When Dalyn Gattison and the Warren G. Harding 4x100 meter relay team steps on the track at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Friday, they will find themselves in a very familiar situation.
The Raiders qualified for the state meet by finishing in fourth in the Division I Austintown regional last week, the exact same position the 4x100 team qualified for state last season before shocking their competition with a fourth-place finish in the finals.
Even the preliminaries will look the same, as the 4x100 team will race the second heat and run in Lane 8.
"Basically, it's the exact same thing as last year," Gattison said. "We honestly want to do better than we did last year. I would definitely love to come in first, but if you have to again, I wouldn't be too angry about (finishing in fourth)."
There is just one slight change from this year's scenario from last year's, and that change is Keemari Murry. He has replaced the graduated Terrell Bruner.
The other three runners - LeShun Daniels, Kevonte' Jordan and Gattison - are all seniors, which has helped to make Murry's transition onto the team easier. Gattison said the freshman needed little guidance, though.
"At the beginning of the season, especially in indoor, the seniors were mainly giving the freshmen tips and stuff to be leaders since we're not going to be here anymore," Gattison said. "As outdoor came, our freshman, Keemari Murry, he has had the leadership skills down pat."
Murry has shown those skills, or at least some constitution, during the district and regional meets, running the last leg of the event. Whether Harding coach Charles Penny will elect to use the same lineup of Daniels, Gattison, Jordan and Murry is yet to be seen.
For his part, Gattison has a few preferences.
"It depends on what type of situation it is," Gattison said. "If it's crunch time and we really need this one, I really like being either anchor or third leg.
"This season, I've gotten used to running second leg for the first time. It's been an amazing experience. I like it. I get to see the other half of the race, and that really gets me excited."
Another Harding relay team has a good chance to make some noise down in Columbus.
The girls 4x100 relay team of Gariana Bercheni, Chyna Stroud, Aisha Jackson and Justice Richardson are seeded third in Division I going into Friday, according to Penny. The problem that this team with such high expectations might have at state is the inexperience, though, as Bercheni, Jackson and Richardson are freshman and Stroud is a sophomore.
"The good thing about freshmen is they don't know what to expect in Columbus," Penny said. "The bad thing with freshmen is they don't know what to expect in Columbus. When you have the opportunity to compete for a state title, nerves and everything else can get ahold of you. When you're a freshman, you don't really understand the whole concept of running in front of all those thousands of people when it matters.
"We're both excited and a tad bit nervous, but it does bode well for the future for those young ladies."
The boys 4x400 team of Marcus Boomer, James Rumple, Zavien Bennett and Kevonte' Jordan rounds out Harding's representation in Columbus. Based on the competition, Penny said only the best performance in program history could send this relay to the final heat and possibly a chance at finishing on the podium.
"It's definitely going to take something special for them to make the finals," Penny said. "We ran a pretty good time, but we're going to have to break our school record of 3:17 to make the finals. This year, there's a lot of great teams."