As we begin 2016, we take a look back at the highlights of central Ohio high school sports for 2015.
As we begin 2016, we take a look back at the highlights of central Ohio high school sports for 2015.
There was plenty to celebrate over the course of the year, as area teams won state championships in baseball, field hockey, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball and water polo, and area athletes won state titles in bowling, cross country, golf, swimming, tennis, track and wrestling.
Here's how the year stacked up through the eyes of the ThisWeek sports staff:
1 GRIDIRON CHAMPS: The Hartley football team won the Division IV state championship, upsetting favored Steubenville 31-28 on Dec. 5 at Ohio Stadium.
The Hawks, who won their final eight games to finish 12-3, held the ball almost 10 minutes longer than Steubenville, which was ranked second in the final state poll and finished 13-1.
With the game tied at 28, Ben Hawk made a 40-yard field goal with 4 minutes, 57 seconds left.
Steubenville turned the ball over on its final two possessions. The Big Red was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the Hartley 23 with 1:15 remaining and Cody Kirkbride intercepted quarterback Dimitri Collaros at the Steubenville 45 with 36 seconds left.
"Steubenville was just unstoppable all week with the talk," coach Brad Burchfield said. "I'm a pretty confident person, and I was even depressed after reading it.
"(Winning the state title) means a great deal to our school. ... We've had one of the best school years we've ever had."
Hartley was the only central Ohio team to reach a state final.
2 GRANDVIEW TRAGEDIES: Tragedy struck Grandview three times during a span of three and a half months, beginning with the death of longtime teacher and coach Steve Hall, followed by the deaths of two Grandview graduates, Chase Gage and Colin Jourdan.
Hall, 44, died Feb. 17 after an 18-month battle with colon cancer. He taught math for 18 years, coached girls basketball and girls tennis and, most recently, had been an assistant coach for the boys basketball program.
"From a player's perspective, (Hall) was your rock," said Kiley Kinnard, a 2008 graduate who played for Hall during part of his 16 seasons leading the girls tennis program. "It wasn't about sports for him as much as enjoying life. He genuinely cared about everyone and wanted to know everyone on a personal level."
Gage, 19, died in a one-car crash May 14 on state Route 55 in Urbana. He had graduated from Grandview in 2013 and was a student at Wittenberg University, where he ran cross country.
He ran cross country and track at Grandview.
Jourdan, 17, died June 1 -- eight days after graduating -- from injuries sustained when he fell about 100 feet into a quarry. He was a member of the boys soccer team that finished as Division III state runner-up in 2014.
3 REPEAT ON THE PITCH: The DeSales boys soccer team won its second consecutive Division II state championship, defeating Bay Village Bay 1-0 on Nov. 14 at Mapfre Stadium.
Sophomore midfielder Hector Gomez scored with 3:52 left in the first half for the Stallions, who finished 19-2-2.
DeSales -- which beat Bay by the same score in the 2014 final -- ranks second all-time in Ohio with six titles, one behind Cleveland St. Ignatius. The Stallions have made 15 state appearances, tying them with Bay for most in state history.
DeSales posted a shutout in five of its seven postseason wins this year, outscoring its opponents 28-2.
"I woke up (Nov. 14) and (senior goalkeeper J.P. Baughman) was at my house. I have no idea why, but he was there," coach Domenic Romanelli said. "He looked at me and asked if I was nervous. This whole tournament run, he's been like 'Relax. We got this.' And we do. I'm numb."
Two other area soccer teams reached a state final, with the Hilliard Davidson boys losing to St. Ignatius 4-0 in Division I and the Granville girls falling to Akron Hoban 2-1 in overtime in Division II.
4 RECORD-SETTING RUN: Watkins Memorial senior Andrew Jordan won the Division I state title in boys cross country Nov. 7 at National Trail Raceway in a course-record 14:54.
"I don't have the greatest of kicks, so I wanted to remain patient when the leaders went out fast," said Jordan, whose time ranks second in state meet history, behind the 14:50.2 run by Sandusky Perkins' Scott Fry in 1984. "I made my move around 1 1/2 miles. I wanted to press the pace to run away from the group and not let it come down to a final kick."
Jordan finished 19.8 seconds ahead of runner-up Gavin Gaynor of Hudson. There were 144 runners in the race.
In the Division I girls race, Hilliard Davidson junior India Johnson was runner-up and Olentangy Liberty placed second of 16 teams.
