The Columbus School for Girls swimming and diving team had a point to prove in the Division II district meet, and it got that message across loud and clear.
After the Unicorns finished second to Hartley in a sectional Feb. 10 at Columbus Academy, it looked as though their streak of district championships could be coming to an end Feb. 16 at Ohio University.
However, with sophomore Jordan Aurnou-Rhees and freshman Nyah Funderburke leading the way, CSG won its fifth district title in a row, scoring 356 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Hartley (287). Academy was third (267.5) as 32 teams scored.
At sectional, the Unicorns were edged by Hartley 228-225 for the title.
"This was a challenge for our girls because we had lost at sectional, but our girls accepted the challenge," coach Stephanie Donley said. "We got knocked down a notch at the sectional meet, but we were able to rise to the occasion."
Aurnou-Rhees will be making her second appearance in the state meet Thursday, Feb. 22, and Friday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. She won district titles in both the 100-yard butterfly (55.6 seconds) and 200 individual medley (2:03.59) and is seeded third in both events at state.
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
Last season, Aurnou-Rhees placed third at state in the 100 fly (56.71) and fifth in the 200 IM (2:06.78). She also was a member of the state-champion 200 freestyle relay (state, state-meet and program-record 1:34.45) with 2017 graduates Miranda Donley and Maggie Wagenbrenner as well as Alicia Donley, who transferred to Pickerington North for her junior year. The same four girls placed second at state in the 400 free relay (3:28.99).
"It was a bigger jump (in talent at state) last year than I expected," said Aurnou-Rhees, whose team finished second (167) at state last year as Gates Mills Hawken (305) won its 18th consecutive state title. "I wasn't expecting the way it is up there, so I'm going to be a lot more prepared. It's a fast environment, and it will be a lot of fun."
Funderburke won the district title in the 50 free (24.08) and was runner-up in the 100 fly (56.63). She is seeded seventh and sixth, respectively, at state.
Aurnou-Rhees and Funderburke also joined junior Anna Ray Ziegler and freshman Ava Fortney on the winning 200 medley relay (1:48.08) and teamed with seniors Julia Lunt and Madeline Swoboda on the first-place 400 free relay (3:37.04). The 200 medley relay is seeded sixth at state, and the 400 free relay is seeded eighth.
"We know winning individual events is great, but winning a (team) title has to come from depth," Swoboda said. "It's not just getting first places, but also filling in those 13th-, 14th- and 15th-place spots."
Lunt, junior Riley Rogers, sophomore Cosette Persall and junior Emily Dewolf placed third in the 200 free relay (1:41.53) and are seeded 18th at state.
"I think we stepped up really well because losing sectional gave us motivation, so we really wanted it more," Lunt said. "Every single one of us stepped up, and we challenged everyone to finish in the top 16 so we could place and score points. We just to keep our (district title) streak going."
Ziegler won the district title in the 100 backstroke (59.38) and is seeded 15th at state.
"I was incredibly nervous, especially because a lot of the girls I was going up against were club swimmers with me and I knew how good they are," Ziegler said. "It was great for us to come out and be able to win this title. It's the best."
Postseason underway for basketball team
The basketball team is seeded 23rd in the 24-team Division III district tournament and opened Feb. 20 against top-seeded Africentric in a first-round game.
The winner plays host to 24th-seeded Madison Plains in the second round Saturday, Feb. 24, with that winner facing 16th-seeded Mount Gilead, 17th-seeded Johnstown or 18th-seeded Academy in a district semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 27, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is March 2 at Ohio Dominican University.
The Unicorns lost to Academy 40-29 on Feb. 6.
CSG improved to 4-16 by defeating Horizon Science 55-36 in its regular-season finale Feb. 13. Imani Babatunde had 21 points and Eva Nicolosi scored 11.
@ThisWeekHennenAt a glance
Below are the members of the Columbus School for Girls swimming and diving team who competed at district but did not qualify for state:
Emily Dewolf: 100 free (56.58, 12th), 200 free (2:04.18, 13th); Lauren Dittrick: 500 free (5:56.75, 21st); Ava Fortney: 100 breast (1:10.37, seventh), 500 free (5:35.92, 10th); Lauren Gumina: 500 free (6:08.28, 28th); Mary Hernon: 100 fly (1:10.96, 28th); Maria Kaufman: diving (267.15, seventh); Julia Lunt: 100 free (55.68, sixth), 50 free (25.45, seventh); Cosette Persall: 50 free (25.93, 15th), 100 free (56.6, 13th); Aerianna Porter: diving (280.15, fifth); Eleanor Richardson: 200 free (2:05.39, 15th), 500 free (5:47.99, 15th); Margeaux Rocco: diving (402.15, fourth); Riley Rogers: 100 back (1:10.69, 28th), 50 free (25.54, ninth); Madeline Swoboda: 100 free (55.7, seventh), 200 free (2:02.9, 10th); Paige Whitt: diving (367.55, fifth); Anna Ray Ziegler: 100 fly (1:02.21, 15th)