Athletes of the Year

Area's best highlight winter sports season

Now that the winter season has come to an end, it's time to announce the Athletes of the Year. The wrestling, boys basketball and girls basketball honorees were captains of the previously announced Super 12 teams.

Here are the winter honorees:

Olivia Ball

GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING

Not only did the Olentangy Liberty senior win her third consecutive Division I state diving title, she set a state record on three occasions.

On Jan. 18, Ball scored 545.9 points to break the record of 517.65, which had been set in 2007 by Upper Arlington graduate and 2012 U.S. Olympic diver Abby Johnston.

Ball broke her own mark by winning the district title with 551.25 points Feb. 15 before winning the state title Feb. 22 with a state-, state meet- and pool-record 553.85 points.

"I believe that Olivia far surpassed anything that anyone else has accomplished in high school diving in this state with the season she had," Liberty diving coach Jen White said. "Beating Abby Johnston's state record was a huge accomplishment because Abby set the point total so high and her record stood for so long.

"There was a lot of pressure on Olivia to defend her state title, but she stayed so relaxed and focused throughout the season. The funny thing is she didn't even do two of her harder dives in the state meet because she had such a big lead, so she probably could have set the state record even higher if she needed to."

Javon Bess

BOYS BASKETBALL

With his 6-foot-5 frame and quickness, it's reasonable to think that Javon Bess would have been a standout high school football player had he stuck with the sport.

He played quarterback and wide receiver in youth leagues before turning his athletic focus solely to basketball in 2011 after his freshman season at Pickerington Central.

Bess averaged 20.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists and shot 65 percent from the field this season. He was named Division I district Player of the Year and shared OCC-Ohio Division Player of the Year honors with a former teammate, Central's Jae'Sean Tate, who missed the second half of the season with a shoulder injury.

Bess finished his prep career with more than 1,200 points.

"Javon Bess, over the last two years, has really elevated his game," coach Tony Staib said. "He can play inside or outside. He's so versatile, and that's what everybody likes about him."

View the entire Super 12 boys basketball team.

Alexa Markulis

GYMNASTICS

The Dublin Coffman sophomore won OCC-Ohio Division titles on floor exercise and all-around, won district titles on floor, vault and all-around and had the top finish among area competitors at state on balance beam, vault and all-around in her first season with the Shamrocks.

"She was far from a novice. She competed in club but was injured and didn't compete at all as a freshman," coach Julie Kayser said. "Having never competed in high school gymnastics, she came in not knowing what to expect.

"She learned pretty quickly that the camaraderie is so much better. In club, when you reach the upper levels, there aren't as many girls and there isn't as much team support."

At state March 1, Markulis earned all-state honors by placing seventh in the all-around (36.15), tying for sixth on beam (9.05) and finishing ninth on floor (9.25). She also finished 15th on vault (9.1) and 18th on uneven bars (8.75).

On Feb. 22, Markulis won district titles on vault (program-record 9.525), floor (9.3) and all-around (36.725) to lead Coffman to its first district title since 2009. The Shamrocks placed fifth at state Feb. 28.

Austin Pfarr

WRESTLING

Pfarr won the Division I state wrestling championship at 220 pounds on March 1 at Ohio State.

The Marysville senior defeated defending champion Chalmer Frueauf of Cincinnati Moeller 5-4 in the final when Frueauf was called for fleeing the mat with 6 seconds remaining in the one-minute overtime.

Pfarr helped Marysville finish third (77.5 points) at state behind Massillon Perry (185) and Perrysburg (90.5) as 78 teams scored.

Coach Shawn Andrews said Pfarr was the aggressor throughout his title match, proving it wasn't an upset.

"Austin put himself on the map from the first week of the season," Andrews said.

Pfarr went 46-1 this season, with his only loss a 3-2 decision Dec. 15 against Lombard (Ill.) Montini Catholic's Edgar Ruano in the 220-pound final of the Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament.

A three-time state qualifier, Pfarr went 139-41 for his career. He finished fifth at state at 195 as a junior and went 0-2 at 182 as a sophomore.

He has committed to Brown University.

"Austin is probably the most competitive kid I've ever coached," Andrews said.

View the entire Super 12 team.

Alyssa Rice

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Rice, a 6-foot-3 senior post player, averaged 17.3 points and 9.0 rebounds and shot 60 percent from the floor this season while leading Reynoldsburg to a 23-5 overall record and a regional runner-up finish in Division I.

The University of Kentucky signee also was named OCC-Ohio Division and district Player of the Year. She finished her career with 1,433 points and 904 rebounds, which are program records, and was selected to play in the McDonald's All-American Game on April 2 in Chicago.