5 CELTIC PRIDE: The Dublin Jerome girls golf team won its fifth Division I state title in a row, shooting a 635 over two rounds Oct. 23 and 24 on Ohio State's Gray Course to edge runner-up Uniontown Green by two strokes.
Sophomore Taby Robinson led the Celtics, carding a 152 to finish seventh of 72 golfers.
The Celtics were three strokes off the lead after the first round.
"Of all of our five titles, this was more about our mental toughness," coach C.D. Butcher said.
Also in golf, the Bexley boys team won its first state championship, shooting a 617 in the two-round Division II tournament Oct. 16 and 17 at NorthStar to finish 10 strokes ahead of runner-up Canton Central Catholic.
"There was no question in my mind ... that we could do this," coach Jimmy Ryan said.
Senior Cameron Karmia led the Lions, shooting a 143 to share medalist honors with Dayton Oakwood's Connor Quigley.
6 RIGHT ON TRACK: The Pickerington North boys and the Gahanna girls track and field teams brought home team trophies from the Division I state meet that concluded June 6 at Ohio State.
Nick Gray, a 2015 North graduate, led the Panthers by defending his championship in the 400 meters and placing second in the 100 and 200. He also was on the winning 1,600 relay.
The Panthers got another first-place finish from 2015 graduate Dairius Ragland, who won the 110 hurdles.
North finished with 52 points, well ahead of runner-up Mason (28), to give the school its first state team championship in any sport.
Led by 2015 graduates Sydney Stokes and Sami Shaw, Gahanna scored 50 points to tie Cincinnati Withrow for the team championship -- the school's first state team title in any girls sport.
Stokes was runner-up in the 300 hurdles and placed third in the long jump, and Shaw was anchor on the winning 1,600 and 800 relays.
7. NO HOOPLA: For the first time since 2005, no area boys or girls basketball teams won a state championship.
Four area boys teams reached state, with two falling in finals.
Westerville South lost to Huber Heights Wayne 65-57 in the Division I final March 28 at Ohio State in its first state appearance. That same day, Harvest Prep fell to New Madison Tri-Village 48-46 in the Division IV final.
Walnut Ridge (Division II) and Eastmoor Academy (Division III) were semifinalists.
Newark was the only area girls team to reach state. The Wildcats lost in a semifinal in their first state appearance.
8 ON THE DIAMOND: The Newark Catholic baseball and Granville softball teams won state championships.
Newark Catholic defeated Berlin Center Western Reserve 6-0 in the Division IV final June 6 at Huntington Park behind a three-hitter by Ron Engle to finish 22-11.
It was the Green Wave's second state title in three seasons and eighth overall.
"It doesn't get old," coach John Cannizzaro said.
Granville beat Licking County League-rival Lakewood 2-1 in the Division II final June 6 at Firestone Stadium in Akron to finish 28-6. It was the first state title for the Blue Aces, who had lost twice to the Lancers during the regular season.
Also in baseball, Westerville Central was the Division I state runner-up and Big Walnut and Watterson were state semifinalists in Division II.
9 THE THIRST QUENCHER: Dublin Coffman senior Hunter Atherton was named Gatorade Ohio Volleyball Player of the Year on Dec. 10.
A setter who helped the Shamrocks girls team to a Division I state runner-up finish, Atherton also was named a first-team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. She participated in the Under Armour All-America Match and Skills competition Dec. 18 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb., where she won the "best setter" award.
She has signed with the University of Nebraska.
"I was really surprised that I got (the Gatorade honor)," Atherton said. "There are so many amazing players in Ohio. I feel so lucky to have received this honor."
10 WRESTLEMANIA: Three area wrestlers -- Dublin Coffman's Dominick Demas (138 pounds), Olentangy Liberty's Jonathan Furnas (132) and Marysville's Taleb Rahmani (152) -- won Division I state titles.
Demas defeated Brunswick's Nick Kiussis in the 138-pound final 12-5; Furnas topped Lakewood St. Edward's Hunter Ladnier 9-8 in the 132 final; and Rahmani edged St. Charles' Tim Rooney 3-1 at 152.
11 SISTER ACT: Senior Olivia Kompa and freshman Paige Kompa of the Upper Arlington girls tennis team combined to win the Division I state doubles title, defeating Olentangy Liberty's Anna Delaney and Alexis Steer 6-2, 6-0 in the final Oct. 17 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
The Kompa sisters went 11-1 in the postseason.
