Few central Ohio swimming and diving programs possessed a duo as successful this winter as senior Rachel Peroni and sophomore Kate Saczawa of the Olentangy Liberty High School girls team.
On the boys side, Patriots freshman diver Jack Matthews took his sport by storm.
All three reached the awards podium in the Division I state meet Feb. 23 and 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, ending a season in which they "stepped up and battled," coach Peter Krosnosky said.
Peroni, a Duke University recruit who was making her third consecutive state appearance, earned a runner-up finish in the 100-yard butterfly in 54.68 seconds.
She also was fourth in the 100 backstroke (55.62), swam on the seventh-place 200 freestyle relay (1:36.61) with Saczawa, senior Abby Noonan and junior Lila Leary and joined the same group on the 14th-place 400 free relay (3:34.95).
Peroni was fifth in the 200 individual medley and 11th in the 100 fly as a sophomore. She was fourth in the 100 fly and 11th in the 200 IM last season.
"It went really well," she said. "I was happy with it. I dropped a little bit in my 100 back. I tied my best time in the 100 fly, but I was still really happy with it. It was great."
Saczawa finished third in the 100 back (55.6) and 11th in the 50 free (23.88) to help the Patriots place 10th (84 points) behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
"I was really pleased with getting third in the 100 back," said Saczawa, who was sixth in the 100 back and 21st in the 50 free last season. "It's a very hard race. My 50 free was good. It was a lot easier than last year, but I'm going to miss my seniors next year."
Matthews, who was the Patriots' lone boys competitor at state, scored 513.7 points to finish third behind Shaker Heights' Lyle Yost (602.4) and New Albany's Noah Duperre (579.05).
His 16 points tied Liberty for 31st behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (413) as 51 teams scored.
"I had a couple good dives, so I'm happy with those," Matthews said. "I'll try again next year. It's really fun just being with all kids who are the same age doing what you know how to do. You get to do this for three hours, which is pretty fun."
On Jan. 26 and 27 at Thomas Worthington, the boys scored 400.5 points to win the OCC-Buckeye Division meet ahead of Orange (259), Olentangy (210.5), Westerville North (163), Westerville South (142) and Westerville Central (73). The girls scored 279 to edge Olentangy (273.5) for the title while Orange (186), Central (182.5), North (161) and South (145) rounded out the standings.
"For Jack, it's kind of about him getting used to this format because he's a very seasoned diver both nationally and internationally, and he's a freshman," Krosnosky said. "I'm proud of the girls. Rachel Peroni and Abby Noonan are the two seniors (at state), so they've been kind of our backbone. The boys team is extremely young and I don't even have that many junior boys."
Other swimmers eligible to return for the girls include juniors Hannah Beavers, Hailey Blythe, Michaela Neal and Grace Skoog, sophomore Lydia Colvin and freshmen Sarah Beavers and Holly Gabriel.
For the boys, juniors Christopher Tracewell and Alexander Wisley, sophomores John Bently, Andrew Gehring, Eli Grubbs, Isaac Iversen and Nick Sells and sophomore divers Michael Boothman and Cameron Friedauer are others who should return.
Hoogeveen resigns as hockey coach
The hockey team is preparing to play for a district championship without the coach who played an instrumental role in helping it become one of central Ohio's top programs.
Athletics director Darin Meeker confirmed Feb. 27 that Jack Hoogeveen has resigned. He had been the Patriots' head coach since the program's inception in 2007-08.
Kevin Alexander, who began serving as co-coach with the 71-year-old Hoogeveen at the beginning of this season, now is serving as head coach.
At 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3, second-seeded Liberty will face top-seeded Dublin Jerome for the district title at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
"I've had the pleasure and high honor of coaching some of the finest student-athletes in central Ohio, maybe the state, maybe the country," Hooge-veen said in an e-mail. "These kids are still battling for me, but I've had to put the bat down and the umpire has made (the) decision. I will remember the honorable coaches with whom we battled."
Hoogeveen played collegiately at Bowling Green in the early 1970s, spent time as a player and coach in the Mid-American Hockey League and also worked with Ohio State's hockey program for 12 years as a skating development coach.
He then became Gahanna's coach for its first five seasons as a varsity team, from 2002-03 through 2006-07, before taking over at Liberty.
The Patriots made runs to the state tournament in 2011, 2013 and last season.
Hoogeveen led Liberty to a 259-113-21 mark and has 297 career victories.
The Patriots are 28-6-3 this season.
"It's been my honor to coach with him and be his friend," said Alexander, who began serving as head coach for Liberty's 3-1 district quarterfinal victory over 12th-seeded St. Xavier on Feb. 24 at the Ice Haus and then coached in a 5-4 district semifinal win over fourth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller on Feb. 25 at the Ice Haus.
"One of my mantras is 'one shift at a time,' " Hoogeveen said. "The record perhaps speaks for itself, but this would not have been possible without the talent and dedication of the coaches who surrounded me. ... What I will never forget is the outpouring of support I've received since the announcement (of my resignation). Former players, parents and our current group have shown so much love and caring. I'm overwhelmed."
The Patriots rallied to beat Moeller after falling behind 2-0 early in the first period. They beat St. Xavier on a hat trick by Sam Turner.
"Coming out of the first period (against Moeller), we weren't really playing our best so we came out and just started grinding away out there," said sophomore forward Korey Raymond, who scored the winning goal late in the second period. "It feels great. We've got a lot of momentum going into Jerome."
