With 2019 upon us, it's time to look back at the highlights from 2018 involving central Ohio high school, college and professional athletes.
There were record-breaking individual performances, one school that excelled at the state level in numerous sports and the retirement of one of Ohio's all-time greatest coaches at the top of the list.
When it comes to sports like golf, lacrosse, track and field, field hockey and girls basketball, central Ohio showed that few areas in Ohio could match its quality at the state level in 2018.
Here's how the year stacked up through the eyes of the ThisWeek sports staff:
1. NO ONE WAS FINER THAN STEINER -- The spectacular track career of Dublin Coffman's Abby Steiner ended in fitting fashion in June: In the records tent.
During her final Division I state meet, Steiner ran 11.47 seconds in the 100 meters during the preliminary June 1 to set the state record and then topped that finish the next day by running 11.38 to capture her third consecutive state title.
She also broke the state record in the 200 when she ran 23.17 during the preliminary June 1, only to smash the mark the next day by running 22.73 to win her fourth state title in the event.
"I didn't see this (career) coming," Steiner said. "God has a really good plan for me, and it's been amazing."
Steiner, who closed her prep career with seven indoor and nine outdoor state titles, is competing in track and soccer for the University of Kentucky. In October, she was named to the Southeastern Conference's All-Freshman team in soccer.
2. THE TIGERS WERE GRRREAT! -- With Division I college recruits Madison Greene (Penn State), Maliya Perry (Auburn), Adrian Crockwell (Oakland), Bexley Wallace (Penn State) and Kyla Whitehead (Dayton) leading the way, the Pickerington Central girls basketball team won its first state championship since 1999 and its seventh overall.
Three boys programs for Central were determined not to be overshadowed.
At the state track meet, the boys 1,600 relay of Evan Matthews, Zach Robinson, Crockett Schooler and Terry Simuel finished first as Central scored 58 points to earn its first state title.
In addition, the boys basketball and football teams reached state semifinals.
3. A LEGEND RETIRES -- Continuing with the Pickerington theme, Dave Butcher announced March 19 at the Pickerington North girls basketball banquet that he was retiring from coaching following a tenure that included being Pickerington's coach from 1983-2003 and the Panthers' coach since North opened for the 2003-04 school year.
Butcher finished with a 747-146 career record that included six state championships from 1985-99 and appearances in state semifinals in 2007 and 2011 at North. He is the second-winningest girls basketball coach in state history.
"I didn't want a farewell tour," Butcher said. "I was really emotional (at the banquet). I am not sure if 'bittersweet' is the right word, but it was tough."
4. LINKS DOMINATION -- The New Albany girls golf team had what might have been the greatest season in Division I state tournament history, scoring a state-record 592 on Oct. 19 and 20 that included a state mark of 292 in the final round.
Also in the Division I girls tournament, Olentangy Orange was state runner-up and Olentangy Berlin's Leila Raines finished second while Orange's Ashley Au, New Albany's Madison Spiess and Upper Arlington's Emily Hummer rounded out the top five.
In boys golf, Dublin Jerome and Columbus Academy defended their state championships in Divisions I and II, respectively, and Wellington won the Division III title.
Individually, Jerome's Jackson Chandler earned a share of the state title in Division I, Bexley's Trevor Binau captured the Division II title and Worthington Christian's Tyler Jones was Division III medalist.
5. NUBIANS SHINE AGAIN -- With a 53-47 victory over Versailles in the Division III state championship game March 17, the Africentric girls basketball team became one of three programs to capture six titles overall.
Jordan Horston was named state co-Player of the Year while helping the Nubians finish 27-3. She continued the success by being named MVP of the FIBA World Cup held July 21-29 as a member of the USA Basketball U17 women's team and signed in November to play at Tennessee.
Africentric began this season ranked No. 6 in the nation, according to USA Today, and beat 11th-ranked Detroit Edison 65-60 on Dec. 15.
6. IMPRESSIVE HONORS -- Among the athletes honored at the state level for their accomplishments were Upper Arlington's Dane Goodwin and DeSales' Cristian Gomez.
