From staff reports

From staff reports

From astounding highs to crushing lows, there was no shortage of action in 2008.

As we head into 2009, now is the time to look back at some of last year's top stories involving central Ohio high school teams and athletes, including some who have moved on to join the college or professional ranks.

The Newark High School boys basketball team completed an improbable run through the Division I postseason, culminating in the Wildcats pulling off an impressive two-game performance in the state tournament to win the championship.

The Eastmoor football team nearly matched that accomplishment as it made it to the Division III state final before losing. But remarkably, the Warriors were central Ohio's only title-game participants. Pickerington Central in Division I and DeSales in Division II were undefeated in the regular season, but both saw their seasons end in state semifinals.

Staying in football, one of the area's proven top coaches, Scott Wetzel, stepped down at Big Walnut. The Golden Eagles won the Division III state championship in 2007 and were state semifinalists in 2008.

The Upper Arlington girls swimming and diving team again won the Division I state championship, its fourth in a row and fifth in six seasons. St. Charles earned the boys state title, ending Cincinnati St. Xavier's nine-year run.

Kate Turvy, the two-time defending Division I state champion in singles in girls tennis, didn't play her senior year, instead choosing to concentrate on the recruiting process.

Away from the arena of competition, former coach Kevin Chapman was arrested three days after his UA boys swimming and diving team took fourth in the state meet, charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl on school property 12 years ago.

Here is how the year stacked up through the eyes of the sports staff at ThisWeek:

1 WILDCAT WONDERS -- Winning a state title is one thing, dominating a state tournament is quite another.

But on March 14-15 at Ohio State, the Newark boys basketball team did just that with an impressive two-game performance and a run to the Division I state championship. The Wildcats defeated Lakewood St. Edward 65-52 in the final.

Seeded sixth for the district tournament, the Wildcats didn't even win the OCC-Ohio Division. They were runner-up to Hilliard Darby, which settled the issue with a 54-49 victory in the second round of league play Jan. 18.

Undaunted, Newark never lost again to finish with 14 consecutive victories and a 24-4 overall record, capturing a fourth state title but its first since 1943.

"Once we won the district we knew we had a shot to win state," said graduate Greg Avery, who now plays for Western Carolina.  

The Wildcats rallied past Zanesville 53-48 in the district final and used a 20-2 run in the second half helped eliminate Trotwood Madison 70-64 in a regional semifinal. A 62-57 come-from-behind win over Westerville South in the final then sent Newark to the state tournament for the first time since 1981.

There, the Wildcats raced past Toledo Whitmer 63-44 in a semifinal to advance to the title game for the first time since 1953. Newark won eight postseason games by an average of 18.5 points, pushing its all-time victory total to 1,418, which at the end of last season ranked third behind Canton McKinley (1,732) and Archbold (1,456).

2 WHERE'D THEY COME FROM? -- Eastmoor became only the second City League football team to advance to a state final, joining Brookhaven, which won the Division II championship in 2004.

The Warriors seemingly came from nowhere. Seeded fourth in its region, Eastmoor stormed through the first three rounds, taking out Germantown Valley View 48-19, Thornville Sheridan 28-6 and Logan Elm 23-0. It then eked past Storm Klein and Licking Valley -- last year's state runner-up -- 14-10 in a state semifinal before the run ended with a 21-10 loss to Aurora in the final.

The Warriors finished 13-2.

Eastmoor was the only area team to reach a state final. Four other area teams advanced to a state semifinal: Licking Valley, Big Walnut (Division III), DeSales (Division II) and Pickerington Central (Division I).

3 BIG LOSS -- The Northland boys basketball team went undefeated in the regular season for the second consecutive season and looked on its way to a possible state bid when its top player, 6-foot-9 Jared Sullinger -- coach Satch Sullinger's son -- was suspended for one game for disciplinary reasons.

The top-seeded Vikings then lost to Westerville South in a district semifinal 67-59 to finish 21-1.

