Sam Silber viewed competing in the Division I state girls track and field meet as an opportunity she wasn't sure she'd get.

The Olentangy Liberty High School senior appeared relaxed June 3 at Ohio State, spending several minutes after she was done competing by thanking and shaking hands with numerous officials, athletes and coaches around the pole vault pit.

Coming off a third-place finish in the regional held May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North when she cleared 12 feet for the first time, Silber duplicated her personal best by again going 12-0 to earn an eighth-place finish.

Silber recorded one point for the Patriots as they tied for 54th behind champion Cincinnati Withrow (58) as 62 teams scored.

"It was awesome just making it to state," Silber said. "Honestly this year I never really expected to qualify. I got here so I figured I might as well have fun with it."

Silber, who will compete for South Carolina, cleared 12-0 on her first attempt at state but was unable to clear 12-4.

Just missing the podium was junior Emma Bower, who was ninth in the 3,200 meters (11 minutes, 2.3 seconds).

Liberty's other state competitor was sophomore Gracie Sprankle, who was 12th in the 1,600 (5:06.45).

In the 3,200, Troy's Morgan Gigandet ran 11:01.4 to edge Bower for the final spot on the podium.

"I tried to run toward the front at the beginning of the race," Bower said. "I just tried to compete and stay up there. I did the best I could."

At regional, Bower was runner-up (10:50.11) while Sprankle was third (4:58.78).

"(Competing at state) was good," Sprankle said. "I was trying to get out fast, but I just couldn't. But it felt good to be here."

Liberty finished third (96) in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet May 11 and 13 behind champion and host Orange (155.66) and Westerville Central (132.33) and ahead of Westerville South (59), Westerville North (40) and Olentangy (40).

The only other senior to compete at regional was Abby Summers. She was ninth in the 200 (25.23) and ran on the 800 relay that was fifth (1:42.47) and the 400 relay that finished seventh (48.87).

Also eligible to return after competing at regional are juniors Sydney Englehart (long jump, 400 relay, 800 relay) and Lauren Walsh (400 relay) and sophomores Lily Biros (3,200 relay), Carrie Lawal (800 relay), Emily Matta (3,200 relay, 3,200), Sienna Sakich (400 relay) and Brea White (800 relay).

Boys lacrosse team
falls in state semi

For the second time in three seasons, the boys lacrosse team's season ended in a Division I state semifinal.

On May 31 at Wooster, the Patriots lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 5-3 to finish 16-6 overall.

Liberty trailed 3-0 when senior midfielder Griffin Hughes scored late in the third quarter, but the Wildcats made it 4-1 on a goal by Ian Flynn with 10:10 remaining.

Junior midfielder Johnny Wiseman scored with 7:09 left and Hughes made it 4-3 with 5:56 to go, but St. Ignatius held on.

The senior class was led by Hughes, who finished with 61 goals and 24 assists and was OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year.

"We had 10 seniors, and they were a good, special group," said Jason Godwin, who was named league Coach of the Year. "They had 65 wins in their four years."

Also receiving first-team all-league honors were Wiseman and seniors J.T. Schoettmer (defender) and Chase Snyder (long-stick midfielder).

Wiseman had 49 goals and 29 assists, and Snyder led in groundballs with 98.

Senior defender Dylan Comella was honorable mention all-league.

Liberty won the league at 7-0, ahead of New Albany (5-2), Olentangy (5-2), Orange (5-2), Central (3-4), North (2-5), Big Walnut (1-6) and South (0-7).

The Patriots were the top seed for the Region 1 tournament and opened with a 17-1 win over 14th-seeded Marysville on May 20. They then beat fifth-seeded Delaware 14-6 on May 24 before defeating second-seeded Olentangy 13-6 on May 27 for the regional title.

In addition to Wiseman, juniors John Paolo (attacker), Gabe Meyer (defender) and Skylar Wahlund (goalkeeper) should be key returnees after making second-team all-league.

Paolo had 31 goals, Meyer had 50 groundballs and Wahlund made 156 saves.

Others eligible to return include juniors Kadin Seimet (midfielder) and Spencer Towne (attacker) and sophomore Andrew Guagenti (long-stick midfielder/defender).

Towne had 23 goals and nine assists.

"We're losing some great players," Godwin said. "We've got to keep getting better and (have) confidence in our younger classes."

Boys track team to
return strong group

Although the boys track team is losing 13 seniors, five athletes who competed in the Division I regional meet are among those eligible to return.

One of those is junior Andrew Bendick, who competed on the 400 relay that was 12th (43.96) and the 800 relay that finished ninth (1:30.4).

"This senior class has set the foundation for commitment and hard work and has left the program better off than when they arrived," coach Nate Cikach said. "This season we competed and did what it took to get better and I'm excited for the future."

Also on the 400 relay at regional were junior Max Partin and seniors Noah Meeker and Cole Richards. Also on the 800 relay were Meeker, Richards and senior Jonathan Mace.

The 3,200 relay was 10th (8:08.84) at regional with junior Logan Boone and sophomores Adam Clark and Joseph Johnson joining senior Ryan Milligan.

Liberty was fourth (69) in the OCC-Buckeye meet behind Orange (187), South (117) and Olentangy (84) and ahead of Central (42) and North (20).

The biggest loss to graduation is Mace, who was 12th in the 300 hurdles (41.97) and 15th in the 110 hurdles (15.7) at regional in addition to competing on the 800 relay.

Others eligible to return include juniors Dmitri Minto (discus, shot put), Chris Osborne (shot put) and Jared Whitfield (high jump) and sophomores Luke Bendick (pole vault) and Mitch Kershner (discus, high jump).

Volleyball team
losing eight seniors

The boys volleyball team is losing eight players to graduation, including outside hitters A.J. Smith (first-team all-OCC-Buckeye) and Blake Knollman (second-team all-league).

Other key seniors included middle hitters Jake Kottenstette and James Loftus and setter Brennan Walentschak. Loftus was honorable mention all-league.

Liberty was seeded fifth for the Division I East Region tournament and lost to seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome 25-14, 21-25, 25-20, 25-18 on May 23 in a semifinal to finish 10-11 overall.

The Patriots, who opened the postseason May 20 with a 25-16, 20-25, 25-19, 25-23 victory over 10th-seeded Westerville North, tied North for third (3-5) in the OCC-Buckeye behind South (8-0) and Olentangy (6-2) and ahead of Central (0-8).

Junior Shiva Dubbaka (libero) and freshmen Nick Irelan (outside hitter), Sean McCabe (outside hitter) and Chase Moran (middle hitter) are among those eligible to return.

Lee retires as
softball coach

Softball coach Bob Lee is retiring after more than 40 years of coaching at the prep level, including the last seven guiding Liberty.

The Patriots, who won Division I district championships in 2014 and 2015 and then were district runners-up in 2016, went 9-11 this spring and lost in the second round of the postseason.

"Basically I want to be able to be with my family more, and I have a grandchild who lives in Wyoming," Lee said. "You have these stages in life, and that's where I am now."

Lee, who served for several years as an assistant boys basketball coach at Worthington, became the first coach in the Worthington Kilbourne softball program's history in 1991.

He served in that role for 15 seasons, winning one district title, before guiding the Patriots to a 135-59 mark and four league titles.

"We'll truly miss having him as part of our coaching staff and greatly appreciate everything that he's done for Liberty," athletics director Darin Meeker said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek