Even having won four state track and field championships, Michael Fenster continues to wow spectators, not to mention his own team.
The New Albany High School senior is the two-time defending champion in the seated 800 meters and also won the 100 and 400 state titles last year, but as he chugged around the track during the Milt Will Invitational on April 27 at Canal Winchester, Fenster's speed and strength sent murmurs through the crowd before they clapped at his time of 1 minute, 4.8 seconds in the 400.
"That's faster than I can run a 400," said one press box worker, herself a former track athlete at Canal Winchester.
Already one of the most decorated athletes in program history, Fenster is hopeful of adding three more championships to his legacy before he heads to the University of Illinois to compete on the school's wheelchair track team and major in sports facility management. He took up racing in the seventh grade and has competed in several regional and national meets the past three years thanks to his high school success.
Fenster finished second in the 800 and third in the 100 and 400 at state his freshman year. He won the 800 and was second in the 100 and 400 as a sophomore before sweeping all three seated events as a junior.
"Once I got second at state as a freshman, I realized I could go somewhere with this. From then on, I just trained," said Fenster, who has sacral agenesis with caudal regression, meaning he does not have a tailbone.
Eagles boys coach Greg Flecher said Fenster has grown as much mentally as physically.
"We used to joke about how if there was a raindrop, he wouldn't be able to practice, and now it's exactly the opposite," Flecher said. "He wants to push through the rain and the snow. He's a completely different kid when it comes to that kind of stuff. He's definitely physically stronger, but he has mental toughness."
Despite his success with various distances, Fenster vastly prefers longer races.
"I'm not very fast, but I do have the ability to hold maximum speed for much longer than some other athletes can," he said. "I've competed against footed athletes several times and I hold my own with them. I really enjoy marathons and long-distance races. I've kept doing the 100 for the sake of the state meet, but I don't know if I'll keep it up after that."
Teammate Kane Breuer, a distance runner, said the team gravitates to Fenster because of his work ethic.
"He's an incredible individual who really embodies the idea of a student-athlete," Breuer said. "He's a top-notch athlete, a super-smart kid, super nice and easy to talk to. He's not shy. Sometimes people might think he's quiet or just wants to do his own thing, but I love how he's into the group, into our entire team. Our whole team rallies around him."
Fenster will compete in the OCC-Capital Division meet Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12, at Olentangy Orange before a three-week break from high school competition leading up to the state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
Seated races are not contested at the district and regional meets, but Fenster will remain busy in the meantime. He will head to Illinois on May 18 to compete in the Fast Cow Invitational.
The boys team was fifth (82 points) in last year's league meet behind Canal Winchester (152), Newark (116) and Big Walnut (96) and ahead of Groveport (47) and Franklin Heights (30). The girls were fifth (54) behind Big Walnut (158), Canal Winchester (117), Groveport (94) and Newark (59) and ahead of Franklin Heights (41).
Immediately after the league meet, the Eagles will turn their attention to the Division I, district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby.
Preliminaries for the running events are Tuesday, May 15, followed by field events May 17 and running finals May 19.
The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North.
Fenster's ultimate athletic goal is to compete in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. Professionally, he would like to run an adaptive sports complex at which all athletes -- seated or not -- could exercise and train.
"Michael has a lot to work through every single day and I think it's pretty remarkable for the other athletes to see that success that has earned him so much," Flecher said. "He keeps pushing forward."
Baseball team falls short of league title
Back-to-back losses on consecutive days at Canal Winchester last week took the baseball team out of first place in the OCC-Capital, and the Eagles ultimately finished second to Big Walnut by one game.
The Eagles fell to 16-8 overall after losing to the Indians 4-2 on May 2 and 4-0 on May 3, and finished league play at 11-4. New Albany, which was not scheduled to play another regular-season game entering the week, was held to one hit in the May 3 loss.
Big Walnut went 12-3 in the OCC-Capital, clinching the championship with a 10-0 win over Groveport on May 4.
Regardless of their league fortunes, the Eagles entered the Division I district tournament with a favorable draw, at least on paper. Seeded sixth of 48 teams, New Albany took a first-round bye before playing host to 22nd-seeded Hamilton Township or 34th-seeded Westerville South in the second round May 9.
"We just have to play our game and get timely hits," coach Dave Starling said. "We can't go out there and play like we did (May 2 and 3). This is when you want to be peaking. I am pretty pleased with (our draw). I didn't get on the exact line I wanted, but it is what it is and we'll make the best possible run we can."