"The bottom line is it's about family, books and then basketball," coach Sullinger said. "It's my job to make sure this program stands for something. If we're going to hang a banner this year, it was going to be a banner that stands for something."

4 LONGTIME COACH CONVICTED -- Three days after the Upper Arlington boys swimming and diving team capped its season with a fourth-place finish in the state meet, longtime coach Kevin Chapman was arrested.

Chapman, who coached the Golden Bears for 18 seasons, pleaded guilty to one count each of sexual battery and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. According to police, he admitted having sex with the student at least three times in one year in classrooms at the school.

Chapman, 51, was sentenced last July to five years in prison for sexual battery and 18 months for sexual contact with a minor.

5 REALIGNMENT, AGAIN -- The OCC realigned for the 2008-09 school year, going from five six-team divisions to four eight-team divisions (the OCC-Capital actually has seven teams this school year but will have eight when Hilliard Bradley opens next year).

The change marks the seventh time since 1995 that the OCC has realigned. The previous realignment occurred before the 2006-07 school year. This time the OCC purposely put schools in similar areas and natural rivals together -- for example, Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne are in the OCC-Central, all three Westerville Schools are in the OCC-Cardinal, both Pickerington schools are in the OCC-Ohio, two of the three Dublin Schools are in the OCC-Cardinal -- after avoiding that in the past.

6 SURPRISING STEP DOWN -- Big Walnut football coach Scott Wetzel announced to the school board at its monthly meeting Dec. 8 that he was stepping down, citing his desire to spend more time with his family as the reason.

Wetzel, 44, compiled a 100-27 record in 11 seasons at Big Walnut, guiding the Golden Eagles to the Division III state championship -- their first -- in 2007. This season, the Golden Eagles finished 11-3, posting three playoff victories before losing to eventual state champion Aurora 20-14 in a state semifinal Nov. 22.

7 THANKS, BUT NO THANKS -- Kate Turvy decided not to play her senior season with the Dublin Coffman girls tennis team despite having won Division I state titles in singles as a junior at Coffman and as a sophomore at Dublin Jerome.

Turvy, who posted a 59-0 record and had won 118 consecutive sets over the course of her sophomore and junior seasons, opted not to play because she was scheduled to take her official visit to Northwestern on Oct. 10, which also was the first day of the district tournament. Not being able to play at district meant that Turvy would not have an opportunity to get back to the state tournament.

She signed a letter of intent with Northwestern on Nov. 13.

8 GOLDEN ONCE MORE -- The Upper Arlington girls swimming and diving team had no trouble capturing its fourth consecutive Division I state championship and its fifth state title in six seasons.

The Golden Bears scored a meet-record 419 points at state to finish well ahead of runner-up Cincinnati Ursuline (222).

In boys swimming and diving, St. Charles captured its first state championship, scoring 266 points at state to edge runner-up Cincinnati St. Xavier (246) and end the Bombers' streak of nine consecutive state titles.

St. Charles became the first boys team from central Ohio to win the state title since UA in 1987. The Cardinals had been the state runners-up the previous two seasons.

Also at state, Whetstone's Jimmy Beres won the boys diving title, scoring 496.7 points to edge the runner-up, UA's Cameron Horner (463.95). Beres became the first City League swimmer or diver to capture a state title since Beechcroft's D.J. Kelley won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1997.

9 FINALLY, IT'S LAKEWOOD -- Perhaps no central Ohio softball team this decade has been as successful as Lakewood, but a state runner-up finish in Division II in 2002 was the most the Lancers had to show for their efforts -- until now.

They exorcised plenty of demons with a 5-3 victory over Wellington in the Division III state final in Firestone Stadium in Akron, finishing 32-2.

A 5-0 victory over Bloomdale Elmwood in a state semifinal was delayed nearly two hours because two earlier games went into extra innings. It was a good thing, too, because the wrong bus showed up to pick up the Lancers and then the right one wouldn't start after a lunch stop in New Philadelphia.

