Michael Fenster expected to win three state championships June 2.
Even so, the New Albany High School boys track and field team senior surprised himself with how he won them.
Fenster won the seated 800 meters in 2 minutes, 8.84 seconds, the seated 400 in 1:02.68 and the seated 100 in 17.68 to cap a seven-title career. He finished 14.22 seconds ahead of runner-up Gabe Warsing of Andover Pymatuning Valley in the 800, 4.32 seconds in front of Wooster's Evan Heller in the 400 and .57 of a second better than Heller in the 100.
Fenster's 100 and 400 times were personal bests.
"(I am) not really (surprised)," Fenster said. "I definitely knew I had a good shot. I figure going into races that I have a good chance to win them. I try. My times definitely surprised me. I never thought I would hit anywhere near these times. ... I am not super-fast, but I can hold my speed and things balance out. I can pace myself.
"This never gets old. I thought it would, doing the same thing all the time, going in circles, but it doesn't get old. I thought I'd hate track, but I love it. I'm glad I did it."
Fenster swept the seated races for the second consecutive year. He also won the 100 as a sophomore.
Seated races do not count toward teams' point totals.
Fenster will attend the University of Illinois and compete in its wheelchair track program.
"This is a great feeling. I am very excited. I am thrilled," Fenster said. "Illinois is a great program with great teammates, but I will miss this here. I wanted to finish strong."
New Albany's other state qualifier, Kenny McDonald, fouled on all three attempts in the Division I long jump. Pickerington Central won its first team championship with 58 points, ahead of runner-up Centerville (36.5) as 69 teams scored.
McDonald was third (21 feet, 6 inches) in the regional meet that concluded May 25 at Pickerington North, leading the Eagles to six points and a tie for 26th place behind champion Central (97) as 41 teams scored.
The girls' season ended at regional when the 1,600 relay finished eighth (4:04.44) with Jalyn Austin, Grace Lowe, Sophie Matt and Alyssa Painter. That earned New Albany one point and a tie for 30th behind champion Gahanna (84) as 32 teams scored.
Also competing but failing to advance was Gabe Glenn in the boys high jump (12th, 5-8).
Seated races are not contested at the district and regional meets.
Championships cap boys tennis season
Although the boys tennis team's season ended with its only loss, coach Marc Thomas hoped that did not overshadow perhaps the best weekend -- if not season -- in program history.
Junior Robert Cash won the Division I singles championship May 26 at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Cincinnati, defeating Mason's Niraj Komatineni 6-3, 6-1 to complete a 4-0 run through the tournament and a 21-2 season. Shortly thereafter, junior Nathan Jose and freshman Devin Boyer edged St. Charles' Jack Dabek and Reese Yakubov 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the doubles final.
The next day in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state tournament at Reynoldsburg, New Albany defeated Canfield 3-0 in a semifinal but lost to Mason 3-0 in the final to finish 16-1 and as state runner-up for the second consecutive year.
"Winning the singles championship and then following that up with a great doubles win was something this school has never done and it doesn't happen a whole lot at all," Thomas said. "(The loss to Mason) does not change the fact that this is a great team that is going to be back next year and hopefully will be really good. We have to use this as motivation and learn from it. We have champions on this team. I am definitely proud."
Cash's only two losses were defaults because of illness in the semifinal and third-place match of a sectional tournament that concluded May 12 at Reynoldsburg.
"It's definitely a great feeling to finally bring home a state title," Cash said. "It's awesome to finally stay healthy. I was just staying smart throughout every single point, just focusing on one point at a time and trying to get three points in a row to keep the momentum at all times."
Freshman Ryan Mudre went 0-1 at state, losing to Brecks-ville-Broadview Heights' Aaron Yeh 6-4, 7-6 in the first round.
New Albany went 5-0 in the OCC-Capital Division to win its 13th consecutive league championship, ahead of Big Walnut (4-1), Newark (3-2), Canal Winchester (2-3), Groveport (1-4) and Franklin Heights (0-5).
Boyer and Jose won the doubles title at sectional. Mudre was second in singles and Cash was fourth.
In the district tournament, which concluded May 19 at Olympic Indoor Tennis Club, Cash won the singles title, Mudre was fourth and Boyer and Jose were second in doubles.
Other players eligible to return include juniors Dev Vasani and Ben Yan, who were sectional runners-up in doubles, and sophomore Alek Jacoby.
Baseball team falls in regional final
The baseball team advanced to its first Division I regional final, losing 8-1 to Olentangy Liberty on May 25 at Dublin Coffman, and coach Dave Starling hopes the Eagles have the talent to return sooner than later.
Sophomore pitcher Jack Sokol set a program record for wins, going 9-0 with a 1.05 ERA, 29 walks and 53 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings. Junior Parker Thompson (3B) led the Eagles in batting average (.400) and RBI (25) and had 32 hits as well as one of the team's home runs.
Sophomore Jimmy Stevens (2B) batted .381 with 37 hits and 20 RBI.
Liberty blew open what had been a scoreless game through four innings with three runs in the fifth and four in the sixth. Both teams committed four errors.
"There was nothing for them to hang their heads about. We had a tremendous run. You hate to get to this game and make the mistakes we made. You'd rather be crisp and play a better ball game, but we had a great run," said Starling, whose team finished 20-9 overall. "As young as we are, we went well beyond what I thought we would do this year with our youth. The guys stepped up and I think that's a good indication of some of the good things that will happen in 2019."
Junior Ethan Swincicki (C) batted .380 with 30 hits, including the team's other homer, and 21 RBI. He was named first-team all-league and all-district.
Senior Alex Arenschield went 2-5 with a 3.03 ERA, 16 walks and 17 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings, but earned a complete-game victory in a 2-1 win over Pickerington Central in a district final May 16 at Gahanna. He also batted .352 with 37 hits and 20 RBI and was named second-team all-league and first-team all-district.
New Albany went 11-4 in the OCC-Capital to finish second behind Big Walnut (12-3) and ahead of Canal Winchester (9-5), Groveport (8-7), Newark (4-10) and Franklin Heights (0-15).
Seeded sixth in the 48-team district tournament, the Eagles defeated visiting and 22nd-seeded Hamilton Township 10-0 in a second-round home game May 9 and edged 11th-seeded Big Walnut 6-5 in a semifinal May 14 at Gahanna before beating the 10th-seeded Tigers for their first district title since 2010.
New Albany came back to beat Olentangy 2-1 in a regional semifinal May 24 at Coffman.
Sokol was first-team all-league. Thompson was second-team all-league and all-district.
Junior Nick Shroyer (SS) was special mention all-league and sophomore Kevin Fee (P/1B) was honorable mention all-district.
Boys volleyball team seeks growth next year
Almost half of the roster is eligible to return from the first-year boys volleyball team, which went 1-16.
The Eagles' win came in their fifth match, 25-16, 25-21 over Whetstone on April 7 in a quad at Reynoldsburg. Seeded 19th in the 20-team Division I East Region tournament, New Albany lost to 16th-seeded Hilliard Bradley 25-8, 25-9, 25-18 in a first-round match May 18 at Olentangy.
"I was very pleased with the improvements the players made over the season," coach Chris Bielby said. "Many of the underclassmen are talking about playing beach volleyball this summer and club volleyball next winter. There is a lot of enthusiasm on the team and the guys are spreading their love for the sport to their friends.
"If I had to sum up the season, I'd say that this season we put our toes in the water to check the temperature. Next year we'll jump in and see if we can tread water and maybe even swim."
Among the players eligible to return are juniors Darrick Gray (middle hitter), Nathan Kebede (middle hitter/outside hitter), Hunter Milroy (setter), Liam Records (outside hitter) and Zack Short (setter), sophomores Paul Polta (opposite hitter) and Max Rathke (defensive specialist/setter) and freshman Hayden Gray (middle hitter).