The second-round winner will play 11th-seeded Big Walnut, 38th-seeded Briggs or 39th-seeded Licking Heights in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner will play seventh-seeded Worthington Kilbourne, 10th-seeded Pickerington Central, 15th-seeded Hilliard Bradley, 45th-seeded Westland or 48th-seeded Whitehall in a district final Wednesday, May 16, at a neutral site.
The district champion will advance to a regional semifinal May 24 at Dublin Coffman.
Of those teams, the Eagles defeated Kilbourne 15-0 in five innings March 31.
Tennis team tries to remain unbeaten
The boys tennis team put a 12-0 record on the line and sought to advance in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament when it visited Olentangy Orange for a third-round match May 7.
"We've had a good season and as it's gone on, the guys have gotten even better, which is what you want to see," coach Marc Thomas said. "Our guys have had several matches where they've been in tough situations and pulled out wins. They know how to step up and play at the level (at which) they need to play to win these matches. We have a lot of important matches coming up and we must continue to be focused."
The winner will play Gahanna in a district semifinal on a date to be determined.
In addition to the team tournament, the Eagles will begin the individual postseason Thursday, May 10, with a Division I sectional at Reynoldsburg.
Robert Cash is the top seed in singles. Ryan Mudre is seeded fourth.
Alek Jacoby will be New Albany's other singles player.
The doubles team of Devin Boyer and Nathan Jose is seeded first, and Dev Vasani and Ben Yan are seeded fourth.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles will advance to the district tournament May 17 at Bradley and May 19 at Upper Arlington.
Girls lacrosse team suffers first loss
The girls lacrosse team's hopes for an unbeaten season ended May 2 with a 12-5 loss to top-ranked and three-time defending Division I state champion UA, but the Eagles still stood to earn a favorable seed in the Region 1 tournament.
New Albany was 16-1 overall before ending the regular season May 8 at Coffman, and finished OCC-Buckeye play at 7-0 with a 20-2 rout of Big Walnut on May 1.
Alyssa Kneedler had five goals, Emily Rezabek scored four and Chloe Platte added three against Big Walnut.
The Eagles trailed UA 9-3 at halftime and got one goal each from Liz Beckner, Zoe Kellerman, Kneedler, Platte and Rezabek.
New Albany rebounded from the loss with an 11-7 win over Cincinnati Sycamore on May 5. Rezabek's three goals led the Eagles, and Catherine Ryan made five saves.
The Eagles earned the top seed in the 15-team regional tournament and will play host to Westerville North or Westerville South in a quarterfinal May 18.
Softball team climbs up standings
The softball team reversed its league record from a year ago, finishing 7-3 in the OCC-Capital on the strength of three wins last week.
New Albany wrapped up league play with a 10-2 win over Canal Winchester on April 30 and back-to-back routs of Franklin Heights, 17-1 on May 1 and 18-1 the next day.
The Eagles were 9-10 overall entering the Division I district tournament, coming off a 14-2, five-inning loss at Lakewood on May 5.
Seeded 28th of 46 teams, New Albany played host to 30th-seeded Logan in a first-round game May 7.
The winner visited 10th-seeded Teays Valley for a second-round game May 9. That winner will play ninth-seeded Grove City or 42nd-seeded Walnut Ridge in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined, and the semifinal winner will advance to a district final May 18 or 19 at Pickerington Central.
The Eagles have not played the Greyhounds or Scots this season.
Boys lacrosse team preps for Patriots
The boys lacrosse team will try to finish the regular season by securing second place in the OCC-Buckeye on Friday, May 11, when it visits Olentangy Liberty.
New Albany is 5-1 in the league after a 17-1 rout of Big Walnut on May 1 and was 11-5 overall before playing DeSales on May 8. The Eagles also defeated Granville 6-5 on May 2 behind two goals each from Patrick Cooper and Brode White.
Olentangy secured the OCC-Buckeye championship May 1 with a 12-11 win over Liberty. The Braves finished league play at 7-0.
New Albany earned the third seed in the 19-team Division I, Region 3 tournament and will play host to 11th-seeded Pickerington Central or 18th-seeded Westerville South in a second-round game Tuesday, May 15.
Volleyball team winding down season
The boys volleyball team has two matches this week to wrap up its first regular season before heading into the Division I East Region tournament.
New Albany was 1-11 before playing Westerville South on April 8.
The Eagles' win came on April 7 in a quad at Reynoldsburg, 25-16, 25-21 over Whetstone.
New Albany will finish the regular season Thursday, May 10, at home against Westerville North.
The tournament draw is Monday, May 14.