10 ON THE MAT -- Behind strong performances by Jesse Dong and Chris Kline, Westerville North placed third (66) in the Division I state wrestling tournament behind perennial power Lakewood St. Edward (147.5) and Massillon Perry (90).

Dong and Kline were the only area wrestlers in Division I to win state titles. Dong defeated Massillon Perry's Nick Heflin 6-4 in the final at 152 pounds and Kline beat Davidson's J.T. Rice 5-0 in the final at 160.

The only other area wrestler to win a state title was Worthington Christian's Colin Heasley, who defeated Delta's Derrick Yant 3-1 in the final at 160 in Division III.

11 SEEING DOUBLE -- Area girls tennis teams made strong showings at the state tournament, particularly in doubles play.

Columbus Academy's Christiana Raymond and Val Micek won the Division II doubles tournament. In Division I, Upper Arlington's Niki Flower and Stacey Cox placed second. Bexley's Corinne Rauck and Sam Morton placed third in Division II.

In boys tennis, Watterson's Philip Diaz and Chris Diaz won the Division I doubles championship. In finishing 18-0, they became Watterson's first state champions in boys tennis since 1991.

Academy won the OTCA Division II state team titles in boys and girls.

12 CLEAN SWEEP -- Both the Upper Arlington boys and girls lacrosse teams earned Division I state titles last spring.

The boys team defeated Worthington Kilbourne 8-3 in the final to capture its fifth consecutive championship and the girls team beat Cincinnati Sycamore 14-8 in the final to capture its first state title since 2005 but its fourth in six years.

The New Albany girls team won the Division II state championship, beating West Chester Lakota West 21-2 in the final to finish 21-1.

13 RECORD-BREAKING RUN -- Worthington Kilbourne's Claire Durkin captured her second consecutive Division I state track and field title in the 3,200 meters, finishing in a state meet-record 10 minutes, 25.95 seconds. The previous meet record of 10:27.5 was set by Cleveland Heights Beaumont's Katy Radkewich in 1996.

Durkin, who had won the 3,200 last year in 10:33.18, is attending Stanford but is not competing in track or cross country.

14 HAWKS OVERCOME -- The Hartley girls volleyball team advanced to the Division II state tournament for the second year in a row despite losing one of its top players to a season-ending knee injury early in the season.

The Hawks lost to Kettering Alter 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 26-24 in a state semifinal Nov. 6 to finish 22-7. They won a regional championship and reached state despite not having outside-hitter Giana D'Andrea in the lineup. She missed the final 26 matches after tearing the ACL in her left knee in the third match of the season.

Hartley was the state runner-up in 2007.

15 RUNNERS-UP -- The Columbus Academy field hockey team fell short in its quest to add to its collection of state championships, losing to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 3-1 in the state final. With eight state championships, the Vikings, who finished 17-2-2, have more state titles than any other program.

Two City League girls basketball teams fell short in their quests for state championships last March, with Africentric coming closer by losing to Berlin Hiland 44-37 in the Division IV state final. Mifflin lost to eventual state champion Kettering Alter 45-31 in a Division II state semifinal. In five of the last seven seasons, at least one City League girls basketball team has reached a state semifinal or state final.

Worthington Christian fell short in its bids for state championships in boys basketball and boys soccer. The boys basketball team lost to New Knoxville 74-52 in the Division IV state championship game and the boys soccer team lost to Toledo Ottawa Hills 1-0 in the Division III state final.

Canal Winchester was the Division II state runner-up in baseball after losing to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit 6-0. The Indians finished the regular season with 12 losses but caught fire in the postseason to advance to their first state championship game.

16 SOCCER SHUTOUT -- In addition to Worthington Christian's stumble, the Dublin Jerome boys team lost in the Division I state final and the DeSales boys team lost in a Division II state semifinal.

The Upper Arlington girls team lost in a Division I state semifinal.

17 MARK IT DOWN -- The Hilliard Davidson boys cross country team turned in the area's highest finish in the state meet at Scioto Downs, placing second (120 points) in Division I behind Mason (100). It marked the highest finish by an area Division I team since the Wildcats won the state championship in 2002.

