Isaiah Speelman was young, but he still knew something was wrong.
In the summer of 2008, prior to entering third grade, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior forward for the Hilliard Bradley High School boys basketball team had intense pain in his side and could not hold down food. After a few days, he found out that one of his kidneys had almost shut down and underwent surgery.
Speelman wears a reminder of that medical scare whenever he plays: a padded vest under his jersey. The experience made him realize that he needs to live in the moment and make the most of his opportunities.
"It felt like someone was sticking a knife in my stomach," said Speelman, who quit playing contact sports such as football after the surgery as a precaution. "Then my dad noticed that my (urine) was brown and foamy, and we knew something was wrong. It was a really bad color and he knew something was off. One of my kidneys had just pretty much shut down.
"It came out of nowhere. I was perfectly fine and it happened. The doctors said it got infected and almost stopped working. It was just something random and we're not sure how it happened even today. Anything can happen at any time and I'm so thankful for my health."
Speelman has made the most of his opportunities, especially with the Jaguars. He's the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,436 points and has played in 95 career games, tying the program record set by 2016 graduate Brandon Glenn.
"Isaiah has been just an incredibly productive kid for us," coach Brett Norris said. "He has scored, rebounded and he has played so much for us that he has such a wealth of experience. There are not too many kids who play that much in high school and play winning basketball."
Speelman and his classmates on the team are 83-14 in four seasons, including 45-1 the last two seasons. The third-seeded Jaguars are 21-1 after defeating 42nd-seeded Marion Harding 61-27 on Feb. 24 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. They play host to 46th-seeded Westland on Thursday, March 1, in a second-round game.
"My days (as a high school player) are numbered," Speelman said. "It's a really surreal feeling. Coach Norris says all the time, reminding the younger kids that you won't believe how fast it goes."
Speelman picked up his prowess on the court from his father, Doug, who played in high school at Wooster before playing collegiately at Toledo and Mount Vernon Nazarene.
"The doctors all said that (Isaiah) was going to be 6-10 or 6-11, but I wasn't so sure," said Doug Speelman, who is 6-8. "He was 6-2 or 6-3 in the sixth grade and hasn't really grown much since the eighth grade. I knew when he was 6-5 in the eighth grade that he wouldn't get much bigger. I stopped growing early and thought he might as well, so we made sure that he had more skills than being a post player. We wanted to prepare him for when he wasn't the biggest guy out there."
Speelman can play either forward position and can be a back-to-the-basket post player, but he also can play on the perimeter and bring the ball up the court when necessary.
"I was awkward in the fourth grade because I needed to grow into my feet, but I grew into my body by about the sixth grade," Speelman said. "But my ankles, I have sprained them so many times, maybe I have weak ankles. Random times during practice, I'll be jogging and I'll just turn (an ankle). I'll think, 'Really?' It won't affect me the next day, but it will be bad for the rest of the day."
Through 21 games, Speelman led the team in scoring (15.4 points per game), rebounding (5.2) and free-throw percentage (71-for-81, 88.8 percent). He also had made 106 of 228 shots (46.5 percent) from the field and was 40-for-107 on 3-point attempts (37.4 percent).
Speelman, who was named OCC-Cardinal Division Player of the Year, has committed to playing for Cedarville University.
However, before heading to Cedarville, he has some unfinished business with the Jaguars. After winning their second consecutive OCC-Cardinal title, they now are looking for their first district championship.
The Bradley-Westland winner plays 17th-seeded Chillicothe or 19th-seeded Olentangy in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
"We have a saying that goes, 'What are you willing to give up to get something you have never had?'" Speelman said. "I love that saying and especially with the group of seniors that we have and the underclassmen that we have, we have to be willing to give everything we have to get that something that we have never had."
Gymnastics team earns first state berth
After finishing fourth in the district meet each of the past three seasons, the gymnastics team finally broke through.
The Jaguars finished third (135.425) at district Feb. 24 at Worthington Kilbourne to earn the third and final qualifying spot for the team state meet Friday, March 2, at Bradley. Thornville Sheridan (145.425) and Olentangy (139.5) also qualified.
"(We have) been knocking on the door for several years and I'm so happy they finally made it in this year," coach Carol Eskay said. "They've worked extremely hard and they found a way to get over the hump now."
