Harvey Culbert left the Division I state boys swimming and diving meet that was held Feb. 23 and 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton looking forward to next season.
In his second consecutive appearance at state, the Reynoldsburg High School junior advanced to the consolation final in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200 individual medley after making it to the second day in only the 100 breast a year ago.
Culbert finished 16th in the 200 IM (1 minute, 55.87 seconds) and 14th in the 100 breast (57.9) as Reynoldsburg tied for 44th (4) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (413) as 51 teams scored.
Last season, Culbert was 10th in the 100 breast and 21st in the 200 IM.
"I feel like (Feb. 24) was a good day for at least the swimming portion," Culbert said. "I swam close to my best times. I showed great improvement in the (200) IM (from) last year so I was really happy with that. I swam 57.59 (during the preliminary of the 100) breaststroke, but I bettered myself in the standings (from the preliminary).
"My legs felt a little bit weaker, but I put everything in it that I had. I'm definitely ready for next year. ... Now I know what to expect and hopefully I'll plan to be faster than I was this year."
Coach Al Crawford also believes Culbert took steps forward during a season that included him finishing third at district in both the 100 breast (57.93) and 200 IM (1:54.72) on Feb. 17 at Ohio University.
On Jan. 27 in the OCC-Ohio Division meet at Thomas Worthington, the boys scored 200.5 points to finish behind Gahanna (297) and Lancaster (238) and ahead of Pickerington North (178), Grove City (172) and Pickerington Central (113.5).
"He's swimming well, and he's one of the easiest kids to root for," Crawford said of Culbert.
Culbert's time in the 200 IM at district was a program record, as was the 200 freestyle relay's time of 1:29.76 that placed Culbert, senior Tanner Wooddell, junior Jared Davis and freshman Nate Gaver 10th at district. Gaver also swam a program-record 22.26 in the 50 free to place 18th.
Davis was a district qualifier in the 100 butterfly, placing 19th (55.59), while Gaver also was 15th in the 100 free (49.29).
Junior Justin Barnhart was another key contributor.
"We were very pleased with Jared Davis and that it was his junior year and he showed a lot of maturity," Crawford said. "The boys in particular had a very strong season. Two of our seniors, TaJah (Reynolds) and Tanner, took up the leadership role."
The girls scored 77 points in the league meet to place behind North (389), Gahanna (249), Lancaster (229), Central (133) and Grove City (116).
The team's only district qualifier, Kasey Lichtner, was a freshman. She was 15th in the 100 breast (1:10.14).
In the league meet, Lichtner was fourth in the 100 breast (1:14.47) and fifth in the 200 IM (2:24.82), and the 200 medley relay of Lichtner, senior Melissa Herrick, junior Anise Hodge and freshman Elli Berdan-Prettyman was fifth (2:37.24).
Sophomore Bella Hutson-Comeaux and freshman Sierra Coey were other contributors.
"Kasey Lichtner had a great freshman year," Crawford said. "She broke the record for the 50 free for the school and almost got the breaststroke record at district. We have another couple freshmen who are new to swimming who really improved."
Girls basketball team makes district semi
After wrapping up a share of the OCC-Ohio championship, the girls basketball team spent the next two-plus weeks preparing for what it hopes is a third consecutive Division I district championship run.
With a 77-13 victory over 49th-seeded Whitehall on Feb. 23 in a second-round home game, the fourth-seeded Raiders improved to 19-5 and advanced to a district semifinal Feb. 28 against 14th-seeded Big Walnut.
If Reynoldsburg won that game, it will play eighth-seeded Hartley or ninth-seeded Gahanna in a district final Saturday, March 3, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion will play Pickerington Central, Eastmoor Academy, Olentangy Liberty or Hilliard Davidson in a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 6, at Otterbein. The regional final is March 9 at Otterbein.
"We've worked hard in practice at getting up and down the court," junior guard Bre Johnson said. "During tournament time, I think we get more focused and more together and play more as a team and work harder. We've started (tournament play) off pretty well."
The Raiders beat Whitehall without senior point guard Mackenzie Davis, who suffered a concussion during a recent practice. Coach Jack Purtell was hopeful she'd return for the district semifinal.
In her place, sophomore Kyria Walker took on more of the ball-handling role as she and junior forward Uju Ezeudu each scored 15 points. Junior forward Destiny Fields added 14 points.
The Raiders could get a rematch against Gahanna with a win over Big Walnut. Reynoldsburg beat the Lions 61-52 on Dec. 8 and 60-57 on Jan. 19 in league play. Gahanna won its next eight after its second loss to the Raiders and was 17-7 heading into its matchup Feb. 28 against Hartley, which was 17-4.
Both teams have a Division I college recruit, with Gahanna being led by senior guard Anisja Harris (Wright State) and Hartley featuring senior guard Kennedy Taylor (Miami University).
"This time of year you hope for health, not having any illness and no injuries," Purtell said. "We handled ourselves with class (against Whitehall)."
Boys basketball team begins tourney play
On Feb. 24, the 10th-seeded boys basketball team opened the Division I district tournament at home by beating 40th-seeded Thomas 55-40 in a first-round game.
The Raiders are 16-7 and play host to 37th-seeded Watkins Memorial on Friday, March 2, with the winner to meet 11th-seeded Westerville Central or 24th-seeded Whitehall in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a site to be announced. The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Tre Williams led the Raiders with 22 points against Thomas.
Wrestlers open postseason action
The wrestling team advanced four competitors to the Division I district tournament while placing seventh (93.5) in a 10-team sectional Feb. 24 at Upper Arlington behind champion Dublin Coffman (212).
The top four finishers in each weight class qualified for district Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby, where the top four in each weight advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Noah Ratliff (152 pounds), Cameron Simpson (160) and Thomas Baire (heavyweight) were runners-up at sectional while Kyle Copas (145) was fourth.
Finishing sixth were Luke Goeschl (120) and Gage Chapman (138).
Boys bowlers move on to district
The boys bowling team is preparing for the Division I district tournament Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state March 9 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
On Feb. 23 in the sectional at HP Lanes, the Raiders finished 12th (3,293) of 38 teams behind champion Westerville Central (3,836) as the top 16 teams advanced.
Logan Gapen tied for 59th (474), followed by Michael Neff-Young (68th, 465), Elijah Ratliff (75th, 458), Michael Brooks (tied for 102nd, 426) and David Robinson (108th, 417).
The girls finished 30th (2,402) in the 37-team sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes behind champion Gahanna (3,642) as the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced.
Halle Pennycuff bowled a 403 to place 78th and missed advancing to district by 12 pins.
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- Third in OCC-Ohio, fourth at sectional, 14th at district, tied for 44th at state; Girls -- Sixth in OCC-Ohio, 15th at sectional, 28th at district
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Alec'zaire Meyers, Ethan Miller, TaJah Reynolds, Shabhir Thompkins and Tanner Wooddell; Girls -- Melissa Herrick
*Key returnees: Boys -- Justin Barnhart, Harvey Culbert, Jared Davis and Nate Gaver; Girls -- Elli Berdan-Prettyman, Sierra Coey, Anise Hodge, Bella Hutson-Comeaux, Kasey Lichtner