Siobhan Szerencsits' path to the girls pole vault championship in the Division I state track and field meet was not quite as smooth as her walk through the regional.
Whereas the Olentangy High School senior cleared each height on the first attempt May 25 at Pickerington North and set a regional record of 13 feet, 5 inches, making her the favorite at state, Szerencsits needed each of her three attempts at 13-0 and 13-3 to achieve those marks June 2 at Ohio State.
The latter height was enough for the Central Michigan recruit to win her first state title in her third state appearance.
"It feels really good. I've wanted this for a long time," Szerencsits said. "I wanted this during the indoor season and unfortunately it didn't go my way, but I was really nervous coming in (June 2). I knew I had it in me, but I just wanted everything to go the way I wanted."
Szerencsits, who finished second (12-3) in the indoor state meet, defeated runner-up Deidra Marrison of Geneva by seven inches and was the only vaulter to clear 13-0. Szerencsits and Marrison were fourth and fifth, respectively, at state last year behind three seniors, and Szerencsits also tied for eighth as a sophomore.
"(Marrison) is a really great competitor," Szerencsits said. "I've been competing with her since freshman year and she's been right up with me the entire time."
With the championship in hand, Szerencsits tried for a state record of 13-6 1/2 but missed three times. Anna Watson, a 2017 Orange graduate who now competes at Indiana, holds the record of 13-6 1/4.
"I (got my personal record at regional) with a 13-5 so that gave me a little more confidence that I could clear that height," Szerencsits said. "I think that just from last week coming into this week, I asked myself, 'can I do it again?' I knew I had it in me but just actually doing it (was different). I think I handled myself really well."
Szerencsits' win accounted for all of Olentangy's 10 points. The Braves tied for 23rd behind champion Gahanna (51) as 64 teams scored.
Teammate Holly Nation, a senior, tied for 13th in the high jump (5-2). The Toledo recruit cleared her second attempt at that height and missed all three of her tries at 5-4.
No Olentangy boys competed at state.
This is the third consecutive year that a vaulter from the Olentangy district has placed in the top two at state. Last year, 2017 Olentangy graduate Kyle Brookshire was second on the boys side, and Watson won state in 2016 before finishing as runner-up last year.
Volleyball team loses in state debut
Boys volleyball coach Karen Kochheiser anticipated a close match with Cincinnati Moeller in a Division I state quarterfinal June 2 at Capital University, and for a while, that was exactly what happened.
In its first state tournament match, Olentangy fell to Moeller 23-25, 31-29, 25-22, 25-21 to finish 23-5.
The Braves rallied from a 23-18 deficit in the second game to take a 24-23 lead, but couldn't get the winning point. They then staved off three game points by Moeller and took a 28-27 lead, but again couldn't get the winning point and went on to lose the game.
The third game was tied 17 times before the Crusaders scored the final three points. Olentangy trailed 20-13 in the fourth and rallied to within 22-20 but got no closer.
"We deviated from the game plan a bit. We wanted to use our middles more, but with our serve receive off, we couldn't go to our middles because our passes weren't there," Kochheiser said. "We had some trouble running our offense through the middle because our serve receive wasn't as crisp as usual. We also struggled to communicate as well as normal because of the noise. Still, I couldn't be happier for our seniors, although we all wanted to play (further) for sure."
Moeller went on to win the championship, defeating Hilliard Darby 25-22, 25-22, 25-18 in the final June 3.
Kurt Freeman led the Braves with 14 kills and five blocks, and Aaric Gossett had 13 kills. Jack Spohn had eight kills and four blocks, and Jamir Benton had six kills and four blocks.
"We did everything we could and maybe we got a little fatigued in the fourth game because (the second and third) games really took it out of us," Kochheiser said. "I didn't sub as much, either. We have a lot of seniors and played them because we've relied on them so much."
Softball team relished historic run
Softball coach Alan Tharp said there was no magical reason why his team won its first district championship since 1999 and came within one win of reaching its first state tournament.
"We haven't changed anything. We always do our team bonding stuff, and the girls just get along well," Tharp said. "The secret sauce is friendship. If you don't have friendship and the kids around you supporting you, it just tears you apart. It's hard to have 21 girls on the bench if they don't get along well. They support each other. Sometimes, we get 14 or 15 players in a game."
Olentangy went 19-12 overall and 8-2 in the OCC-Buckeye, losing to Teays Valley 9-5 in a Division I regional final May 26 at Ohio State.
Sophomore first baseman Payton Cox, a Boston College commit, led the Braves in batting average (.476), hits (49), home runs (7) and RBI (47) and was named first-team all-league and all-district. Her sister, senior second baseman Morgan Cox, batted .429 with 49 hits, four homers and 27 RBI and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district along with senior pitcher Sophie Low (18-10, 2.75 ERA, 64 walks, 165 strikeouts, 188 1/3 innings).
Morgan Cox will play at Hillsdale College.
Junior utility player Emily Bullock (.297, 30 hits, 2 home runs, 27 RBI) was second-team all-league and all-district. Sophomore utility player Kirsten Kracht (.323, 32 hits, 2 home runs, 14 RBI) was special mention all-league, and freshman shortstop Olivia Davidson (.299, 32 hits) was honorable mention all-league.
The Braves won the OCC-Buckeye ahead of Westerville Central (7-3), Liberty (6-4) and Orange, Westerville North and Westerville South (all 3-7).
Seeded 13th in the 46-team district tournament, Olentangy edged 21st-seeded Upper Arlington 8-7 in a second-round game May 9 and seventh-seeded Hilliard Bradley 3-2 in a semifinal May 14 before beating 18th-seeded Reynoldsburg 3-0 in a district final May 18 at Pickerington Central.
Junior third baseman Brooke Wells' game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh inning led the Braves past Gahanna 5-4 in a regional semifinal May 23 at Ohio State.
"It's obviously on our mind that no one in the Braves softball history has ever come this far," Wells said.