Greta Planck advanced to the individual state meet Saturday, March 3, at Bradley in three of the four events and the all-around. The senior was eighth of 186 competitors in the all-around with a 34.975, behind champion Bethany Hurt (37.0) of Dublin Coffman.
At district, the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around qualified for state.
Planck also qualified on uneven bars (8.725, fifth), balance beam (9.05, seventh) and floor exercise (9.025, sixth), but missed on vault (8.175, tied for 31st).
"I'm so excited to finally get to state," Planck said. "I'm ecstatic because I was an alternate in floor for the past two years and I finally made it through. It's even better because we finally made it as a team, too."
Lexi Patterson was next for the Jaguars in the all-around, finishing 17th (33.575). She was 16th on beam (8.725), tied for 24th on bars (8.2), tied for 33rd on vault (8.15) and tied for 35th on floor (8.5).
Elisa Reed was 25th in the all-round (33.05) and tied for 11th on floor (8.875). Makayla Cornell was 27th in the all-round (32.775) and tied for 28th on vault (8.2), and Gabi Graff was 29th in the all-round (32.65) and placed 23rd on vault (8.325).
Williams competes at state swim meet
Macy Williams of the girls swimming and diving team enjoyed her experience, even though she did not reach the finals of the Division I state meet that concluded Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The senior finished 21st in the 100-yard freestyle in 53 seconds Feb. 23. She entered the meet seeded 15th after logging a program-record 52.39 in the district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio University.
Williams was the second member of the girls team to compete at state and the third for the program. Kaitlyn Goldsmith qualified for state in the 50 free in 2010 and '11. The last swimmer to reach state for the Jaguars was Jon Satre in the 200 free in 2014.
"I'm proud of what I accomplished this season," Williams said. "I was tapered for district, so not a lot popped (at state). I only added about a half second (from district), so I'm happy with that."
The boys team did not have any state or district qualifiers.
Freshmen Maddy Taylor and Madison Wester both have district experience to lead the expected returnees for the girls. Sophomore Ben Wirantana is among those expected to return for the boys team.
Girls bowling team advances to district
The girls bowling team advanced to the Division I district tournament Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes, and Dalton Barclay will represent the boys team.
The girls placed 15th (2,899) 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 a qualifying team advanced to district.
Ava Miller led the Jaguars with a 486 three-game series (23rd overall), while Christy Hribar (468, 35th), Callie Hribar (447, tied for 40th) and Claire Waggener (360, tied for 107th) also rolled three games.
Barclay rolled 497 to finish 44th overall and earn the 15th qualifying spot, as the boys finished 26th (3,033) in the 38-team sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes behind champion Westerville Central (3,836).
Dylan Hall (477, 57th), and Nolan Croce (440, tied for 93rd) also rolled three games.
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to state March 9 (boys) and March 10 (girls) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Seven wrestlers advance to district
Seven members of the wrestling team will compete in the Division I district tournament Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Darby.
Junior Zander Elliison (138 pounds, 34-8 on the season) and freshman Deacon Sawchuk (106, 34-4) both won championships in a 10-team sectional Feb. 24 at Watkins Memorial.
Seniors J.T. Lemmermen (152, 26-14) and Issa Khalil (220, 25-11) placed second, senior Kellan Grainger (160, 24-15) and freshman Max Cooper (126, 14-18) placed third and sophomore Kyle DeMoss (182, 7-9) finished fourth.
Senior Kade Wareham (145, 23-14), junior Dylan Ball (170, 18-20) and freshman Sam Pennington (113, 11-13) all placed fifth and are district alternates.
Bradley scored 171 points at sectional to finish second behind Olentangy (259.5).
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
Season ends for girls basketball team
The girls basketball team lost at 14th-seeded Big Walnut 57-37 on Feb. 23 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Abbey White had 15 points to lead the 24th-seeded Jaguars, who finished 11-13.
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- Seventh in OCC-Cardinal, 11th at sectional; Girls -- Seventh in OCC-Cardinal, 10th at sectional, 22nd at district, did not score at state
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Alec Razor and Alex Ward; Girls -- Nebraska White and Macy Williams
*Key returnees: Boys -- Ben Wirantana; Girls -- Maddy Taylor and Madison Wester