When Kayla Davis gets focused, there are few girls golfers in central Ohio who are better.
The Gahanna Lincoln High School junior shot a 71 during the Division I district tournament Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek to earn co-medalist honors with Olentangy Orange's Ashley Au and advance to the state tournament.
She competes at state Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, on Ohio State's Gray Course.
"She said, 'I need to get my head in the zone,' " coach Patty McQuirt said. "She told me (she hoped) nobody is following (her) so I was hiding behind trees trying to watch her. I got to see her hit a lot of good shots."
Gahanna made its only state team appearance in 2011. Emily Hughes, a 2015 graduate, made it to state as an individual in both 2013 and 2014, tying for ninth as a senior.
Davis competed at district in each of her first two prep seasons.
"As soon as I got out there I calmed down a little bit and felt a little better," Davis said. "I loved hitting my driver and I started making a few putts. As soon as I saw a few go in, that definitely helped. I was confident with parts of my game and felt like I could go under par."
Gahanna was seventh (340) in the nine-team district tournament as Orange (304) and Dublin Jerome (307) advanced to state. Also competing for the Lions were Chelsea Regner (88), Elise Wenz (89), Emma Cepek (92) and Alexis Buck (103).
Football team back on track
With a 49-36 victory over Lancaster on Oct. 13, the football team snapped a two-game losing streak and put itself back on pace to earn a playoff berth in Division I, Region 2.
The Lions were projected to be fourth in the region this week. They play host Friday, Oct. 20, to Grove City, which is 1-7 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
Gahanna is 5-3 overall and 1-2 in the league.
Against Lancaster, Mike Lowery completed 18 of 20 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns, and Justus Harris had 87 yards and four touchdowns rushing, four receptions for 112 yards and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score. Jerome Buckner added six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, linemen Karter Johnson (7 tackles) and Jonathan Harrington (6.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss) and linebacker David Williams (6.5 tackles) led the way.
"We've had two really good games after (losing to Pickerington Central 45-8 on Sept. 29)," said coach Bruce Ward, whose team lost to Reynoldsburg 21-14 on Oct. 6. "As a team, we played hard and were physical. We played well in the Reynoldsburg game, but we had four turnovers. I think we scored on every possession but one against Lancaster."
Girls runners win OCC title
A strong second half of the OCC-Ohio race Oct. 14 at Lancaster helped the girls cross country team earn its sixth league title in seven seasons and second in a row.
Senior Claire Steigerwald ran 18 minutes, 57.34 seconds to win her second consecutive league championship.
"Our girls tend to do better in the last mile of a race," said Steigerwald, whose team finished with 26 points. "We always end up pulling through. We're feeling really confident."
Rounding out the top seven were Natalie Clay (second, 19:52.33), Elise Wunderlin (fourth, 20:02.76), Ari Redmond (ninth, 20:30.67), Maddie Larick (10th, 20:30.89), Tara Shope (12th, 20:37.3) and Riley Dickson (15th, 20:54.58).
The girls compete Saturday, Oct. 21, in the Division I, district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial, where the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to the regional Oct. 28 at Pickerington North.
The boys compete in the district 3 meet. The top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to regional.
In the league meet, the boys were fourth (88) behind champion Pickerington North (36) as Jason Mehalic was 10th (17:10.11), followed by Oliver Cope (15th, 17:20.44), Steffano Molina (21st, 17:45.11), Donovan Hight (22nd, 17:46.37), Tyler Story (26th, 18:05.29), Kyle Mair (28th, 18:09.85) and Richard Duffala (29th, 18:14.99).
"Our goal (for the district meet) is the same as it always is, and that's to advance (to regional)," coach Ryan Beck said. "Hopefully they can win some matchups."
Soccer, volleyball teams open tourneys
The boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams are preparing for their respective Division I district tournaments.