The Raiders went 96-11 over Rice's four seasons and won four consecutive OCC-Ohio championships.

Reynoldsburg lost to Dublin Coffman 39-26 in a regional final March 7 at Otterbein, but Rice helped carry the Raiders a round further in the postseason than a year ago.

She increased her scoring and rebounding each season, having averaged 9.8 points and 6.7 rebounds as a freshman, 12.1 points and 7.4 rebounds as a sophomore and 15.1 points and 8.0 rebounds as a junior.

She was a three-time ThisWeek Super 12 honoree.

"She's a tireless worker and continues to get better," coach Jack Purtell said.

View the entire Super 12 team.

Wayne Russell Jr.

BOYS BOWLING

Unsatisfied with his consistency, the Walnut Ridge senior hit the lanes with a plan last summer.

"Bowling is a mental game and it's about keeping your composure," Russell said. "When I bowled the last few years, I'd have problems keeping my balance. The whole summer I was trying my best to finish and hold my form and finish on the ball better."

His offseason work paid dividends, as he ranked among the top bowlers in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference with a 197.4 game average, placed third in the Division I sectional Feb. 21 at Eastland Lanes with a 606 series and won the district title with a 643 -- finishing 14 pins ahead of the runner-up -- March 1 at Eastland Lanes.

Led by Russell, the Scots won a sectional championship and placed third at district to advance to state for the second time.

Russell, who was an individual state qualifier as a sophomore, tied for 45th (547) at state March 7 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

"I'm grateful for the chance to make it to state again," said Russell, who plans to bowl and play baseball at Capital University.

Paige Sutfin

GIRLS BOWLING

Sutfin never has been afraid to set high goals for herself.

Staying positive usually has helped the Ready senior reach her aspirations, including this season.

"When I set a goal, I can see the outcome," she said. "In my four (prep) years, my biggest goal was to go to state and not only for me but for my team. If I had a bad day, I just tried to stay positive and remember that I'd have more matches and more tournaments."

Sutfin, who helped lead Ready to the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division title each of the last three seasons, was second in the COHSBC this season with a 199.6 game average.

She placed sixth in the Division II sectional Feb. 14 at Eastland Lanes with a 561 series and was district medalist Feb. 22 at HP Lanes with a 693 series -- finishing 72 pins ahead of the runner-up -- while helping Ready advance to state as a team for the first time.

Sutfin, who had fallen one spot shy of advancing to state individually as a sophomore, was the area's top finisher in the Division II state tournament March 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, rolling a 607 to tie for third.

Thomas Trace

BOYS SWIMMING & DIVING

The Upper Arlington senior and Ohio State signee won the state title in the 50-yard freestyle (20.61 seconds) and placed second in the 100 backstroke (49.36) in the Division I meet that concluded Feb. 22.

A four-time state qualifier, Trace was district champion in the 50 free (20.67) and 100 back (meet-record 50.02) this season. As a junior, he placed second in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 back at state and was district champion in the 100 back. He was district runner-up in the 100 back as a freshman.

Trace also competed at state this season as a member of the 200 medley and 200 free relays.

"Thomas has been an integral part of our success," coach Mike de Bear said. "He truly has shown if you buy into what we are trying to do as a program you can achieve your goals, because he as much as anyone I have ever had bought in. His growth into a leader will be missed almost as much as his fast swimming."

Trace also excelled in water polo, scoring 100 goals last fall. In 2012, he was named state Player of the Year and first-team All-American, as UA won its first state title since 2009.

Alex Ward

HOCKEY

The senior goaltender led St. Charles in a season of firsts, as the Cardinals won their first Blue Jackets Cup and district championships.

Ward had a .933 save percentage, stopping 489 of the 524 shots he faced with eight shutouts as the Cardinals went 34-4-2 overall and reached the state tournament for the first time. Ranked sixth in the final state poll, they lost to Sylvania Northview 3-1 in a state semifinal March 7 at Nationwide Arena.

"I think it was Alex's work ethic that made him so good," coach Rob Sangster said. "Without Alex, there is no way we would have had all of the success that we had."

Ward, a Grandview resident, was named first-team all-Capital Hockey Conference as St. Charles went 14-2 (28 points) to win the CHC-White Division, finishing five points ahead of runner-up Upper Arlington (10-3-2-1).

"Alex worked with a lot of good goalie coaches, including former (Columbus Chill) goalie Jeff Salajko," Sangster said. "He also spent hot summer days practicing on synthetic ice in facilities with no temperature control, working to become a better goaltender."

Comments

Request to buy this photo' rel="lightbox" class="hide"> Request to buy this photo' rel="lightbox" class="hide"> Request to buy this photo' rel="lightbox" class="hide">