The Division I state swimming and diving meet proved to be an enjoyable sendoff for Gahanna Lincoln High School seniors Morgan Belli and Kirstyn Thomas.
Belli, who was making her fourth state appearance, placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 5.21 seconds) to tie her previous-best state finish.
In addition, she and Thomas helped the Lions girls team compete at state in a relay for the first time since the mid-1990s, according to coach Erin Darrah.
The state meet was held Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
"We all work really hard, and it was an amazing experience," said Thomas, who competed at state for the first time. "As a senior, it means that much more."
Belli was fourth in the 200 individual medlay and fourth in the 100 backstroke as a freshman in 2011, but didn't reach the podium in either event as a sophomore or junior.
This year, she also finished eighth in the 200 IM (2:05.13) to reach the podium.
"It wasn't my best time (in the 100 breast), but I'm happy with my fourth-place (finish)," Belli said. "There's not really much strategy to it -- just go out and sprint because it's only 100 yards. I guess starting into my final swim, I have to race the people next to me and have fun competing, and hopefully you'll drop time because of that.
"I've placed higher before (in the 200 IM) and it wasn't my best. I got my best time at district, so I'm happy with this year."
Gahanna tied for 21st (26) behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (281) as 52 teams scored.
Also competing at state was freshman Ally Wharton, who was 19th in the 100 breast (1:07.47).
Wharton and sophomore Regan Nolan were the other swimmers on the 200 medley relay, which placed 24th (1:52.0).
Wrestling team falls short of state
For the first time since 2007, the wrestling team won't be represented in the Division I state tournament.
In the district tournament Feb. 21 and 22 at Hilliard Darby, the Lions finished 29th (14) as Marysville (147.5) won its third consecutive title and 37 teams scored.
Going 3-3 and placing sixth at 170 pounds was sophomore Doland Martin, who went 0-2 at the same weight at district a year ago.
Martin lost to Hilliard Darby's Zack Donatelli 8-3 in his opening match but bounced back to win his next three.
In a rematch with Donatelli that would have qualified Martin for state, he lost 4-3. He then fell to Lancaster's Eric Deluse 3-1 in the fifth-place match to finish 31-18.
"After watching Doland's (6-1 win over Pickerington Central's Dylan McDowell) I was pretty happy," coach Kyle Bentley said. "Doland wrestled a really smart match."
Senior heavyweight Nick Nader won his opening district match but lost to Olentangy's Chris Crumb 8-5 in the second round.
Also a district qualifier a year ago, Nader went 2-2 at district to finish 44-8.
"The match he lost (to Crumb) he gave away six points," Bentley said. "(Crumb) didn't really initiate any points on him."
Also competing at district were senior Jordan Sprunger (160), junior Andy Chau (195) and sophomore Tanner Harding (145).
Sprunger went 1-2 to finish 32-17. Harding went 0-2 to finish 32-20 and Chau went 0-2 to finish 24-29.
A year ago, Sprunger went 0-2 at 145 at district and Chau was a district alternate at 195.
Boys basketball team moves to second round
With a 55-45 win over 42nd-seeded Dublin Scioto in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 21, the boys basketball team advanced to a second-round game Feb. 25 at home against 39th-seeded Logan.
The winner plays 19th-seeded Groveport or 27th-seeded St. Charles in a district semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at Marysville.
The district final is March 8 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Gahanna was 20-3 after beating Scioto, which finished 4-19.
Javon Bess led with 23 points, Matt Moyer had 10 and Manny Powell added nine for Gahanna.
St. Charles edged Thomas Worthington 37-35 in a first-round game Feb. 22 to improve to 12-9 and move into the matchup with Groveport, which had a first-round bye and was 11-11.
Gahanna beat Groveport 80-53 on Dec. 9 and 84-63 on Jan. 17.
St. Charles is led by 6-foot-3 senior point guard Sean Hennessey, who averages 13 points and five rebounds.
Groveport features junior post player Carmearl Thomas and sophomore point guard Tyus Ferguson.
Bowlers prepping for district tourney
The boys and girls bowling teams compete in Division I district tournaments Saturday, March 1, at Eastland Lanes.
The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state, which will be March 7 for boys and March 8 for girls at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The girls team will be making its seventh consecutive district appearance. The Lions were seventh (3,012) in the 37-team sectional Feb. 21 at Eastland Lanes behind champion Briggs (3,345) as the top 20 advanced to district.
Senior Mickayla Moyer led the Lions by placing fourth (532), followed by junior Samantha Toale (10th, 514), senior Erika Reed (16th, 475), freshman Breanna White (77th, 374) and senior Erin Holt (128th, 291).
The girls advanced to state for the first time in 2012 but settled for fifth at district last year. Reed played in two games at state in 2012, when Gahanna finished 16th.
The boys team placed eighth (3,529) in the 40-team sectional behind champion Walnut Ridge (3,805) as the top 20 advanced to district.
Senior Shane Hull Jr. led the Lions with a 22nd-place finish (545) and junior Brandon Pierce tied for 29th (531). Competing in two games apiece were junior Conner Hammonds (328) and freshman Kaelan Celetano (298), while freshman Jeff Avery (176) and junior Alex Kasson (140) both competed in one game.
The boys didn't advance to district either of the past two seasons after qualifying for state in 2011. As a freshman that season, Hull was 27th (563) at district and helped the Lions place 10th at state.
Hockey team falls in third round to Jerome
The ninth-seeded hockey team's season ended with a 6-1 loss to third-seeded Dublin Jerome in the third round of the district tournament Feb. 22 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Senior forward Mason Settle scored, with sophomore Jake Chobany and freshman Jared Chobany assisting. Freshman goaltender Chris Henestofel had 33 saves.
Gahanna, which also lost to Jerome 10-0 on Dec. 21, finished 18-12-2 after reaching the third round of the tournament for the first time. The Lions previously lost three times in the first round and went 0-8 in second-round contests.