Ben Kuriger's prep career did not end exactly as he'd hoped, but the Olentangy High School swimmer was not complaining about two third-place finishes in the Division I state meet.
Kuriger finished third in both the 100-yard butterfly (47.93 seconds) and 200 freestyle (1:37.9) on Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. The top three placers in the 100 fly were within .45 of a second of each other, and in the 200 free, Cincinnati Sycamore's Carson Foster set a state record of 1:34.19.
"In a high-pressure situation, I am used to taking it out and being first at the 40 (-yard mark). That wasn't the case here, but I am taking away the positives," Kuriger said. "Those races were extremely fast. I could sense where the guys were in my peripheral vision. We separated ourselves from the pack and I could sense it. That's what pushed me toward the end."
Kuriger, an Ohio State recruit, was a four-time state qualifier. His performances earned Olentangy 32 points and 22nd place behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (413) as 51 teams scored.
"I'm excited about my future," said Kuriger, the boys team's only state qualifier.
Bridget Parker of the girls team placed eighth in both the 200 individual medley (2:05.04) and 500 free (5:02.83). The Braves finished 18th (29) behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
Parker was pleased with her meet despite problems with the facility's air quality and gaining time in both events between preliminaries Feb. 23 and the finals. She gained .64 of a second in the 200 IM and 2.78 seconds in the 500 free.
"(I did) better than I expected, actually," Parker said. "In the middle of the (500 free), I thought I was going to throw up. I kept coughing but sub-5:02 is one of my faster times, plus I get a medal out of it. I can't be mad about that."
Parker earned her first medals last weekend. She was 15th in the 200 free and 16th in the 500 free at state last year.
"The whole experience was pretty cool," she said. "I got to wave to my parents and I saw my coaches and teammates cheering for me. The crowd is so energetic. It's a lot better this year. Last year was my first time swimming individual (races) and I went even better today. I knew what to expect. This was a new experience in that respect."
Grace Butcher finished 10th in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.21).
The 200 medley relay was 20th (1:48.67) with Butcher, Olivia Gollmar, Grace Horstman and Parker, and the 400 free relay of Emily Espy, Gollmar, Horstman and Parker finished 24th (3:37.47).
Gymnasts roar into state meets
The gymnastics team will make its third consecutive appearance in the state team meet Friday, March 2, at Hilliard Bradley, and four Braves will compete in the state individual meet the next day in the same gym.
Olentangy finished second (139.5) in the district meet Feb. 24 at Worthington Kilbourne behind Thornville Sheridan (145.425) as 24 teams scored. The top three teams advanced to the state team meet, while the top eight individuals in each event and the all-around qualified for the state individual meet.
Olivia Boone was fourth on floor exercise (9.2), one spot ahead of teammate Stephanie Miller (9.05). Lexi Jesenovec was fifth on balance beam (9.1) and Megan Morgan was sixth on uneven bars (8.65).
"It's really surreal. I feel like every year we've had to pull together as a team to do this," Jesenovec said. "I really wanted to redeem myself and make it as an individual. That helped me get to where I was."
Wrestlers qualify 13 for district
All 13 members of the wrestling team who competed in a Division I sectional tournament Feb. 24 at Watkins Memorial advanced to district Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Hilliard Darby.
Led by championships from Avery Flanagan (152 pounds), Xander Gore (145), Corey Hill (170), Jacob Sherman (113) and Nick Varanelli (126), Olentangy amassed 259.5 points to win the 10-team sectional ahead of runner-up Bradley (171).
Gore went 4-0 at sectional. Flanagan, Hill, Sherman and Varanelli all were 3-0.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.
Other qualifiers are Brice Kade (160, second, 2-1), Brady Pethtel (132, second, 2-1), Colton Doup (182, second, 1-1), Daniel DelGratta (195, third, 3-1), Ben Hall (120, third, 3-1), Ethan Hand (220, third, 3-1), Jackson Moses (106, third, 3-1) and James White IV (138, third, 3-1).