Goodwin was named Mr. Basketball after averaging 24.1 points and 9.6 rebounds last season for the Golden Bears as they went 23-2. Now playing for Notre Dame, he finished his prep career with 1,951 points and 817 rebounds, both of which are program records.
Gomez was named Mr. Soccer after finishing with 11 goals and four assists while helping the Stallions reach a Division II state semifinal.
Gomez won that honor over a group of players that included New Albany's Noah Boffo, who was named Division I state Player of the Year, and Grandview's Manny Day, who scored 50 goals while leading his team to a Division III state semifinal.
7. HOT LA-CROSSE RUNS -- The success the Upper Arlington girls lacrosse program enjoyed before the sport was sanctioned by the OHSAA for the 2017 season continued as it won its fourth consecutive Division I state championship.
Coach Wendy Pinta, who was named 2017 National Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations on Jan. 11, guided the Bears to a 24-0 record that included beating New Albany 11-5 for the state title.
In boys lacrosse, Maryland recruit Jack DeSantis led DeSales to a 13-5 victory over Toledo Ottawa Hills in the Division II state championship game.
8. PATRIOTS GAME -- Following a 13-13 finish in 2017, the Olentangy Liberty baseball team returned nearly all of its key players and emerged as Ohio's best team.
The Patriots beat New Albany 8-1 to win their first Division I regional title and then defeated Medina Highland 13-2 on June 1 and Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 8-2 on June 2 in the state tournament at Huntington Park to finish 30-4. Pitcher Mitch Milheim, who will play for Ohio State, went 10-0 with a 1.31 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 59 innings.
Also in baseball, DeSales' Joey Velazquez was named state Player of the Year in Division II.
9. LIONS RUNNERS ROAR -- Having its 3,200 relay of Allison Groves, Claire Steigerwald, Shynae Deas and Madison Martinez run a state record of 8:53.49 while winning the title was just the beginning of a memorable Division I state track meet for the Gahanna girls team.
The Lions, who shared the state title in 2015, scored 51 points to easily win their first outright championship June 2 at Ohio State.
The 1,600 relay of Deas, Martinez, Alexis Thigpen and Joi Bradley also won a state title (3:47.99), as did Martinez in the 800 (2:08.89). Steigerwald was runner-up in the 3,200 (10:29.85) and Faith Hunter was second in the high jump (5 feet, 9 inches).
Bronte Johnson, who was a regional qualifier in the discus, later in the year was a national finalist for the Wendy's High School Heisman.
10. FOOTBALL MEMORIES -- Although no central Ohio football programs won state titles for the first time since 2014, Liberty, Pickerington Central and Eastmoor Academy all reached state semifinals.
The Patriots lost in a Division I state semifinal for the third consecutive year, the Tigers were Division I state semifinalists in 2016 and state champions in 2017 before losing in a semifinal and the Warriors played in a Division III state semifinal for the first time since being state runners-up in 2008.
Among other Division I programs, Reynoldsburg won its first league title since 1993 and just its second playoff game, Hilliard Davidson lost in the Region 3 final to Central a season after going 5-5 and Dublin Coffman reached in a regional final for the first time since 2009 before losing to Liberty.
In Division II, Whitehall went 10-2 and won its first playoff game since 2003.
11. WRESTLEMANIA -- Three central Ohio athletes reached the top of the podium at the state wrestling tournament in March.
Liberty's Carson Kharchla, who was competing in his first postseason, beat Medina's Brady Chrisman 12-3 for the 170-pound Division I state championship March 10. Then on July 17, Kharchla won the freestyle national title at the U.S. Marine Corps Junior and Cadet national championships in Fargo, North Dakota.
Central Crossing's Jaden Mattox completed a prep career that also included a state title in 2016 by winning the Division I title at 160, and Grandview's Hudson Jump captured the Division III title at 195.
Also in Division I, Liberty's Trevor Lawson (182) and Marysville's Jake Marsh (152) were state runners-up.
12. VIKINGS BACK ON TOP -- The Columbus Academy field hockey team showed that it was ready to make another state title run when it snapped Thomas Worthington's 43-game winning streak with a 4-0 victory Sept. 26.
