Senior Westin Fishel couldn't think of a much better way for he and classmates Grant Cicci and Elek Kayuha to conclude their careers with the Dublin Jerome High School boys swimming and diving team than what occurred Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Although the 200-yard freestyle relay that was anchored by junior Max Scott was seeded first heading into the final, the Celtics expected Cincinnati St. Xavier to battle for the championship.
As it turns out, the Celtics' relay and the one the Bombers put together did just that, finishing in a tie for the title in 1 minute, 23.36 seconds.
It marks the first state championship by a relay for Jerome, which finished 10th (80 points) behind champion St. Xavier (413) as 51 teams scored.
"Being a senior, this sums up all four years of our hard work, and it's just such a great finale," Fishel said. "It means everything to us. We heard (St. Xavier was) putting Nicholas Perera in (as anchor of the 200 free relay) and it's like, 'OK, it's really time to go.'"
Jerome placed second at state in the 200 free relay last season with senior Graham Carpenter joining Fishel, Kayuha and Scott.
Cicci led off the relay at state this season, followed by Fishel, Kayuha and Scott. The Celtics were slightly trailing St. Xavier when it came time for the anchor leg, and Scott outswam Perera to earn the co-title.
It's something that Scott said he and his teammates have "been thinking about for a whole year" after placing second at state last season.
"It's a great way to end my high school career," Cicci said. "It was just amazing we could match them and match (St. Xavier's) ability."
Also making it to the awards podium for the boys were Scott in the 50 free (seventh, 20.96) and the 400 free relay of Cicci, Fishel, sophomore Ian Smith and Scott (eighth, 3:08.55).
Cicci added an 11th-place finish in the 50 free (21.45) and finished 14th in the 100 free (47.12).
During the preliminaries Feb. 23, Scott was 19th in the 100 free (47.12), sophomore Reno James took 19th in the 200 individual medley (1:55.91) and the 200 medley relay of Kayuha, James, Carpenter and Smith also placed 19th (1:36.56).
"We've never had a relay state champion," coach Patrick Johnston said. "That's a special group of boys. Last year, we employed a different strategy where we were kind of spreading out our strong guys to have a better overall team. This year, we saw there was a chance (to win the 200 free relay title), so we went for it, and I'm glad we took the risk."
The girls team tied for 22nd (21) at state behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
Sophomore Maya Geringer led the Celtics, placing ninth in the 200 free (1:52.38) and 13th in the 500 free (5:06.35).
The 200 medley relay of senior Lauren Cooper (backstroke), junior Brenna Cooper (breaststroke), Geringer (butterfly) and junior Emma Mathews (free) also placed 13th (1:47.42), and Lauren Cooper finished 19th in both the 50 free (24.21) and 100 free (52.91).
"My 200 free was pretty good," Geringer said. "We got a relay here, which is really exciting, and with my 200 free next year, hopefully I can (get on the awards) podium."
The state meet capped a season in which the boys team also won OCC-Cardinal Division, sectional and district titles. The girls team also won the league title.
Other key returnees for the boys should include juniors Reid Newman and Matt Shepard, sophomores Austin Davis and Patrick Wellman and freshman Austin Wyner in swimming and freshmen Ryan Chowdhury and Joey Haas in diving.
Other girls in the program included sophomores Grace Lane, Caity Laycock and Macy Weeks and freshman Claudia Sherrer in swimming and junior Hayley Jacobs and sophomore Alyssa Heinlen in diving.
Hockey team set for district final
The hockey team is one step away from making its second appearance at the state tournament.
The top-seeded Celtics will play second-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the district final at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Jerome is 3-1-1 against the Patriots this season, including beating Liberty 3-1 on Feb. 11 in the championship game of the Blue Jackets Cup.
The Celtics needed four overtimes to defeat seventh-seeded Springboro 4-3 in a district quarterfinal Feb. 24 at the Ice Haus as Carter Patchett scored the game-winning goal off a pass from Ryan Jenkins.
Jerome then scored five second-period goals and beat fifth-seeded Upper Arlington 8-0 in a district semifinal Feb. 25 at the Ice Haus to improve to 29-4-3-2.
Against UA, Trent Belli had his second hat trick this season.
"This is where we want to be," coach Pat Murphy said. "We've been working hard all season. We really played well (against UA) and really dominated the second and third periods, and the score reflects that. We really played pretty good well (against Springboro). We were confident we were going to get the game-winner at some point."
The district champion will play Cleveland St. Ignatius or Lakewood St. Edward in a state semifinal at 12:30 p.m. March 9 at Nationwide Arena.