18 MAJOR MILESTONE -- The Thomas Worthington boys basketball team defeated Delaware 62-53 on Jan. 22, giving longtime coach Bob Miller his 500th career victory.

According to the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association, Miller is one of 36 coaches who have reached the 500-win plateau. He compiled a 150-54 record in 10 seasons at Groveport before arriving at Thomas for the 1983-84 season. His record with the Cardinals entering this season -- his 26th -- was 356-204.

19 ON TRACK -- The Reynoldsburg girls team (Division I) and the Hartley girls (Division II) earned state runner-up finishes in the state track and field meet.

Individually, Reynoldsburg's Melissa Dodaro won the Division I discus. Hartley's CharAnna Dixon won the 100 and Aisha Cavin won the 200. Both were on the winning 400 relay with Chesna Sykes and Ashlee Hoffman. In Division III, CSG's Alexandra Roberts won the shot put for a second consecutive season.

In boys track, Whetstone's 400 relay of Blake Callahan, Mario Dovell, Jamon Hodges and Marcus Penn won the Division I title. Reynoldsburg's Mark Knisley (800) and Gahanna's Blake Heriot (200) also were Division I champions and Hartley's Rufus Walls (200) won a Division II title.

20 INSTANT SUCCESS -- Several fall athletics teams at Olentangy Orange, which opened this year, were successful in their inaugural seasons.

Kristen Helmsdoerfer of the girls golf team qualified for the Division II state tournament, where she placed 11th with a 17-over-par 157. She had the tournament's only hole-in-one, on the 166-yard, par-3 No. 2 hole.

The boys golf team advanced to the Division II state tournament, where it placed 10th (710) of 12 teams behind champion Hunting Valley University School (627).

The girls soccer team made it to a Division II district final, where it lost to perennial power Bexley 3-0.

21 TOUGH DAY -- Finishing second in the Division I state boys golf tournament was a bittersweet moment for Dublin Jerome senior Aaron Siekmann, who shot a 153 to finish behind West Chester Lakota West's Korey Ward (151).

Siekmann also was second at state each of the previous two years. If he would have been three strokes better, not only would he have won the individual title, but Jerome would have won the team title. The Celtics finished second (655) behind Cincinnati St. Xavier (653).

22 PULLING HIS WEIGHT -- Danny O'Rourke, a 2001 Worthington Kilbourne graduate, helped the Columbus Crew capture its first MLS championship. O'Rourke was a starting defensive midfielder for the Crew, which defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the MLS Cup on Nov. 23 to finish 23-9-7.

23 GYM-DANDY -- DeSales' Morgan Spellacy led the way for central Ohio athletes in the state gymnastics meet.

In the individual portion, Spellacy won the title on beam as she scored a 9.55 to finish ahead of runner-up Kayla Kmiecik (9.5) of Rocky River Magnificat. She also finished sixth in the all-around as she was fifth on floor (9.375), eighth on vault (9.025) and 19th on bars (8.675).

24 SUPER, JUST SUPER -- Whitehall graduate Domenik Hixon and Marysville graduate Chase Blackburn played for the New York Giants, who upset the previously unbeaten New England Patriots 17-14 in the Super Bowl.

25 ON HOLD -- The softball program at Grandview and all spring sports at Northridge found themselves in jeopardy in 2008.

Grandview's softball program was suspended in the offseason, albeit not for long, before being resumed last month, with veteran coach Jim Amato hired to take over.

The spring sports at Northridge still are in limbo. On Nov. 24, the district's board of education unanimously decided to eliminate four positions, spring sports and extracurricular activities in an effort to balance its operating budget.

No. 10: Westerville North's Jesse Dong won the state championship after defeating Massillon Perry's Nick Helfin 6-4 to win the Division I title at 152 pounds March 1 at Ohio State. Dong's teammate, Chris Kline, won the title at 160 to finish 43-0.