Olentangy High School gymnast Mattee Bonanno cleared her first attempt on vault during the team state meet March 3 at Hilliard Bradley, but tumbled as she tried to stick the landing.
Coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews asked Bonanno if she wanted a second attempt, which all competitors in the vault receive if they so desire.Video •Watch Olentangy gymnast Mattee Bonanno's flor exercise routine at state.
"I might as well," replied Bonanno, a senior. "This is my last event ever."
The second attempt also ended in a fall, but Bonanno didn't care. She wore a wide smile as she was greeted by her teammates, many of whom were crying through smiles because it was the final event of a memorable season.
Making its second consecutive appearance at state, Olentangy scored 135.725 points to finish seventh of 12 teams behind champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights (147.15). Although the Braves scored .25 of a point fewer than they did last year in their first state appearance, they moved up two places.
Strong performances on floor exercise from junior Stephanie Miller (9.1) and freshman Olivia Boone (9.05) led the Braves, who had their best score on floor with a 35.9. Olentangy scored 34.05 on balance beam, 33.25 on vault and 32.25 on uneven bars.
"I did not walk away from one event feeling let down or discouraged by anything or anybody," Lloyd-Matthews said. "They did everything they could."
Miller was doubled over with nerves before her floor routine, but nonetheless went out and flashed a considerable improvement from seven days earlier in the district meet at Thomas Worthington, when she scored a 7.5 to tie for 93rd of 131 competitors.
"I had to make up for that," Miller said. "Last year, we had a lot more nerves and didn't really know what to expect. This year, we came in with expectations knowing what we were up against. We knew where we stood. That helped us a lot. We felt much more comfortable (March 3), but we were still nervous."
Boone spiced up her routine for state, adding a few extra steps and a new leap.
"I took a step on my double salto and I nailed that. That was very exciting for me because that was a new skill in my routine," Boone said. "I have a new switch leap that was tough, and I think I did very well. There's so much more I can take from this and learn going into next year."
In the individual state meet March 4 at Bradley, freshman Lexi Jesenovec's 19th-place finish on balance beam (8.825) led Olentangy. Jesenovec, who was among 36 competitors on beam, was a state alternate.
Boone tied for 21st of 35 girls on vault (9.0) and was 30th of 36 on floor (8.5), and freshman Megan Morgan was 27th of 35 on bars (8.35).
Those performances capped a season in which Olentangy swept through its OCC-Buckeye Division schedule. The Braves went 4-0 in league duals (20 points) to finish ahead of Big Walnut (16, 3-1), Westerville Central (8, 2-2), Orange (8, 1-3) and Liberty (8, 0-4).
Olentangy also won the league meet Feb. 11 at Bradley, scoring 135.2 points to finish ahead of Big Walnut (127.325), Liberty (123.425), Orange (120.8) and Westerville Central (113.85).
At district, the Braves finished second (137.425) behind Thornville Sheridan (138.65) as 23 teams scored. Boone was third on floor (9.1) and ninth on vault (8.9), and Morgan was ninth on bars (8.5) as the top three teams and top nine finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to state.
Jesenovec tied for 10th on beam (8.85).
prepare for state
The wrestling team takes a mixture of old and new to the Division I state tournament Thursday, March 9, to Saturday, March 11, at Ohio State.
Xander Gore is making his third state appearance in as many seasons, and Jacob Sherman will make his debut.
Sherman finished second at 113 pounds in the district tournament that concluded March 4 at Hilliard Darby. He was pinned by Liberty's Brakan Mead in 3 minutes, 35 seconds in the final to conclude a 3-1 tournament.
"I know (Mead) is a tough kid so I wanted to see how I could gauge where I am for (state)," Sherman said. "I am very excited. I have just been listening to coaches, gone on to the mat and stayed calm. I know I can't be overwhelmed at a big arena."