The Celtics, who are 3-1-1 against the Patriots this season, beat fifth-seeded Upper Arlington 8-0 in a semifinal Feb. 25 to improve to 29-4-3-2. Jerome's only previous district title came in 2015.
The Liberty-Jerome winner will face Cleveland St. Ignatius or Lakewood St. Edward in a state semifinal March 9 at Nationwide Arena. Last season, the Patriots beat St. Charles 4-1 for the district title and lost to Toledo St. Francis 8-2 in a state semifinal.
Girls basketball team makes district semi
Although girls basketball coach Sam Krafty believed his team could challenge for a spot in a Division I district final when the postseason began, that objective was made more difficult when senior guard Kennedy Kashmiry suffered a season-ending injury Feb. 20 in the tournament opener.
Despite not having her for the final quarter and a half against 11th-seeded and host Westerville Central, the 23rd-seeded Patriots won 52-44.
Then on Feb. 23 at 15th-seeded New Albany, Emma Humenay made a 3-pointer with 1:25 remaining to give her team a 45-40 lead. She then got a steal five seconds later and was fouled and made both free throws for a seven-point lead.
Liberty outscored the Eagles 20-5 in the final period and won 51-41.
Lauren Spicer scored 14 points, Humenay had 12 and Kelly Levering added 10 for Liberty, which shot 60 percent from the free-throw line during the regular season but went 12-for-14 against New Albany.
The Patriots advanced to a district semifinal Feb. 28 against 10th-seeded Eastmoor Academy at New Albany.
"Why it happens to us is that we can handle it," Krafty said. "Culture is the buzz word that everybody talks about, and I truly genuinely believe that ours is strong. Those kids love each other and they don't worry about their numbers and their stats."
If Liberty beat Eastmoor, it will play third-seeded Pickerington Central or 25th-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a district final at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion plays Reynoldsburg, Gahanna, Hartley or Big Walnut in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at Otterbein. The regional final is March 9 at Otterbein.
Boys basketball team wins tourney opener
With a 64-45 victory over 20th-seeded Davidson on Feb. 24 in the first round of the Division I district tournament, the 14th-seeded boys basketball team snapped a five-game losing streak and advanced to play 23rd-seeded Northland on Friday, March 2, at home.
Liberty is 11-12 and the Vikings are 12-8. The winner plays second-seeded Upper Arlington or 47th-seeded Whetstone in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a site to be announced.
The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Against visiting Davidson, Mitchell Okuley made four 3-pointers and scored 21 points and Nick Nakasian had 15 points. The Patriots outscored the Wildcats 22-11 in the fourth quarter.
Ten wrestlers advance to district tourney
The wrestling team will have 10 representatives in the Division I district tournament Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
On Feb. 24 in a 10-team sectional at Newark, the Patriots finished third (213.5) behind Lancaster (223) and Westerville North (214.5).
Blake Saito (132 pounds), Carson Kharchla (170), Trevor Lawson (182) and Davin Lambert (heavyweight) won titles while Luke Blaine (120), Jordan Rosselli (126) and Jayce Fitzpatrick (145) were runners-up.
Josh Sutton (113) was third, and Hunter Ford (106) and Kaden Tong (220) placed fourth.
Justin Callahan (160) placed fifth and is a district alternate.
Gymnasts finish eighth at district
On Feb. 24 in the district meet at Worthington Kilbourne, the gymnastics team finished eighth (129.7) of 24 teams as Thornville Sheridan won the title (145.425) and Olentangy (139.5) and Hilliard Bradley (135.425) also advanced to state.
Hannah Roy led with a 13th-place finish in the all-around (34.075) as the top eight individuals in each event qualified for state. She was 11th on balance beam (8.925).
Abigail Archer, Emily Beem, Halle Deericks, Laura Edwards, Addie Francis, Maia Kropp, Noelle Meeker, Chelsea Naples and Gracelyn Scheetz also competed.
Valz makes district in boys bowling
Senior Daniel Valz will represent the boys bowling team in the Division I district tournament Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes. The 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, Valz finished 20th (540) to earn one of 16 individual district-qualifying berths.
The boys finished 19th (3,151) of 38 teams as Westerville Central (3,836) won the title.
Also competing were Caden Gallagher (tied for 47th, 488), Evan Pohlman (tied for 54th, 479) and Nick Bateson (tied for 76th, 456).
The girls finished 29th (2,514) of 37 teams behind champion Gahanna (3,642) at sectional Feb. 24 as the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced.
Stephanie Greeno was 73rd with a 408 but missed advancing by seven pins. Also competing in three games were Breanna Withrow (79th, 401) and Lauren Suhodolsky (89th, 385).
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- First in OCC-Buckeye, fourth at sectional, 10th at district, tied for 31st at state; Girls -- First in OCC-Buckeye, second at sectional, fourth at district, tied for 10th at state
*Seniors lost: Boys -- None; Girls -- Libby Boothman, Caroline Cruise, Allison Kenny, Maia Kropp, Lillee LaRosa, Morgan Menninger, Abby Noonan, Mallory Patrick, Rachel Peroni, Avery Venetta and Abigail Weis
*Key returnees: Boys -- John Bently, Michael Boothman, Andrew Gehring, Eli Grubbs, Isaac Iversen, Jack Matthews, Nick Sells, Christopher Tracewell and Alexander Wisler; Girls -- Hannah Beavers, Lydia Colvin, Holly Gabriel, Lila Leary, Michaela Neal, Kate Saczawa and Grace Skoog