For the 11th time in program history, that's exactly what the Vikings did, getting goals from Carolyn Vaziri, Charlotte Adams and Jenny L'Hommedieu to beat Hudson 3-0 in the state final Nov. 3 to finish 21-0.
Academy, which outscored its opponents 138-1, previously won the state title in 2013 before settling for runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2017. The Vikings have reached the state tournament 22 times in 28 seasons under coach Anne Horton.
13. SMASHING SUCCESS -- Central Ohio produced one singles champion, three doubles champions and a team title in tennis.
At the state boys tournament May 26, New Albany's Robert Cash won the Division I singles title and teammates Nathan Jose and Devin Boyer edged St. Charles' Jack Dabek and Reese Yakubov 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 for the Division I doubles title, while Wellington's Connor Biernat and Griffin Biernat won the Division II doubles title.
The next day, New Albany earned a runner-up finish in Division I and Wellington captured the Division II title at the state team tournament.
In girls tennis Oct. 20, Liberty's Maddie Atway and Dani Schoenly defended their Division I state doubles title and Columbus Academy's Sydni Ratliff finished as Division II state singles runner-up for the second consecutive year.
The next day, Academy placed third in Division II and Orange finished fourth in Division I at the state team tournament.
14. PROSPECT WATCH -- During a ceremony held Oct. 31, it was announced that Orange senior defensive lineman Zach Harrison had been selected to participate in the All-American Bowl, which will take place Saturday, Jan. 5, in the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Considered a five-star recruit and the No. 1 recruit in Ohio from the 2019 class, Harrison announced Dec. 19 -- first day of the early signing period for football -- that he would play at Ohio State.
15. POOL PARTIES -- There wasn't a more polished girls swimmer in Ohio the past two seasons than Upper Arlington's Dakota Elliott, who won her second consecutive 200-yard individual medley title at the Division I state meet Feb. 24.
Elliott, who also was state runner-up in the 500 freestyle, was joined at the top of the podium by Columbus School for Girls' Jordan Aurnou-Rhees (100 butterfly) in Division II. Liberty's Rachel Peroni (100 fly), Coffman's Ellie Andrews (100 breaststroke) and Gahanna's Maycey Vieta (diving) all were runners-up in Division I, while Aurnou-Rhees swam on CSG's runner-up 200 medley relay along with Julia Lunt, Anna Ray Ziegler and Nyah Funderburke.
In boys swimming, Columbus Academy's Jacob Eismann tied for first in the 100 backstroke and joined Max Dreisbach, Jack Campbell and Mike DeAscentis on the winning 400 free relay in Division II.
In Division I, Westerville North's Jason Mathews won the state title in the 100 breast and Jerome's 200 free relay of Max Scott, Westin Fishel, Grant Cicci and Elek Kayuha shared the championship, while Coffman's Eddie Michael (100 free) and New Albany's Noah Duperre (diving) both placed second.
In water polo, St. Charles won the state title after finishing as runner-up the previous two seasons and the UA girls were state runners-up.
16. ROLLING TO THE TITLE -- For the first time since the OHSAA began sanctioning bowling in 2007, a central Ohio program captured a team title when the Gahanna girls accomplished the feat March 10 in the Division I state tournament at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The Lions were led by Briann McKnight, Taylor Burns, Shannon Gonzales, Delaney Ferguson and Lilu Smith.
Also in Division I girls bowling, Whitehall's Madison Stiffler finished fourth.
17. IN FOR THE KILL -- With a 25-19, 14-25, 25-16, 28-26 victory over top-ranked Kettering Alter on June 3 at Capital, the St. Charles volleyball team earned its second Division II state title, nine years after winning its first.
The Hilliard Darby boys team earned a Division I state runner-up finish.
In girls volleyball, Hartley finished as Division II state runner-up and Liberty made it to the Division I state tournament for the first time before losing in a semifinal.
The Patriots ended Coffman's three-year run of regional titles by beating the Shamrocks in a regional semifinal.
18. MEMORABLE RUNS -- There hasn't been a more consistently successful cross country program from central Ohio the past two decades than Davidson.
