When Jordan Aurnou-Rhees first touched the pool wall to end her championship performance in the 100-yard butterfly, she wasn't sure if it was reality or a dream.
After the sophomore for the Columbus School for Girls swimming and diving team won the 100 fly in a program-record 54.47 seconds in the Division II state meet that concluded Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, it took her a moment to realize what she had accomplished.
"I wasn't sure (if it was real) because I had been dreaming about this moment since the beginning of the season," Aurnou-Rhees said. "I had been thinking about if I could do it and what competition is going to be there. I looked at the scoreboard (after the win) and thought, 'Yeah, it feels right.'
"It was a really good experience, and it's good have done it now and just have that under my belt.
"Standing on top of the podium, there's nothing like it. It was great to have the whole team here to support me."
Aurnou-Rhees also finished third in the 200 individual medley in a program-record 2:02.94, and freshman Nyah Funderburke placed fourth in the 100 fly (56.59) and fifth in the 50 freestyle (23.94).
"It's was great because Nyah is only a freshman, and I was so proud to see her up here racing these people," Aurnou-Rhees said. "It also was so nice to have a teammate push you like that in practice and it was great to see that pay off for her as well."
The two also were on two all-state relays for the Unicorns. They joined senior Julia Lunt and junior Anna Ray Ziegler on the runner-up 200 medley relay (program-record 1:45.2) and teamed with Lunt and senior Madeline Swoboda on the sixth-place 400 free relay (3:36.16).
The Unicorns scored 136 points at state to finish behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (345) as 52 teams scored. Hawken won its 19th consecutive title.
"The 200 medley relay really started things off for us and both Jordan and Nyah had great days," said sixth-year coach Stephanie Donley, whose team was state runner-up last season. "After (the 100 fly), we fell off a little and our times weren't as fast as we thought they would be. The girls gave us all they had. We knew we had a chance for second, third, fourth or fifth, and it just didn't happen (Feb. 23)."
Also at state, Lunt, junior Riley Rogers, junior Emily Dewolf and Swoboda placed 13th in the 200 free relay (1:41.17) and Ziegler was 14th in the 100 backstroke (59.43).
"If you would have asked me in the beginning of the season, we weren't even going to be in the hunt (for the team state title), so give our girls that," Donley said. "We still had the chance to be state runner-up, and that's great for this group.
"Of the nine girls I brought to state, most of them have never been here before. They are going to work hard and come back next year ready."
CSG won its fifth district title in a row, scoring 356 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Hartley (287) on Feb. 16 at Ohio University. Columbus Academy was third (267.5) as 32 teams scored.
The Unicorns were edged by Hartley 228-225 for the sectional title Feb. 10 at Academy, but won their fifth consecutive CCL championship on Jan. 27. They scored 386 points in the league meet to finish ahead of Watterson (325), Hartley (266), DeSales (111) and Ready (30).
Basketball team battled adversity
The basketball team lost to top-seeded Africentric 77-23 in a first-round Division III district tournament game Feb. 20 to finish 4-17 overall.
Senior forward Imani Babatunde had 15 points to lead the 23rd-seeded Unicorns.
CSG went 0-4 in the CCL to place fifth behind Hartley (6-1), Watterson (5-2), DeSales (3-4) and Ready (2-5).
Babatunde led the team rebounding (10.8 per game) and was second in both points (9.0) and steals (2.1) per game. Senior forward Brinley Zieg played only five games before suffering a season-ending right wrist injury in a 67-24 loss to Watterson on Dec. 9. She averaged 11.4 points and 2.2 steals in the five contests.
"Brinley's injury certainly made other girls fill roles that they weren't expecting to have to play," second-year coach Isaac Klopfenstein said. "Brinley did so many things for us both offensively and defensively, and we didn't have one girl who could pick up all that slack."
Freshman point guard Eva Nicolosi averaged 7.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists, sophomore post player Veronica Ross averaged 4.5 points and 4.4 rebounds and sophomore guard Ellen Monahan averaged 3.1 points.
"Our team encountered a lot of adversity and difficult situations throughout the course of the season," said Klopfenstein, whose team averaged 31.8 points. "Throughout it all, I thought the girls played so hard and never gave up. They didn't want to let the other girls down, so giving up was not an option for them."
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
*Record: 4-17 overall, 0-4 (fifth) in CCL
*Seniors lost: Imani Babatunde, Fredaye Wilkes and Brinley Zieg
*Key returnees: Ellen Monahan, Eva Nicolosi and Veronica Ross
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: First in CCL, second at sectional, first at district, fifth at state
*Seniors lost: Lauren Carmon, Maria Kaufman, Julia Lunt, Aerianna Porter, Madeline Swoboda, Katherine Watts and Paige Whitt
*Key returnees: Jordan Aurnou-Rhees, Emily Dewolf, Nyah Funderburke, Riley Rogers and Anna Ray Ziegler