Hall came in at 6-18 overall and lost his first-round match before winning out.
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Gore is seeking his fourth state tournament berth. Sherman qualified for the first time last year as a sophomore.
Bowlers head to district tourney
The boys and girls bowling teams both will participate in Division I district tournaments Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes.
The girls finished sixth (3,021) in the 37-team sectional Feb. 24 at HP Lanes behind champion Gahanna (3,642). Addison Starr led Olentangy by tying for 24th (484), followed by Erika Brehm (tied for 30th, 476), Abby Chubb (37th, 459) and Anna Reardon (tied for 59th, 419).
The previous day at the same facility, the boys finished seventh (3,414) of 38 teams in their sectional behind champion Westerville Central (3,836). Michael Lamar (fourth, 587), Garret Ross (16th, 547), Tyler McMaster (37th, 514) and Nick Madaris (tied for 78th, 455) led the way.
The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams in both sectionals advanced to district.
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state. The boys tournament is March 9 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, followed the next day by the girls tournament at the same facility.
Boys basketball team holds off 'Hounds
Sean Marks made 13 of 14 free throws, accounting for more than half of his game-high 24 points, as the 19th-seeded boys basketball team held off host and 18th-seeded Darby 58-55 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 24.
Jerred Kinnaird and Alex Sieve each added nine points for the Braves, who are 14-9 and visit 17th-seeded Chillicothe for a second-round game Friday, March 2.
The winner plays third-seeded Bradley or 46th-seeded Westland in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner advances to a district final March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
Olentangy, which finished the regular season with a 76-64 home win over Marysville on Feb. 20, has not played any of those teams this season.
Hockey team falls to Moeller
Layne Comyns and Andrew Rogers scored as the hockey team's season came to an end with a 6-2 loss to fourth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in a district quarterfinal Feb. 24 at Ohio Health IceHaus.
Olentangy, which was seeded sixth, finished 18-11-2-1.
Girls basketball team falls to Eagles
The kind of scoring lull girls basketball coach Mike Daniels feared helped doom Olentangy in a Division I district tournament second-round game Feb. 22 at Watterson.
The 29th-seeded Braves were outscored 14-2 in the second quarter and lost to the 13th-seeded Eagles 52-36. Senior guard Molly Delaney's nine points led Olentangy, which finished 11-13 overall.
"We've had many quarters with single-digit scoring and it's hard to win games like that. That's been our downfall all year," Daniels said. "But (the girls) played their hearts out."
The loss ended a season that featured a balanced offensive output but also saw the Braves play without senior guard Lauren Biehl for the final 10 games because of a broken wrist.
Sophomore forward Jessica Nation averaged a team-high 10.6 points, ahead of 9.7 points each from senior guards Grace Pennington and Molly Delaney. Pennington, an Olivet Nazarene recruit, made a program-record 46 3-pointers this season, breaking the mark of 42 set by Kelly Meade two years ago.
Pennington was named first-team all-league. Delaney was second-team all-league, Nation was special mention all-league and freshman point guard Meg Spohn was honorable mention all-league. Delaney, Nation and Pennington all were named honorable mention all-district.
Olentangy went 5-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, finishing fourth behind Westerville South (10-0), Liberty (6-4) and Westerville Central (6-4) and ahead of Westerville North (3-7) and Orange (0-10).
The Braves began the 50-team district tournament Feb. 17 with a 49-47 win at 16th-seeded Teays Valley on Spohn's half-court shot as time expired.
Other expected returnees include junior guard Lauren Tarpey, sophomore forward Bailey Cummings and freshman guard Courtney Suchan. The Braves will lose Nation to Olentangy Berlin.
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
*Record: 11-13 overall, 5-5 (fourth) in OCC-Buckeye
*Seniors lost: Lauren Biehl, Molly Delaney, Cassie Dulay and Grace Pennington
*Key returnees: Bailey Cummings, Meg Spohn and Courtney Suchan