When Laurie Karr privately decided she was going to step down as coach of the Olentangy Liberty High School swimming and diving program at the end of this season, she hoped she could finish her eight-year tenure on a positive note.
The girls team enabled Karr to do that, as all three relays qualified for the Division I state meet Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton and senior Olivia Ball captured her third consecutive state diving title.
Ball scored a state-, state meet- and pool-record 553.85 points to outdistance runner-up Estee Pryor (521) of New Albany.
Liberty finished 29th (20 points) at state behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (281) as 52 teams scored.
The Patriots placed 23rd in all three relays. Freshman Ally Braun, sophomore Reilly Haas, junior Sam Dawson and junior Caroline Racke finished the 400-yard freestyle relay in 3 minutes, 40.93 seconds; sophomore Justine Kenny, junior Bailee Braun, Racke and Haas clocked 1:51.74 in the 200 medley relay; and Racke, Ally Braun, Dawson and Haas finished the 200 free relay in 1:41.13.
"I decided back in November that this was going to be my last season coaching high school because it's difficult to coach my Buckeye Swim Club and Liberty teams at the same time, and I need to focus more of my energy on getting a pool built in this district because we badly need one," Karr said. "I'm the kind of coach who always wants more from my kids and is never satisfied, but we accomplished a lot of good things this season."
At district Feb. 15 at Ohio State, Liberty finished fifth (167) behind champion Upper Arlington (522.5) as 24 teams scored.
The Patriots finished third (333.5) in an 11-team sectional Feb. 8 at Union County YMCA behind champion Dublin Jerome (356).
Liberty also finished second (229) in the OCC-Central meet Jan. 25 behind UA (470) and ahead of host Thomas Worthington (205), Dublin Coffman (131.5), Hilliard Davidson (119), Marysville (64.5) and Central Crossing (48).
"Our girls were excited to beat Thomas Worthington for second in our league meet because they are a really good team," Karr said. "Our depth really helped us a lot in that meet.
"Our girls team will be losing its top two divers (Ball and Brittany Menninger), but they will gain several good freshmen next season and will continue to do well."
Braves captured first league title since '01
Senior Colleen McHugh led Olentangy at state by placing seventh in diving (452.65).
With the Princeton recruit leading the way, the Braves finished 19th (29).
Sophomore Ellie Nebraska tied for 11th in the 100 free (52.5) and finished 20th in the 200 free (1:55.13). She also combined with senior Erika Poling, senior Mara Nebraska and sophomore Abbey Newman to finish 11th in the 200 free relay (1:39.25) and teamed with Poling, freshman Kaylyn Cochran and Mara Nebraska to place 17th in the 400 free relay (3:37.58).
The Braves finished sixth (139) at district and broke three team records, as Ellie Nebraska was third in the 200 free (1:52.75), Ellie Nebraska, Poling, Mara Nebraska and Newman finished fourth in the 200 free relay (1:38.77) and the Nebraska sisters, Poling and Cochran placed fifth in the 400 free relay (3:36.67).
Olentangy finished second (339) at sectional.
The Braves also scored 298 points to win the OCC-Capital meet Jan. 25 at New Albany, their first league title since 2001. New Albany (282) finished second, followed by Delaware (254), Orange (181), Worthington Kilbourne (142), Big Walnut (82) and Mount Vernon (49).
Second-year coach Axel Birnbrich declined to be interviewed but said he won't return next season.
Pioneers' Haidet made history
Freshman Alyssa Haidet became the first Orange swimmer to compete in the Division I state meet, where she finished 22nd in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.46) as the Pioneers failed to score.
Haidet finished seventh in the 100 breast (team-record 1:06.75) at district to help Orange place 19th (26).
Also breaking team records were freshman Anna Peura, senior Haley Johnson, senior Jasmine Wright and sophomore Eily Cogan in the 200 free relay (16th, 1:46.22) and Johnson, Haidet, Peura and Cogan in the 200 medley relay (14th, 1:54.98).
Orange finished fifth (162) at sectional after placing fourth in the OCC-Capital meet.
"To say this was a successful season is an understatement and we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg," coach Dan Harris said. "Our team is still very young and will continue to grow in the coming years. Many of our swimmers really came of age this season to have great personal and team success.
"My (personal) highlight was seeing Alyssa proudly represent Pioneer swimming on the biggest stage for our sport."