The postseason partnership of junior Hannah Wexner and sophomore Andrea Ballinger paid off for the Columbus Academy girls tennis team.
Singles players for most of the season, the pair won the Vikings' first state title since 2008 by going 4-0 in doubles in the Division II state tournament held Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State and Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City.
"When we went into it, we just kind of thought that we might as well try to play doubles together and see if we could play well together and see how far we could go and how well we could do," Wexner said. "We were really surprised to even make it to state and it was just really an amazing experience to do so well."
The doubles team of Christina Raymond and Val Micek won the program's previous state title by defeating Chagrin Falls Anna Benson and Emily Mazzola 6-2, 6-2 in the 2008 final.
Ballinger and Wexner opened state by defeating Cincinnati Country Day's Caroline Blackburn and Mackenzie Patterson 6-0, 6-3 in the first round Oct. 19 at Ohio State.
Play was moved to Elysium later that day because of bad weather, with Ballinger and Wexner defeating Lexington's Alex Griebling and Nicole Dragos 6-3, 6-2 in the second round.
Play continued at Elysium on Oct. 20. Ballinger and Wexner defeated Chesapeake sisters Meili Martin and Minda Martin 6-2, 6-4 in a semifinal and Gates Mills Hawken's Sydney Green and Emily Leizman 6-2, 6-3 in the final.
"It was a very exciting day," coach Megan Martzolf said. "I knew that they could do it. Both of them are great players and they really work well together. They've been working so hard and they prepared very well for this."
"We've practiced very hard on our own time and we really just found each other on how to play well together, and that was definitely what allowed us to have that success," Wexner said.
Academy capped the weekend by finishing second in Division II in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state tournament Oct. 21 at Reynoldsburg. The Vikings defeated Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 3-0 in a semifinal before losing to Lexington 3-1 in the final.
Academy was seeking its first state team title since 2008.
Runners advance to regional meet
For junior Aron Aziz, a trek along a muddy cross country course at Watkins Memorial was worth the effort.
Aziz earned a berth in the Division III boys regional meet Saturday, Oct. 27, at Pickerington North by finishing 10th in the district 1 race Oct. 20 in a personal-best 17 minutes, 35.93 seconds.
"The conditions didn't make a difference to me," Aziz said. "I've run in worse than this this season. You get used to it. This was by far the best race I've run all year."
Junior Ben Uchimura was 16th (17:55.24) at district and will join Aziz at regional.
The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to regional, where the top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to state Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
"Aron and Ben ran real well, probably their best race all season at a time when we needed them to come up and try and do that," coach Mike Ramseyer said.
Academy just missed earning a qualifying berth as a team, finishing fifth (122) in the 12-team meet behind champion Liberty Union (44), Grandview (77), Fredericktown (82) and Mount Gilead (112).
Academy's other runners were junior Alex Ho (20th, 18:10.19) and freshmen Andrew Heermann (33rd, 18:53.46), Ricardo de Aguiar (43rd, 19:15.9), Hirsh Hede (44th, 19:22.05) and Otis Klingbeil (45th, 19:24.36).
"We thought we had a good chance to advance," Ramseyer said. "We had some things that didn't fall our way."
The girls team earned its second consecutive regional berth by finishing third (57) in the eight-team district 2 meet behind Grandview (45) and Galion Northmor (56).
Fairfield Christian (133) was the other qualifying team.
Last season, the Vikings finished fourth at regional (155) behind champion Mount Gilead (85) and 14th (321) at state behind champion Liberty Center (65).
Sophomore Abby Wilson led the Vikings at district, finishing second (20:04.67) behind champion Dani Blum (19:51.62) of Northmor.
"I think we can reach state," Wilson said. "We approached it differently. We trained to hopefully get back to the state meet. It will be a fight at regional, but we're feeling stronger than last year."
Academy's other runners were junior Sydney Brault (12th, 21:38.69), freshman Cobi Warstler (14th, 21:54.01), sophomores Elizabeth Falkenberg (16th, 22:04.34) and Sydnie Boykins (17th, 22:16.48), junior Susan Peck (19th, 22:19.9) and senior Sarah Lazarus (27th, 22:53.19).
"I was kind of hoping that they could win this race, but Northmor and Grandview looked real good on the day," Ramseyer said.
Football team seeks playoff berth
The football team will look to keep its Division V, Region 19 postseason hopes alive when it visits Granville on Friday, Oct. 26.
The Vikings improved to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division by defeating Whitehall 38-20 on Oct. 18.
Granville is 8-1 overall and tied for first in the league with Licking Valley and Newark Catholic at 5-1.
Last season, Granville defeated Academy 33-14 to finish first in the league at 7-0.
Through eight games, Academy was 11th in the region. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
"If we win we have a legitimate shot at getting into the playoffs," coach Jim Collis said. "Granville needs to win to get in as well. It will be a tough game, but one that we are capable of winning."
Against Whitehall, Jared Harris rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Ben Dahl added two touchdown receptions.
"The kids came out and took it to Whitehall," Collis said. "I was concerned with our emotional state after (the previous) week's (21-17) loss against Licking Valley."