"It was a good experience to (win the state title) with my sister and a positive way to end my tennis career," Olivia said.
Also in girls tennis, Dublin Jerome won its second Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state team title in a row and fourth in five seasons by defeating Cincinnati Sycamore 3-0 on Oct. 18 at Reynoldsburg.
In boys tennis, Columbus Academy's Jacob Wareti lost to Lexington's Mason Dragos 6-3, 6-2 in the Division II state singles final May 30 at Ohio State. Wareti was the only area player to advance to the second day at state.
12 THRICE AS NICE: Mason Miller, a 2015 Westerville North graduate, won a Division I state swimming title for the third consecutive season.
Miller won the 100-yard butterfly (48.65) in the Division I state meet Feb. 28 at Branin Natatorium in Canton after winning the same event as a junior. As a sophomore, he won the 50 freestyle.
Also in swimming, the Upper Arlington girls team won its first Division I state team title since 2012 and its 10th overall. The Bears, who were state runners-up the previous two years, scored 285.5 points to edge runner-up Cincinnati St. Ursula (270.5).
UA finished first in the 200 medley (1:45.09), 200 free (1:34.33) and 400 free (3:23.19) relays and Gracie Long won the 200 free (1:48.78).
13 SCARLET & GRAY: Four central Ohio players were in the starting lineup for the Ohio State football team when it beat Oregon 42-20 on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to win the national championship in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Darron Lee (New Albany) and Joshua Perry (Olentangy) both started at linebacker and Jacoby Boren (Pickerington Central) and Pat Elflein (Pickerington North) started at center and right guard, respectively.
Nick Vannett (Westerville Central) also was a major contributor as a backup tight end.
14 STRIKING GOLD: Olentangy Liberty senior Cameron Thatcher and teammate Grayson Campbell won the gold medal in 14-18 synchronized 3-meter diving Oct. 10 at the Junior Pan American Diving Championships in Matanzas, Cuba.
Thatcher and Campbell, from Vienna, Va., scored 275.22 points, 3.75 ahead of runners-up Daniel Gomez and Humberto Gonzalez of Mexico.
It was the first international medal for Thatcher, who said a front 3 1/2 pike and a front 2 1/2 with one twist were the dives that clinched the gold.
"We were the only team that came out without any real mistake," Thatcher said.
Thatcher, who has signed with Stanford University, won the Division I state title in 1-meter diving Feb. 28, scoring 630.9 points to set records for both the state meet and its host facility, Branin Natatorium. He set the state record of 650.85 three weeks earlier in a meet at Columbus School for Girls.
15 RECALCULATION: On Aug. 13, the Ohio High School Athletic Association released recalculated enrollment numbers for its member schools for 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Seven days earlier, the OHSAA ruled to eliminate community school students from the enrollment counts of schools throughout the state, a decision that forced it to revise all postseason divisional assignments for every sport.
The decision to recalculate was lauded by many coaches, particularly those in Columbus City Schools, the district that would have been affected the most by the addition of community school students to enrollment numbers, particularly in football.
"For me, it's just about what's fair to the kids, and there's already a lot of inequity," Walnut Ridge football coach Byron Mattox said. "We just want the field to be somewhat level."
16 LACROSSE SANCTIONED: The OHSAA announced June 4 that it will sponsor lacrosse beginning in 2017.
As of yet, neither boys nor girls lacrosse has the required 150 schools to become sanctioned by the OHSAA, according to its bylaws. However, it was approved by the board of directors 8-0 in the OHSAA's newly developed category called "emerging" sports.
There were 122 boys teams and 118 girls teams sponsored by schools in 2015, with an additional 18 boys club teams sponsored.
"Lacrosse is definitely growing in our state at both the youth and high school levels, and it's exciting when schools want their sport to be part of our association," OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross said.
17 FRIDAY NIGHT FUTBOL: The soccer season opened Aug. 21 with Friday Night Futbol in an effort to capitalize on the season starting the week before football.
More than 100 games were played across the state one night before the traditional start of the season as part of an initiative proposed by OHSAA assistant commissioner Jerry Snodgrass. The primary objective was to give soccer teams the publicity and recognition usually afforded football teams on Friday nights.
