Kelsey Morgan competed in her only Division I state swimming meet last weekend, but everywhere the Pickerington High School North senior looked, she saw friends and teammates -- past, present and future.
Morgan earned a medal by finishing eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 3.86 seconds) on Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. She also finished 16th in the 200 individual medley (2:09.87) and helped the 200 freestyle relay (1:38.8) and 200 medley relay (1:47.64) to 16th-place finishes.
Morgan finished five spots behind former Panthers teammate Janessa Mathews, a sophomore who now swims for Westerville North, in the 100 breast, and also got to socialize with future Ohio University teammates Margaret Berning and Kendra Sheehan, who are from Kettering Fairmont and Upper Arlington, respectively.
"The atmosphere here, I can't compare it to anything with how fast everybody is. I've never had this experience before," Morgan said. "I am thankful to be here and compete with these girls. I felt good. It wasn't my best, but I felt good swimming. I know I could have done better.
"It was fun racing against Janessa. We practice together. She is a great competitor and a really good person to push me at practice. I like to think I can push her to be better, too. I am so happy for how well she placed."
North finished 25th with 20 points behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
Coach Justin Dortch called Morgan's performance in the 100 breast the highlight of the weekend.
"Kelsey had an up-and-down high school career. We had to shut her down twice," Dortch said, referring to various back injuries in previous seasons. "The fact she got to the mountaintop this year ... it might not have been the career I would have chosen for her as an eighth-grader, but it was a successful career."
Freshman Rylee Kreinbrink finished 13th in the 100 butterfly (56.51) and was on both relays with Morgan, junior Grace Cherryhomes and sophomore Lindsey Keaton.
Keaton placed 23rd in the 100 fly (58.52).
"We swam terrific this weekend," Dortch said. "The kids might not have understood when I talked to them at districts and during (last) week about how maintaining what they did at districts would be the key to success. They didn't understand it because they've never seen the intensity here. It was great to continue to see them perform well."
Led by championships from the 200 medley relay, Kreinbrink in the 200 free and Morgan in the 100 breast, the girls team repeated as OCC-Ohio Division champion Jan. 27 at Thomas Worthington, scoring 389 points to finish ahead of Gahanna (249), Lancaster (229), Pickerington Central (133), Grove City (116) and Reynoldsburg (77).
The boys finished fourth (178) in the league meet, behind Gahanna (297), Lancaster (238) and Reynoldsburg (200.5) and ahead of Grove City (172) and Central (113.5).
In a sectional Feb. 10 at Upper Arlington, the girls finished second (206) behind the host and champion Golden Bears (328) as 15 teams scored and the boys placed seventh (90) behind champion UA (327) as 13 teams scored.
At district Feb. 17 at Ohio University, the girls placed sixth (132) behind champion UA (274) as 30 teams scored.
While the boys had no state qualifiers and finished 29th (2) at district behind champion Dublin Jerome (303) as 29 teams scored, they expect to return several key contributors, including juniors Anthony Ojeda-Pesa and Wyatt Ross and sophomores Connor Daniel and Spencer White.
Hrivnak, girls bowlers heading to district
The girls bowling team and William Hrivnak of the boys team will participate in their respective Division I district tournaments Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes.
In the 37-team sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes, Alex Oppenheimer bowled a 466 three-game series to place 36th to lead the girls team to a 16th-place finish (2,875) and the final district-qualifying berth, behind champion Gahanna (3,642).
The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams at sectional advanced to district.
The Panthers finished 69 pins ahead of 17th-place New Albany.
Also scoring for North were Liz Arp (61st, 418), Tooba Salam (77th, 405), Lara Martindale (100th, 366) and Evy Vance (tied for 106th, 360).
In the 38-team boys sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes, Hrivnak tied for 17th (544) to lead the Panthers to a 17th-place finish (3,181) behind champion Westerville Central (3,836). North was 27 pins behind 16th-place Groveport.