On Saturday, Oct. 21, the 18th-seeded boys soccer team plays at 12th-seeded Hilliard Davidson or plays host to 22nd-seeded Reynoldsburg in the second round. The winner plays fifth-seeded New Albany, 17th-seeded Delaware or 27th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the home of the better seed.
The district final is Oct. 28.
The Lions beat Pickerington Central 2-1 on Oct. 10 in their regular-season finale to improve to 6-8-2 overall and finish 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio.
"We feel we're still an improving team and are starting to play our best soccer of the season right now," coach Matt Kovach said. "We have tremendous respect for both Davidson and Reynoldsburg. No matter who we play, we know (they) will play hard and compete."
The third-seeded girls soccer team opens the tournament Thursday, Oct. 19, at home against 29th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 31st-seeded Marion Harding in the second round. The winner plays 15th-seeded Watterson, 22nd-seeded Westerville South or 37th-seeded Licking Heights in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the better seed.
The district final is Oct. 28.
The Lions are 10-1-4 overall and finished second (3-0-2) in the OCC-Ohio behind Pickerington North (4-0-1).
The seventh-seeded girls volleyball team plays host to 21st-seeded Chillicothe or 44th-seeded Teays Valley at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, in the second round. The winner plays 10th-seeded Watterson, 29th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 31st-seeded Eastmoor Academy in a district semifinal Oct. 26 at Whitehall.
The Lions are 15-6 overall and finished second (8-2) in the OCC-Ohio behind North (9-1). They closed the regular season Oct. 12 by beating Orange 26-28, 25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9.
Boys golfers have banner season
Even with only one senior in its lineup, the boys golf team took a big step forward this fall.
The Lions earned their first league championship, finishing 17-3 in the OCC-Ohio to place ahead of Pickerington North (14-6), Grove City (13-7), Pickerington Central (12-8), Lancaster (4-16) and Reynoldsburg (0-20).
Jake Simone, who was the only senior to compete in league events or the postseason, averaged 78 to make first-team all-league.
Also making the first team was junior Drew Bailey (79.5 average), while junior Michael Hahn (84.0), sophomore Dylan Errington (83.25) and freshman Mitchell Soma (82.5) were honorable mention all-league.
In the 12-team district tournament Oct. 10 at Apple Valley, the Lions placed eighth (329) behind champion Jerome (294). Simone led with an 81, followed by Bailey (82), Errington (82), Hahn (84) and Soma (91).
Gahanna was runner-up (308) in the sectional Oct. 3 at Turnberry.
Also eligible to return are junior Sam Moore and freshman Max Hahn.
"We're proud of them," coach Judy Ratzenberger said. "This is the first time we've been (at district) for a while. They talk about golf all the time, they're committed to getting better and they're very coachable."
Doubles team closes season at district
Seniors Natalie Chen and Reegan Pomponio ended their prep careers by advancing to the Division I district tournament in girls tennis.
On Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley, Chen and Pomponio lost to New Albany's Makena Romagnano and Valentina DiLorenzo 6-0, 6-0 in a first-round doubles match.
They finished fourth in a sectional Oct. 6 and 7 at Pickerington Central.
"I'm tall and can get the high balls, but Natalie is great at ground strokes," Pomponio said.
Chen said advancing to district with Pomponio was "really fun."
Gahanna went 8-11 overall and tied Grove City and Lancaster for third (2-3) in the OCC-Ohio behind Pickerington Central (5-0) and Pickerington North (4-1) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (0-5).
Chen and Pomponio were among a nine-member senior class that also included Jennifer Jackson, who competed in singles at sectional, and Ankita Satish and Sara McCloud, who teamed up to reach a quarterfinal at sectional in doubles.
Junior Rachel Becker and sophomore Maddie Herrmann were the Lions' other representatives in singles at sectional. Junior Hannah Secrest is another who gained experience this fall.
"(Chen and Pomponio) are two very deserving players," coach Chris Schwinnen said. "(Having them advance to district) is a nice way to end the season."