.”
Last season, Hill also competed in the high jump at regional and tied for 12th (4-10). She was coming off a second-place finish (personal-best 5-3) in the district 2 meet the week before.
Another sport Hill also tried was wrestling, in which she didn’t participate until her senior year. She said the experience has helped her in vaulting, jumping and life in general.
“I really enjoy wrestling because it was a good kind of different,” she said. “In a lot of sports, if you get really tired, (coaches) want you to stop, but in wrestling you push yourself literally until you drop. I have never been pushed like that before.
“That helped me both physically and emotionally. It helped me get a lot stronger in my legs and upper body ... and if I lost I learned something from it.”
Hill qualified for state at 135 pounds and went 1-2.
Track coach Adam Walters wasn’t surprised by Hill’s success on the mat.
“Wrestling really was good for her,” he said. “Events like pole-vaulting and high-jumping can get in your head. But in wrestling, someone is trying to kill you. You can’t (get in your own head) because you have to just go out there and react.
“I thought that was great for her. It kind of got her away from going crazy pole-vaulting. Sometimes you can do it too much and you need to do something else for a little bit.”
Hill has a 3.94 GPA and wants to study business at VMI.
“When you are learning to pole vault, you start really basic,” she said. “The more you learn about the takeoff, the more you are able to learn about the swing and turn.
“The mental aspect is difficult and physically it’s tough because nothing about it feels natural. One of the toughest things is pushing through plateaus. If you are not focused on improving something then you can’t get better, and it’s hard to keep that focus.”
•Coach: Anthony Beggrow, third season
•Top athletes: Maggie Conrad, Grace Dahlke, Madeline Franz, Deanara Mbouge, Jalyn McElmurray and Isabella Phipps
•Key loss: Abby Brennan
•2021 OCC-Cardinal standings: Olentangy (123), Dublin Jerome (117), Hilliard Darby (117), Marysville (76), Thomas Worthington (63), Berlin (27)
•2021 postseason: 10th at district, tied for 26th at regional
•Outlook: Senior Maggie Conrad returns in the pole vault to lead the Bears, and junior Jalyn McElmurray and sophomore Madeline Franz expect to lead the sprinters. Sophomore Siri Ponna will compete in the hurdles.
Freshman Grace Heitkamp helps lead a young distance/middle distance group after qualifying for the state cross country meet last fall. Also in distance are junior Ava Vaught and freshman Isabella Phipps.
Senior Deanara Mbouge is back in throws after missing last season with a knee injury. She will be aided by junior Samantha Seese and sophomore Precious Okaroafor.
•Quotable: “We have a young girls team but have a good group of seniors leading the way and helping them out. Maggie Conrad is especially one of those in the pole vault area, where we have a bunch of younger girls stepping up.” — coach Anthony Beggrow
•Coach: Greg White, first season
•Top athletes: Gabby Anderson, Taylor Brown, Danica Davelli, Madi Diaz, Hannah Halstead, Rowan Herring, Tania Miles, Samantha Toney, Sammy West and Julia Young
•Key losses: Caylee Combs, Ally Gray, McKenzie Hayes, Brynn McGrail and Becca Young
•2021 OCC-Capital standings: Big Walnut (144.4), Westerville South (142), Delaware (87.4), Westerville North (78.5), Canal Winchester (73.5), Worthington Kilbourne (71.2), Dublin Scioto (61), Franklin Heights (3)
•2021 postseason: 13th at district, did not score at regional
•Outlook: First-year coach Greg White has been impressed with the support his athletes give one another.
The Pacers strengths are in sprints and distance. Seniors Madi Diaz and Taylor Brown and sophomore Tania Miles lead the sprinters, and juniors Rowan Hering and Julia Young lead the distance group.
Other standouts include seniors Hannah Halstead (sprints/jumps) and Gabby Anderson (throws), juniors Danica Davelli (sprints/jump) and Samantha Toney (throws) and sophomore Sammy West (throws/middle distance).