Participants included the boys teams from Columbus Academy, Johnstown, Hilliard Bradley, Olentangy, New Albany, Upper Arlington, Watterson, Westerville Central, Westerville South and Worthington Christian and the girls teams from Pickerington Central, Westerville South and Worthington Christian.
"Soccer is tremendously popular, but to have a stage on Friday night with no football, it's just a novelty," New Albany boys coach Johnny Ulry said.
18 ON FROZEN POND: Kole Sherwood, a 2015 New Albany graduate, became the first Columbus-born player to sign with the Blue Jackets.
Sherwood, a forward, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the 15-year-old NHL franchise on July 6. He currently is playing at the junior level for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
On June 26, Jack Roslovic became the first Columbus-born player selected in the first round of the NHL draft when he was taken with the 25th pick by the Winnipeg Jets. The forward currently is playing for Miami University.
19 WISH UPON A STAR: In conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and ESPN, Whetstone junior swimmer Hailey Cannaday, who is battling bone cancer, got to meet her idol, Michael Phelps, at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Cannaday, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2014, and her family flew to Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 30 to meet the 18-time gold medalist and returned home July 2.
"This is just unbelievable," Cannaday said after receiving the invitation from Phelps via Skype as the ESPN cameras rolled June 26 at Columbus Aquatics Center. "I've never met anyone famous, so to be meeting my idol and the best swimmer of all time ... I had trouble just Skyping with him. I don't know what I'm going to say to him when I get there."
Cannaday was featured on ESPN's "My Wish" in July.
20 STICKS UP: The Upper Arlington girls lacrosse team won its second Division I state title in three years and its sixth overall, and the Columbus Academy girls team captured its first Division II title since 2011 and fourth overall.
UA defeated Cincinnati Sycamore 12-8 in its state final May 30 at Westerville Central behind five goals from Olivia Schildmeyer. The Bears finished 19-2, winning their final 19 games.
Makela Hughes scored the winning goal with 37.1 seconds left in Academy's 9-8 victory over Chagrin Falls in its state final May 30 at Central. The Vikings finished 16-1.
In boys lacrosse, three-time defending Division I state champion UA had its title streak snapped with a 7-6 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier in the state final June 6 at New Albany. The Bears, who led 6-3 at halftime, finished 17-6.
21 HOLDING COURT: The Hilliard Darby boys volleyball team won its second Division I state championship in three years, beating Beavercreek 27-25, 20-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-12 on May 31 at Capital University.
The Panthers finished 20-8.
"With eight losses, some people might say we aren't the best team in the state," coach Bryan Webb said. "But I'll say this much, we played better than any team in the state in the past two-plus weeks and we're not giving this (trophy) back."
Also in boys volleyball, DeSales was the Division II state runner-up.
22 IN THE CARDS: Despite missing its best player, the Thomas Worthington field hockey team defeated Hudson 3-0 on Nov. 7 at Upper Arlington to capture its first state title since 2011 and fourth overall.
Sarah Charley, Taylor Insley and Paige Lampman scored during an 11-minute stretch of the second half for the Cardinals, who finished 20-0-1.
Hana Sinno, a Boston University signee, sustained an ankle injury a day earlier during a 3-0 win over Cincinnati Ursuline in a state semifinal. She attempted to warm up before the championship game but sat out all but the final 24 seconds.
23 POLO GROUNDS: The Upper Arlington girls water polo team captured its second consecutive state championship, its fifth title in six years and its 15th overall by rallying from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Cincinnati Sycamore 11-6 on Oct. 24 at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Brooke Brown scored four goals to lead UA, which finished 31-1.
24 SUCCESS IN THE CITY: Five City League boys basketball teams -- Africentric (Division IV), Columbus South (Division II), Eastmoor Academy (Division III), Northland (Division I) and Walnut Ridge (Division II) -- won district titles.
Northland rallied from a 14-point deficit with 2:28 remaining to beat Gahanna 66-65 in its district final.
25 CREW MEMBER: Wil Trapp, a 2011 Gahanna graduate, helped Columbus Crew SC reach the MLS Cup final in his third season as a starting midfielder.
Crew SC lost the game, falling 2-1 to Portland on Dec. 6 at Mapfre Stadium.
Chad Barson, a defender and 2009 Olentangy graduate, and Matt Lampson, a goalkeeper and 2008 St. Charles graduate, also were on Crew SC's roster, although neither played in the MLS Cup final.