Gore went 3-2 at 145 and finished fourth. He was 1-2 at 132 as a freshman at state and 0-2 at 138 last year, and is the seventh Braves wrestler to make state three times.
"I am a lot more prepared now just because I know how it goes, how it's run, and I can compete with the good kids now," Gore said. "I am looking forward to be able to compete there and hopefully being able to place."
Olentangy qualified wrestlers to state for the 16th consecutive season.
The Braves scored 64 points at district and tied Delaware for seventh behind champion Liberty (236.5) as 42 teams scored.
Also competing but failing to advance were Max Hall (152, sixth, 3-3), Avery Flanagan (138, 0-2), Brady Pethtel (132, 2-2), Brice Kade (160, 1-2), Nick Varanelli (126, 1-2), Colton Doup (195, 0-2) and Nathan Murphy (heavyweight, 0-2).
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state.
Shurman makes history
Stephanie Shurman became the first Olentangy bowler to qualify for the Division I state tournament when she rolled a 606 three-game series and finished fifth in the girls district tournament March 3 at Sawmill Lanes.
Shurman will compete Friday, March 10, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams at district advanced to state.
As a team, Olentangy finished ninth (3,318) of 20 teams behind champion Briggs (3,888).
Erika Brehm was 13th (563), followed by Addison Starr (tied for 37th, 501), Olivia Hupp (92nd, 384), Abby Chubb (282, two games) and Anna Reardon (115, one game).
Boys basketball team
falls to Greyhounds
The boys basketball team's six-game winning streak, its longest of the season, came to an end March 3 in a 78-67 loss at Grove City in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Jason Sieve had 21 points, Sean Marks scored 17 and Will Elmore added 11 for the 26th-seeded Braves, who finished 13-11.
Olentangy fell behind the 17th-seeded Greyhounds 22-19 after the first quarter and did not lead the rest of the way.
Swimmers hope to
build on strong finish
Four of the swimming and diving teams' five Division I state qualifiers are eligible to return, led by junior Ben Kuriger of the boys team.
Kuriger was third in the 100-yard butterfly (school-record 49.41 seconds) Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, and eighth in the 200 freestyle (1:41.6).
Three of the girls team's four state qualifiers are expected back, including sophomore Bridget Parker, who was 15th in the 200 free (1:53.9) and 16th in the 500 free (5:08.17). She also was on the 200 free relay (1:40.08) and 400 free relay (3:39.71), both of which finished 23rd, with senior Kaylyn Cochran, junior Olivia Gollmar and sophomore Grace Horstman.
Girls coach Nick Ljubi credited Olentangy's late-season success to a renewed focus he noticed around the middle of January.
"(Boys) coach (Dan) Harris and I began tracking the number of good practices we had," Ljubi said. "The team really hit their stride during that streak, which ended at the end of the season. Qualifying what we did for state is a major accomplishment."
At state, Kuriger led the boys to 27 points and 27th place behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (434) as 53 teams scored. The girls scored three points to tie for 49th behind champion Upper Arlington (246) as 53 teams scored.
Both teams finished third in the OCC-Buckeye meet Jan. 28 at New Albany. The boys had 227 points, behind Liberty (365) and Orange (279) and ahead of Westerville North (148), Westerville South (107) and Westerville Central (84). The girls scored 219 points, behind Liberty (344) and Central (234) and ahead of Orange (209), South (140) and North (117).
Kuriger won league titles in the 100 backstroke (56.5) and 200 free (1:44.02), and helped the 200 free relay to first place (1:32.56) with senior Alex Garner and freshmen Jack Nebraska and Ben Paull. Parker was league champion in the 200 free (1:57.37).
Kuriger enters his senior season as the school record-holder in the 50 free (21.37), 100 fly and 200 free (1:40.34).
"Our biggest accomplishment this season was a re-establishment of a culture of competitive excellence and teamwork," Harris said. "That always has been a focus for us and will continue to be a work in progress."