Also scoring for the Panthers were Steven Vance (tied for 54th, 479), Kyle Mace (tied for 89th, 442), Mason Gibson (109th, 172), Caden Thieken (tied for 202nd, 101) and Alex Zumoch (208th, 126).
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the state tournament March 9 (boys) and March 10 (girls) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Hrivnak is seeking his third state appearance. The girls team never has advanced to state.
Wrestling brothers advance to district
Elliott Mahaffey and Titus Mahaffey of the wrestling team will compete in the Division I district tournament Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby.
In a 10-team sectional Feb. 24 at Watkins Memorial, the Mahaffey brothers each went 2-2 and finished fourth at 120 and 160 pounds, respectively. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.
Six wrestlers placed for North, which scored 68 points to finish eighth behind champion Olentangy (259.5).
Also competing but failing to advance were David Carte (138, fifth, 3-2), Erik Gomez (106, fifth, 2-2), Baylon Watts (195, fifth, 1-2), Elijah Clarke (145, sixth, 2-3), Rajesh Bomjan (113, 1-2) and Atticus Mahaffey (126, 0-2).
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Boys basketball team cruises past Cards
The boys basketball team will play host to 48th-seeded Columbus West in the second round of the Division I district tournament Friday, March 2.
Top-seeded North rode 14 points from Eli McNamara and 10 from Jerome Hunter to a 59-32 win over visiting and 44th-seeded St. Charles in a first-round game Feb. 24. The Panthers led 10-2 after the first quarter and 23-6 at halftime in improving to 19-4.
The second-round winner plays 16th-seeded Mount Vernon or 27th-seeded Teays Valley in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner will advance to a district final March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Injuries hamper girls basketball team
The girls basketball team finished a tough second half of the season Feb. 17 when it lost to visiting and 24th-seeded Hilliard Bradley 42-33 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
North, which was seeded 22nd, finished 10-13 overall for the second time in three seasons.
The Panthers hit a high-water mark of 7-4 after a 68-19 win at Linden-McKinley on Jan. 3, but lost nine of their final 12 games and three in a row to end the season. They played Bradley without senior forward Kyla Sawyer, who was sidelined with a left meniscus injury.
Sawyer made a program-record 10 3-pointers and scored a career-high 34 points, the team's best offensive performance of the season, in an 86-48 win at Westland on Dec. 19.
Also affected by injuries this season were senior guard Maddie O'Connell, who missed the first 18 games after straining her left MCL and tearing the ligament that holds her left kneecap in place, and sophomore forward Sydney Styles, whose season ended in mid-January because of a right knee injury.
Sophomore forward Saige Glover averaged a team-high 14.9 points and was named second-team all-OCC-Ohio along with Sawyer (12.8 points). Junior guard Mickale Bates averaged 8.7 points and was honorable mention all-league.
North went 3-7 in the league to tie Lancaster for fourth place behind co-champions Central and Reynoldsburg (9-1) and Gahanna (5-5) and ahead of Grove City (1-9).
Other expected returnees include junior guards Avery Hart and Gabby Rullo and freshman guard Mayson Bates.
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
*Record: 10-13 overall, 3-7 (tied for fourth) in OCC-Ohio
*Seniors lost: Katie Bailey, Maddie O'Connell and Kyla Sawyer
*Key returnees: Mayson Bates, Mickale Bates, Saige Glover, Avery Hart and Gabby Rullo
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- Fourth in OCC-Ohio, seventh at sectional, 29th at district; Girls -- First in OCC-Ohio, second at sectional, sixth at district, 25th at state
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Greyson Maddox and Kevin Mason; Girls -- Skylar Briggs, Anna Cherryhomes, Maddy Craig, Maria Irwin, Gracie Kane, Iris Kessler, Kara Lee, Brianna Mast, Kelsey Morgan and Caroline Ramos
*Key returnees: Boys -- Connor Daniel, Anthony Ojeda-Pesa, Wyatt Ross and Spencer White; Girls -- Grace Cherryhomes, Lindsey Keaton, Rylee Kreinbrink and Regan Turnbull