PICKERINGTON — Only one thing goes through Dylan Christian's mind as he leads the 800.
"I love it. I always think of it as a game of tag, so I always like that people are behind and trying to catch," he said.
The Granville senior is never it. Christian ran a time of 1:52.66 on Friday to win Division I regional title in impressive fashion at Pickerington North.
Christian, the indoor state champion last March, placed fourth in last season's state meet. He is ranked No. 2 this season behind Canfield's Nick Plant, who ran 1:51.24 on Friday and is attempting to repeat next weekend.
"I knew I would be able to outkick them," said Christian, who finished more than two seconds ahead of Olentangy Berlin's Cooper Citro. "I knew I just needed to hold them off until that 200-meter mark."
Christian will have plenty of company at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Licking County will have 18 individuals or relays in 16 events during next weekend's Division I state championships.
Newark senior Gwen Stare was stuck in a traffic jam and looking for a way out. A mad dash over the final 200 meters earned her fourth place in the girls 800 (2:15.68).
"I was a bit concerned because of when I cut in I wasn't where I wanted to be, and seeing all of those girls in front of me, I knew I had to make that up at some point," said Stare, who will attempt to better last season's fifth-place finish at state. "I ended up being stuck in the third lane for a little bit. Coming around the turn there were so many girls, I knew I needed to give it my all if I wanted to keep going forward."
Granville junior Zoee Lehman is making a run at the five-minute mark in the girls 1,600, and she made sure she had another shot next week. She used a late kick to take runner-up with a personal best (5:02.28), passing Hilliard Davidson's Caitlyn Jones and finishing only behind Bishop Watterson's Erin Karas.
"I wish I broke five, but it's OK. I can save that for next week," Lehman said. "They push me a lot. I was really happy they were out in front of me, so it helped me finish strong at the end."
Lehman also led off Granville's 1,600 relay, which needed every bit of its season-best time to match that runner-up finish (3:57.64). Freshman Avery Ogg and sophomore Caitriona Sproul followed before senior Danielle Varrasso finished it off as the top six finishers were separated by less than two seconds.
"I trust my teammates a lot before me because they obviously are so fast," Varrasso said. "They put me in a good position at the end. ... We were so excited in prelims when we dropped three seconds, and we dropped again."
Granville senior Regina Rose gave every bit of energy she had down the homestretch to secure fourth in the girls 3,200 (11:03.29).
"I was nervous, but I think it gave me the push I needed at the end," said Rose, who previously qualified as a part of the 3,200 relay. "That was definitely the goal going into it. Last year I didn't make it, so this year I had the itch to just truly put it all out there."
Licking Heights junior D.J. Fillmore is not cursing his luck. Instead, he is enjoying sharing the track with national champion Justin Braun, of Westerville Central.
Fillmore placed third in the boys 200 (21.40), trailing Braun's 20.94 and Hilliard Darby's Alex Smith's 21.38. Fillmore is in line to earn an at-large berth in the 100 (10.86) after turning in one of the top two times among fifth- and sixth-place finishers across the state as is the Hornets' 400 relay, which he anchored following Jalynn Fillmore, Kwasi Fosu and Rodney Sunnyway and broke a school record (42.28).
"(Braun) runs 20., so he's pacing me in the 200. If I can get close to a 20., that would be great," Fillmore said.
He added of the 400 relay, "That's my duty as a teammate. I have to bring them to state. Last year, it was just me and (Emmanuel Ennin in the discus). If I can bring others with me, that's good."
Several Licking County athletes will receive new life after battling in the deepest regional in the state.
Watkins Memorial's Victoria Harvey fifth (12-feet) and Granville's Ella Laughbaum sixth (11-8) in the girls pole vault are expected to advance as is Watkins' Jenna Lucas fifth in the girls long jump (17-7) and Granville's Varrasso fifth in the girls 100 hurdles (15.10) and teammate Lillian Eckels sixth in the girls 800 (2:16.54) on the track.
Newark's Isaiah Potter placed sixth in the boys 300 hurdles (38.99), missing out on the second at-large berth by seven-hundredths of a second. Teammate Ethan Stare placed seventh in the 800 (1:56.79).
"I was just trying to focus on what I needed to do in the beginning, which I feel like I did better on," Potter said. "When it got to the last 100, I just had to remember I am stronger than I think I am."
Watkins' Jaleel Sales, Isaac Scott, DaaVion Long and Jacob Holbert broke their school record, placing seventh in the boys 400 relay (42.55).
"It's definitely a good way to finish the season," said Sales, who is signed to play football and run track at Davidson. "At the end of the day, we still fought with our brothers. That's the biggest thing with track: It's more of a team sport than people think it is. That was definitely the best part, but making it to state would have been something else."
Granville's Nathan Newsom placed seventh in the boys 100 (10.98), and Varrasso in the girls 300 hurdles (47.55) and Heights' Temiloluwa Jaf-ogunlayi in the girls 100 (12.58) matched him.
Newark's Nadia Liesen finished 10th in the girls 800 (2:23.07), Granville's Nora Carrington 12th in the girls long jump (15-10) and Newark's Sophie Bidwell 16th in the girls discus (75-8).
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Granville's Dylan Christian runs away with OHSAA regional 800 title