Jaxon Matan has come into his own the past few months.

The Reynoldsburg High School senior is excited about the progression he's made on a cartoon character he created earlier this month. It eventually could end up on Jaxcraft 28, which is the YouTube.com channel he started a year ago.

Before heading off to the Columbus College of Art and Design, where he plans to study graphic animation, Matan will graduate as "an honor roll student who has perfect attendance," according to his mother, Kay Matan.

He'll also be able to say that he got to compete in an Ohio High School Athletic Association-sanctioned postseason event for the only time in his life, which isn't something that he or those who have helped him grow as a member of the Raiders boys tennis team are taking for granted.

Matan, who has Asperger's, also commonly known as high-functioning autism, will play Olentangy Liberty junior K.J. Lawal in a play-in match of the Division I sectional tournament Thursday, May 11, at Reynoldsburg.

The winner will play Worthington Kilbourne sophomore Gordon Liu in the first round of the tournament, which concludes Saturday, May 13.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 18 at Hilliard Davidson and May 20 at Upper Arlington.

"I've played tennis for four years, and it's pretty fun," Matan said. "I like the hitting when you do rallying back and forth and how you have to swing your arm to hit the ball. One time I was doing a rally and I won a match. I usually like to play singles because when you match up, it's just you playing."

Also playing singles at sectional for the Raiders will be sophomore first-singles player Boban Mihajlov, who will face Thomas Worthington junior JunSung Park or Liberty senior Nick Darragh in a first-round match, and sophomore Preston Harmon, who will open against Chillicothe freshman Michael Herlihy in the first round.

In doubles, seniors Bryce Chambliss and Trevor Templin will make up one team and senior Malcolm Kirksey and sophomore Chase Cotner will comprise the other for the Raiders, who finished the regular season 7-9 overall and 1-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division.

"Everybody's pretty close," Chambliss said. "We're all friends with each other. We're doing all right this year."

Matan has played a few varsity matches during his four years with the program and has even earned some wins at the junior varsity level despite taking up the sport for the first time as a freshman.

His sister, Alexa Matan, is a sophomore who plays for the girls tennis team.

"Coach keeps telling people to work together," Jaxon Matan said. "It's really fun once you get into tennis. You've just got to not get annoyed with things around you."

Matan is part of a group called Teen Aspirations, a program started in 2002 by Ohio State's Department of Neurology and its Nisonger Center. The group meets several times a year to help teens on the autism spectrum improve their social interactions and relationships.

While Matan has built a few friendships through the organization, Kay Matan believes her son being on the tennis team also has helped him from a social perspective.

The family lives in Columbus but open-enrolled Jaxon into Reynoldsburg schools when he was in seventh grade.

"We wanted him to learn how to be a part of a team," his mother said. "Since day one, his coach (Les Somogyi) has worked with him very intently on it. Everything is life-preparing. He has to be there every day, not to mention his tennis skills are getting better, and he's competing in the sectional tournament.

"There have been a lot of ups and downs as he's had to learn the rules, but learning a sport is a great experience in itself. Jaxon has what they call 'high-functioning autism,' and tennis has been a wonderful experience, as has Teen Aspirations."

Somogyi is proud of the work Matan has put in over the years.

"He is a senior and he's a hard worker," Somogyi said. "He's a nice kid and he's stuck it out for four years."

Track teams set
for league meet

The boys and girls track and field teams will compete in the OCC-Ohio meet Thursday, May 11, and Saturday, May 13, at Olentangy Orange.

Both teams then will compete in the Division I, district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby, which features running preliminaries Tuesday, May 16, field events May 18 and running finals May 20. The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North.

On May 5, the boys scored 89 points to win the 13-team Larkin/Crosten Classic at Upper Arlington.

Senior Tyler Britton won the discus (152 feet, 9 inches), senior Travis Marx won the 100 meters (11.3 seconds) and 200 (22.82), senior Warrick Stanford won the 400 (53.08), junior Marion Organ was first in the 300 hurdles (42.57) and the 400 relay of Marx, Organ and seniors Sterling Smith and J.J. Cooper also was first (43.32).

Earning runner-up finishes were Cooper in the 200 (22.85) and the 3,200 relay of Stanford, seniors Brandon Abernathy and Arrington Dulin and freshman Wendesen King (8:24.95).

According to Smith, the Raiders are hoping to "break every record we set last year."

"I believe we have a great shot at being in the top two in the OCC if we execute in every event and don't take it for granted," Smith said. "We're doing great, but we can always do better. There's always room for improvement."

The girls placed third (65) of 12 teams in the Larkin/Crosten Classic behind Pickerington Central (107.5) and Lancaster (67).

Earning runner-up finishes were senior Hannah Gaskins in the high jump (5-2), senior Mika Cox in the 200 (27.44) and the 400 relay of Gaskins, senior Tylar Mixon, junior Dalajah Long and freshman Jessica Ricks (50.27). Sophomore Nia Grant took third in the 400 (1:01.91).

Baseball, softball
teams win openers

Both the baseball and softball teams won their postseason openers May 8.

The baseball team won three of its last four regular-season games, including sweeping a doubleheader from Licking Heights 6-5 in 10 innings and 12-2 on May 6.

Stone Knapp drove in the winning run in the first game with a sacrifice fly that scored Trevor Thomas.

The Raiders were 1-13 in the OCC-Ohio and might not play their third-round league game against Lancaster.

Then as the 34th seed, they upset 21st-seeded Olentangy Liberty 5-2 in the first round of the Division I district tournament to improve to 9-15 overall.

Reynoldsburg played sixth-seeded Pickerington Central on May 10 in a second-round game, with the winner to face 10th-seeded New Albany or 20th-seeded Dublin Coffman in a district semifinal Monday, May 15, at a site to be announced.

The district final is Wednesday, May 17, at a site to be announced, and the district champion will play in a regional semifinal May 25 at Coffman.

The 28th-seeded softball team was 9-15 overall after opening the district tournament May 8 at home by beating 39th-seeded Franklin Heights 15-5. The Raiders played at top-seeded Pickerington Central on May 10 in a second-round game.

The winner of that contest advances to a district semifinal Monday, May 15, against 15th-seeded Dublin Scioto or 16th-seeded Watterson, with the winner moving on to a district final May 19 or 20 at Pickerington Central.

The Raiders finished 1-9 in the OCC-Ohio. They closed the regular season May 3 by losing twice to Lancaster, 15-0 in the completion of a suspended game from April 20 and 10-2.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek