Wen Holmes had worked her way up to being a Level 8 club gymnast, but it took one question from her mother to realize why she loved the sport in the first place.
"At club, everything was more stressful," said Holmes, an Olentangy High School junior who has been a gymnast since age 9. "My mother asked me: 'Why did you do gymnastics?' It was to have fun. She suggested to me to try high school. Other girls I've known have said it's less stressful, so when I came in I found out that was true. I don't think I've ever had this much fun with gymnastics."
Holmes has played an integral role in keeping the Braves among the best teams in the area as they prepare for the district meet Saturday, Feb. 24, at Worthington Kilbourne.
While Holmes considers uneven bars and vault to be her strongest events, she has displayed enough prowess across all four events to earn a handful of all-around wins this year, including two in a four-day span covering Olentangy's first home meet Jan. 15 and a quad Jan. 18 at Thomas Worthington.
In her first event with the Braves on Dec. 8, Holmes scored 9.15 points to win the vault, and she was OCC-Buckeye Division bars champion (9.175) during the league meet Feb. 10 at Hilliard Davidson. She also finished second (8.95) on vault.
"Wen has definitely been a blessing to this team," senior teammate Claire Harrington said. "She has brought the level of this team up. We are thankful for her. She was a great addition. She can do a lot of things well."
According to assistant coach Ashley Small, Holmes is one of several Level 7 or 8 club gymnasts on the team. Others in that group include Olivia Boone, Mia McCloskey, Ellie McIntyre, Stephanie Miller, Megan Morgan and Madeline Vouis.
"I see (Holmes') level of competitiveness being amazing," Small said. "She bonded so quickly with this team. Her scores have been high and I think she's helped some of the other girls do that, too. Probably half of our team does club gymnastics, and just the level of always wanting to get better from meet to meet has been huge for this team.
"Wen's bars are amazing. They're clean (and) they're tight and that's how she scores so high. The team aspect on bars has been awesome."
Olentangy, which scored a program-record 140.5 points in the league meet and has scored at least 137 points in most of its meets this season, is seeking its third consecutive state meet berth. The Braves were ninth in 2016 and seventh last year.
The top three teams at district advance to the state team meet March 2 at Hilliard Bradley, while the top nine individuals in each event and the all-around advance to the state individual meet March 3 at Bradley.
"I've never been on a team that's been this excited and bonded," said Holmes, who does not plan to compete in college. "(Success) means more because we are so close and cheer for each other. We have very high expectations. We're focusing on ourselves and not what other teams are doing, just trying to be better ourselves every day."
Kuriger, Parker lead swimmers to state
Ben Kuriger of the boys swimming team won the 100-yard butterfly and 200 freestyle in the Division I district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio University, and the Ohio State recruit is seeded second in both events for the state meet this weekend at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Kuriger won the 100 fly in 48.61 seconds and the 200 free in 1:39.12.
Olentangy finished ninth (96 points) behind champion Dublin Jerome (303) as 29 teams scored.
"Winning is great, but going to state is what matters," Kuriger said. "The 100 fly was better (than the 200 free). My strokes were crisp, my underwaters felt nice and I finished the race the way I wanted to. I knew I'd need more of a taper to finish the 200 the way I wanted. I know I have speed left in me."
The top two placers in each event automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded in each event based on district times statewide.
Swimming preliminaries are Friday, Feb. 23, and the finals are the next day.
Bridget Parker of the girls team earned individual berths in the 200 individual medley (2:04.55, third) and 500 free (4:59.16, fourth) and was on the qualifying 200 medley relay (1:47.92, sixth) and 400 free relay (3:36.98, seventh). Grace Butcher qualified in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.64, fifth) and was on the 200 medley relay, as were Olivia Gollmar and Grace Horstman.
Emily Espy, Gollmar and Horstman rounded out the 400 free relay.
The girls tied Thomas Worthington for eighth (111) behind champion Upper Arlington (274) as 30 teams scored.
Parker said a binder containing times dating to when she was 12 helps keep her aware of and focused on continuous improvement.
"It's sectioned for my goal times and cut times and my past times I've gone in high school and (at) club meets. I have everything in there," she said. "I can look back and see what my 200 IM was two weeks ago or two months ago or two years ago."
In the boys district diving meet Feb. 13 at Dublin Community Recreation Center, freshman Graham Reed finished 24th (111.85) as the top five advanced to state.
Spohn's shot gives girls tourney win
Meg Spohn of the girls basketball team picked the perfect time to score her only three points in a Division I district tournament first-round game Feb. 17, draining a half-court shot as time expired to give the 29th-seeded Braves a 49-47 win at 16th-seeded Teays Valley.
Jessica Nation scored 15 points and Courtney Suchan had 12 to lead Olentangy, which is 11-12 and will visit 13th-seeded Watterson for a second-round game Friday, Feb. 23.
The winner will play top-seeded Newark or 50th-seeded Franklin Heights in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 28, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner will advance to a district final March 3 at Ohio Dominican.
Olentangy did not play any of those teams during the regular season.
Wrestlers look for productive sectional
On paper, the wrestling team should fare well in a Division I sectional tournament Saturday, Feb. 24, at Watkins Memorial.
Olentangy is seeded seventh of 43 teams in the district and is the best-seeded team in a sectional that also includes eighth-seeded Hilliard Darby and 13th-seeded Bradley.
The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Darby.
The Braves finished the regular season with a 62-9 win over Orange on Feb. 15 to go 3-2 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Hockey team wins district opener
Alex Vandenbusche's two goals led the hockey team to a 4-1 win over ninth-seeded New Albany in the second round of the district tournament Feb. 18 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Landon Johnson and Gabe Zipser also scored for the sixth-seeded Braves, who improved to 18-10-2-1 and will face fourth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in a quarterfinal Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Ice Haus.
The winner will play second-seeded Liberty or 12th-seeded Cincinnati St. Xavier in a district semifinal Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Ice Haus, and that winner will advance to the district final March 3.
Of those teams, Olentangy lost to Moeller 4-0 on Dec. 3 and defeated the Crusaders 3-2 on Jan. 27, and lost to Liberty 6-1 on Jan. 5.
Boys basketball team preps for Darby
The boys basketball team finds itself in the most evenly matched pod of the Division I district tournament as it prepares for a first-round game Saturday, Feb. 24, at Darby.
Olentangy is seeded 19th of 48 teams, and Darby is 18th. The teams did not play during the regular season.
The winner will visit 17th-seeded Chillicothe for a second-round game March 2.
The Braves were 12-9 overall before their regular-season finale Feb. 20 against Marys-ville, and finished OCC-Buckeye play at 3-7 after a 55-44 win over Liberty on Feb. 16. Jerred Kinnaird had 18 points, Sean Marks scored 14 and Alex Sieve added 13 as the Braves won their fourth consecutive game.
Bowlers prepare for sectional tournaments
The boys and girls bowling teams will participate in Division I sectional tournaments this weekend at HP Lanes.
The boys sectional is Friday, Feb. 23, one day before the girls tournament.
The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams in both sectionals will advance to their respective district tournaments March 3 at HP Lanes.
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
Below are the members of the Olentangy boys and girls swimming & diving teams who competed at district but did not qualify for state:
Boys -- Preston Kuriger: 100 back (54.82, 13th); Ben Paull: 50 free (22.95, 29th); Graham Reed: diving (111.85, 24th); Chris Sabharwal: 100 back (58.57, 28th); 200 free relay (1:28.86, seventh); 200 medley relay (1:44.85, 16th); 400 free relay (3:16.42, sixth)
Girls -- Grace Butcher: 100 fly (58.42, 10th); Lauren Delligatti: 500 free (5:37.8, 24th); Emily Espy: 200 free (2:01,72, 24th); Olivia Gollmar: 50 free (25.34, tied for 24th), 100 free (56.73, 30th); Grace Horstman: 50 free (25.28, 23rd), 100 back (1:00.82, 18th); Meara Marker: 500 free (5:54.32, 30th); Liz Passias: 200 free (2:01.83, 21st); Ciara Szerencsits: diving (335.8, 14th); 200 free relay (1:43.2, 14th)