"We're healthy, we're playing great and we're energized," Murphy said.
Jerome lost to St. Edward 2-0 in a semifinal in 2015 in its only state appearance.
Boys basketball team preps for Coffman
The 25th-seeded boys basketball team will open the Division I district tournament by playing a second-round game Friday, March 2, at sixth-seeded Coffman.
It will represent a rematch of a game the Celtics lost 59-54 in the second round last season.
"They're good and it's going to be a tough game for us, for sure," said coach Richie Beard, whose team is 13-9. "It always depends on matchups. It was definitely not just because it was Coffman. We just liked that spot on the bracket."
The second-round winner plays fifth-seeded Newark or 43rd-seeded Lancaster in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be announced. That winner faces second-seeded Upper Arlington, 14th-seeded Liberty, 23rd-seeded Northland or 47th-seeded Whetstone in a district final March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Coffman is 17-6 after opening the postseason with an 85-47 victory over 33rd-seeded Hamilton Township on Feb. 24.
Most of girls team expected to return
Even though it won the same number of games, the girls basketball team believes it is closer to where it hopes to be than it was at this time a year ago.
After a first-round bye, the 36th-seeded Celtics lost to eighth-seeded Hartley 60-36 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 23 to finish 8-15 overall.
Jerome is losing just two seniors in guards Stephanie Cline and Mitali Singh.
"We're working really well together and getting more chemistry as a team and learning how to work with each other," sophomore guard Jamie Cline said. "(We have a lot of) potential for next year."
Jamie Cline, who had 15 points against Hartley, made second-team all-OCC-Cardinal, while Stephanie Cline was special mention all-league and Singh was honorable mention all-league.
Jerome went 7-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Hilliard Bradley for third, behind co-champions Scioto and Thomas Worthington (both 9-3) and ahead of Hilliard Darby (5-7), Worthington Kilbourne (4-8) and Delaware (1-11).
Juniors Carah Elliott (guard) and Nicole Greiwe (post player) and sophomores Kendall Sestili (post player) and Brittany Sanders (post player) also were key players.
Freshman forward Amaris Lowery also is expected to return.
"That sophomore class, when they were freshmen last year, had a really successful (junior varsity) season," second-year coach Natalie Herring said. "Our sophomore and junior classes are going to get a year older and, with that, our maturity as a team and as a program is only going to get better."
Gymnasts finish seventh at district
The gymnastics team finished seventh (131.85) of 24 teams in the district meet Feb. 24 at Kilbourne.
Thornville Sheridan (145.425), Olentangy (139.5) and Bradley (135.425) advanced to the team state meet Friday, March 2, at Bradley.
Grace Krouse was 14th (33.95) and Parker Sickels (33.8) placed 16th in the all-around, as the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to the individual state meet Saturday, March 3, at Bradley.
Also competing in the all-around were Sydney White and Melissa Radey.
Krouse scored 8.8 on vault to finish ninth.
Other district competitors were Maddy Lucas, Melina Mangini, Rachel Radey and Izzy Willms.
Wrestlers place ninth at sectional
The wrestling team finished ninth (33) of 10 teams in a Division I sectional Feb. 24 at Marysville, behind the champion and host Monarchs (279).
The Celtics did have any competitors advance to the district tournament Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Darby.
Lane Williams (132 pounds) and Ezra Strickland (145) both finished fifth and are district alternates. Jack Viola (106), Austin Wagner (113) and Drew Kavinsky (170) all placed sixth. Nick Henkel (152), Josh Snitkin (160), Joe Huber (182) and John Huber (195) also competed.
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Finishes: 8-15 overall, 7-5 (tied for third) in OCC-Cardinal
*Seniors lost: Stephanie Cline and Mitali Singh
*Key returnees: Demi Brewer, Jamie Cline, Carah Elliott, Alie Intihar, Brittany Sanders and Kendall Sestili
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- First in OCC-Cardinal, first at sectional, first at district, 10th at state; Girls -- First in OCC-Cardinal, fourth at sectional, seventh at district, tied for 22nd at state
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Graham Carpenter, Grant Cicci, Westin Fishel and Elek Kayuha; Girls -- Lauren Cooper
*Key returnees: Boys -- Austin Davis, Joey Haas, Reno James, Reid Newman, Max Scott, Matt Shepard, Ian Smith, Patrick Wellman and Austin Wyner; Girls -- Brenna Cooper, Maya Geringer, Alyssa Heinlen, Grace Lane, Caitlyn Laycock, Emma Mathews, Claudia Sherrer and Macy Weeks