•Quotable: “I’ve been really impressed with the family element to our team this year. We have a bunch of girls that are really excited to compete. ... (They’re) really excited to work together. So, they’ve found a way to encourage one another at every turn. They’re super supportive of each other. But they also hold each other accountable to make sure that they’re making it into the weight room or making it to practice and different things like that.” — White
•Coach: James Dingus, 11th season
•Top athletes: Kennedy Elfers, Michelle Ezenekwe, Sarah Gilbert, Ava Howski, Sophie Sampson, Camryn Thompson and Rachel Ziel
•Key losses: Sophie Culver, Charlotte Hummell, Haley Kruest, Elizabeth Okonak, Divya Patel, Audrey Piero, Nicole Tonetti, Elle Turturice and Taylor Weiss
•2021 OCC-Central standings: Orange (140), Hilliard Davidson (117), Upper Arlington (93), Liberty (75), Dublin Coffman (60), Hilliard Bradley (38)
•2021 postseason: Fifth at district, tied for 22nd at regional, did not score at state
•Outlook: Liberty has a deep sprint and hurdles group and a returning state qualifier in junior Camryn Thompson.
Thompson was 13th at last year’s state meet in the high jump (5-2). She also jumped 5-5 at the indoor state meet to finish third.
Leading the Patriots are sophomores Sophia Sampson and Kennedy Elfers in sprints and hurdles, senior Ava Howski in jumps, seniors Michelle Ezenekwe and Mckenna Cook in throws and seniors Sara Gilbert and Rachel Ziel in distance.
•Quotable: “We were young last year (with) a lot of freshmen and sophomores contributing. So, I’m excited to see them as they mature. Obviously, we have Camryn coming back. She made it to states last year in high jump. I think that’s also something we’re looking forward too. We also had a good indoor season where we had some athletes make the state meet. That’s a good indicator of how the outdoor season could go.” — coach James Dingus
•Coach: Jen Sosa, eighth season
•Top athletes: Emilee Baumann, Caroline Coggins, Samantha Happel, Alyssa Hardin, Olivia Heskett, Amelia Smith, Adriana Sweeney and Jaedyn Tucker
•Key losses: Maggie Duffy, Olivia Johnston, Helena Ronnebaum, Kelsey Schuliger and Cara Wilson
•2021 postseason: Third at district, tied for 10th at regional, 18th at state
•Outlook: Olentangy is down in total numbers with 66 athletes on the roster, and 24 are freshmen. But couple that with an influx of athletes from the soccer team, and the Braves certainly have talent.
Olentangy will be without junior Sydney Burrs this season because of a knee injury. She finished second in the 300 hurdles (44.17) and fifth in the 100 hurdles (15.1) at last year’s state meet.
Sophomore Samantha Happel (distance) was ninth in the 1,600 (5:25.46) at state.
Also back are juniors Emilee Baumann and Alyssa Hardin. Baumann competes in hurdles, high jump, pole vault and sprints. Hardin is a hurdler, high jumper and sprinter, adding the 800 to her repertoire this season.
Senior throwers Caroline Coggins and Adriana Sweeney, senior Jaedyn Tucker (long jump/sprints) and junior Amelia Smith (long jump/sprints) are in for big seasons, coach Jen Sosa said.
•Quotable: “Our numbers are down a little bit. Talent-wise, I think we have a good influx of freshmen and girls that came from the soccer team. It’s been a fusion of girls that are hard-working and talented, so it’s been nice.” — Sosa
•Coach: Adam Walters, ninth season
•Top athletes: Teresa Christian, Josephine Davis, Abby Faulkner, Taylor Hill, Ava Musgrove, Mairin O’Brien, Abby Schroff and Cassidy Shimp
•Key losses: Sara Borton, Celeste Conley, Noel Frye abd Kylie Hanson
•2021 postseason: Second at district, fourth at regional, 33rd at state
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Girls Track & Field: Orange’s Hill aims for redemption at state