On Nov. 10 in a state meet that was postponed a week because of poor course conditions at National Trail Raceway, the Wildcats boys team earned a second consecutive Division I state runner-up finish and Davidson's girls placed seventh.
Also in Division I, Pickerington North's Matt Duvall placed seventh and Davidson's Conner Johanssen finished eighth in the boys race and Liberty's Gracie Sprankle placed sixth to lead the area in the girls meet.
19. OCC SHAKEUP ANNOUNCED -- After four OCC schools were among a group that met in November 2017 to discuss the formation of a new league, the OCC proposed a new alignment.
On Feb. 15, a proposal for four six-team divisions and one eight-team division beginning in the 2020-21 school year was approved by a 26-5 vote.
While geographic issues were a major issue the last time the OCC realigned, "competitiveness was a bigger factor" this time around, according to Coffman principal Mike Ulring, who is the executive president of the OCC.
20. SAYING GOODBYE -- In addition to Butcher's retirement, numerous area coaches left their posts in 2018.
In football, Mike Golden went 217-98 in 29 seasons, including winning the Division III state title at Watterson in 2002, before stepping down as Delaware's coach in late March. He was replaced by another former state championship coach in Scott Wetzel, who left Westerville North.
Also in football, Brian Cross announced Dec. 10 that he wasn't returning after five years at Ready, and Marion-Franklin's Brian Haffele and Worthington Kilbourne's Vince Trombetti stepped down after more than a decade at their respective posts. Cross is 248-146 in 37 seasons, Haffele is 130-35 with 11 playoff appearances in 14 seasons and Trombetti is 72-66 with four playoff appearances in 13 seasons.
In girls basketball, Dale Corbett stepped down after 31 seasons as Grove City's coach.
In wrestling, Dominic DiSabato resigned as Davidson's coach after a 19-year tenure that included producing two state champions and five state runners-up.
And in girls soccer, Greg Van Kannel stepped down after leading Pickerington North to a 180-32-16 mark in 11 seasons, including a state runner-up finish in 2010.
21. SOFTBALL ACHIEVEMENTS -- With a 13-10 win over Mount Vernon in a Division I district final May 19, Gahanna softball coach Jim Campolo earned his 600th career victory.
More than 400 of his wins have come during his 18-year tenure with the Lions, whom Campolo led to state runner-up finishes in 2003 and 2011.
On March 25, Central Crossing pitcher Emily Gant struck out all but one batter she faced in a 3-0, 10-inning victory over Pickerington Central. The 30 strikeouts are the most recorded in a 10-inning game, according to OHSAA.org.
Gant, who will play for Boston University, also went 4-for-5 at the plate in the game.
22. EBRIGHT REMEMBERED -- Former Thomas Worthington boys volleyball coach Scott Ebright died April 5 after a battle with cancer. He coached the Cardinals from 1997-2006 and 2014-17.
"The volleyball community will remember Scott for his passion for the sport and his work to expand high school volleyball throughout the state," athletics director Jen Goebbel said.
23. SKURA SUCCEEDS -- Former Kilbourne football player Matt Skura had his No. 76 jersey retired during a ceremony at the school Feb. 16.
A 2011 graduate who went on to play for Duke, Skura is in his second season as a starting offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.
24. MAJOR COLLEGE BREAKTHROUGHS -- Westerville South graduates and brothers Andre Wesson and Kaleb Wesson have emerged as starters for the Ohio State men's basketball team.
Also for the Buckeyes, Walnut Ridge graduate Malik Harrison started at linebacker for the football team as it won its second consecutive Big Ten championship.
Westerville Central graduate Benny Snell, who recently announced that he will enter the 2019 NFL draft, became the Kentucky football team's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 46. He ranked second in program history in career rushing yards heading into the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1.
25. UNFORGETTABLE ENTRANCE -- Despite having no seniors at its new school, Berlin won its inaugural football game 53-22 over Briggs on Aug. 24.
Johnny Spinner rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries, including 138 yards and four scores in the first half as the Bears built a 40-14 lead.
In girls golf, Raines became the school's first state competitor, advancing to state after competing on the boys team during the regular season.