COLUMBUS, Ohio — Simply put, it was icing on the cake.
Southern senior Kayla Evans completed her storied prep career in style Friday afternoon after sharing fifth place honors in the high jump final at the 2022 OHSAA Division III track and field championships held this past weekend at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of the Ohio State University.
Evans — a multi-year letterwinner and all-league performer in volleyball, girls basketball, softball and track — completed the rarest of journeys on behalf of the Lady Tornadoes as the senior became the first female athlete to ever compete at the OHSAA track and field championships.
Evans — a 1,000-point career scorer who was also an All-Ohio selection the past two years in hoops — matched a personal-best height of 5 feet, 2 inches in the Friday afternoon final. It was also the same height she cleared at regionals en route to advancing to state.
Evans — who notched the program’s first-ever three points with that fifth place effort — was joined by Karalyn Rutkowski of Cardinal and Natalee Naayers of Lancaster Fairfield Christian in the five spot.
With arguably more postseason accolades than any other female athlete in the school’s storied history, Evans spoke about the relevance of this moment and how special it was to her … especially in her finale wearing the Purple and Gold.
“This was an honor to be part of and a dream come true. It was definitely a very exciting moment for me, not only getting here … but ending up on the podium too. It was a great way to end my career at Southern. It was also great to have my friends and family with me through it all,” Evans said. “It wasn’t always easy this year. We don’t have a track at the school and usually I’d have to go to another school that had the gear just to practice the high jump. I’ve worked really hard for this moment, and standing on that podium was such a thrill. It was perfect. I couldn’t have written the ending any better.”
Eastern sophomore Emma Hayes also took part in the Division III meet on Friday afternoon, placing 16th out of 18 contestants in the discus final. Hayes recorded a throw of 101 feet, 8 inches — just under 10 feet less than her qualifying throw (111-9) at regionals.
Both Hayes and Evans were first-time state qualifiers. Hayes extended the Lady Eagles’ streak of athletes at the state meet to an 11th consecutive postseason.
The Eastern girls last scored points at the state level when Laura Pullins placed fifth in the high jump back in 2017.
Colonel Crawford captured the Division III girls championship with 44 points, with Margaretta placing second out of 72 scoring teams with 41 points.
Southern joined Fairfield Christian, Fairbanks, Lima Central Catholic, Madison Plains, Riverdale, Elmwood, Cardinal, Rittman and Toldeo Christian in a 10-way tie for 51st place with three points.
Norwayne claimed the D-3 boys title with 40 points, while McDonald was the runner-up out of 72 scoring teams with 38 points.
Pickerington Central (31) claimed a 1-point victory over Olentangy Orange (30) for the Division I boys championship, while Gahanna Lincoln (47) ran away with the D-1 girls crown after placing 16 points ahead of runner-up Westerville Central (31).
A total of 79 girls teams and 77 boys teams scored in the Division I meet.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.