Less than five months removed from surgery to fix dyplasia in her left hip, Ashley Kraker's doctors practically begged her not to dive for loose balls as her senior season got underway for the DeSales High School girls basketball team.
For a while, that plan worked. But eventually, the 5-foot-9 senior center couldn't help herself.
"I definitely did (listen to the doctors) at first, but I just really love this team and everybody on this team," Kraker said. "I do it for them. I want to play as hard as I can. I guess the one thing I can always do is bring 100 percent effort."
With the pain in her left hip gone but facing surgery for the same condition in her right hip after the season, Kraker has taken on inside duties and increased leadership responsibilities as her career winds down. She was averaging 3.1 points and 5.0 rebounds through 17 games for the Stallions, who were 5-12 overall before playing Grove City on Jan. 29 and are 1-4 in the CCL entering a Thursday, Jan. 31, game at Ready.
"She's a tough cookie," coach Brian Cromwell said. "She's done a good job getting us into defenses, echoing the calls that the coaches are making and just battling on the boards. She is undersized as a post player and does everything she can to put herself into a good position and help us win games."
Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the socket portion of the hip does not fully cover the ball joint, resulting in an increased risk for dislocation.
Kraker played through what she described as "random pain" as a junior, when she started at center after splitting time between junior varsity and varsity as a sophomore.
"It would hurt really bad one day and then it wouldn't," Kraker said. "I would try different stretches to help, but it didn't really work."
Kraker underwent surgery June 15 and was told that she would not be able to resume sports for four to six months, potentially costing her the early part of this season. Calling herself "really stubborn," she set out to accelerate her recovery.
"Maybe at times I was too aggressive, but I was focused on being back. My biggest motivation was to play my senior year with my friends on this team," Kraker said, crediting teammates Erin Burns, Taylor Cash and Katie Schuler for helping her both physically and mentally throughout the recovery process. "I am at 100 percent, which is really surprising. I was not expecting to feel good. I was expecting to play because I wanted to. Definitely toward the beginning of the season, it was hard to get back into running and I was really sore those first few weeks of practice. But after that, I felt very good."
Burns, who has known Kraker since elementary school, said Kraker's style of play has not changed.
"It's like (the surgery) didn't even happen and she is just using it to motivate her more. It's fun to watch," Burns said. "She's always been energetic and not about herself. She's always diving on the floor, really sacrificing her body to get the ball and do what she is required to do."
Kraker plans to attend Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she might major in communicative sciences and disorders in the hopes of becoming a speech therapist.
Her older sister, 2017 DeSales graduate Emily Kraker, is a goalkeeper on the Belles' women's lacrosse team. She was starting goalie as the Stallions girls lacrosse team won the 2016 Division II state championship.
For now, Ashley's primary goal is to help the Stallions finish strong. She had a season-high nine points in a 52-44 home win over Centennial on Jan. 26, a game in which Gabby Elliott led DeSales with a career-high 34 points.
"(Kraker) has never been the loudest girl on the court, but she has grown in that regard and is probably a better leader than she thought she could be," Cromwell said. "She's done a good job keeping us together."
McInerney leads boys swimmers in CCL meet
Brady McInerney's wins in the 100-yard butterfly and 500 freestyle, the latter of which came by more than 12 seconds, led the boys swimming team to third place in the CCL meet Jan. 26 at Columbus School for Girls.
McInerney, a freshman, won the 100 fly in 55.53 seconds, finishing 1.15 seconds ahead of St. Charles' Jonathan Sugar, and swam a 5:05.29 in the 500 free to beat runner-up Lukas Rakowsky of St. Charles by 12.13 seconds. McInerney also was on the second-place 400 free relay (3:44.63) and third-place 200 free relay (1:38.2) with Ian McCandlish, Jonathan Randel and Aaron Spittell.
DeSales scored 188 points to place third behind St. Charles (481.5) and Hartley (267.5) and ahead of Watterson (111).
McCandlish placed fourth in the 100 backstroke (1:02.93) and fifth in the 100 fly (1:00.65), and the 200 medley relay of Jack Gabrelli, Will Jordan, Leo Sears and Joe Valentine was fourth (1:02.93).
The girls team finished fourth (114.5) in the CCL meet behind CSG (408), Watterson (314) and Hartley (245.5) and ahead of Ready (23).
Libby Ruff placed third in the 500 free (5:40.62) and fifth in the 200 free (2:08.7) and helped the 200 free relay (1:54.9) and 400 free relay (4:16.65) to fourth-place finishes with Annamarie DeGuzman, Anna Sears and Julia Wilkes. The 200 medley relay of Ashley Anderson, Fiona Brown, Katie Kiser and Maddie Letzelter was third (2:16.7).
Palmer takes over as wrestling coach
Calling himself "extremely fortunate" to have a four-time Division I state champion on staff, athletics director Tom Neubert named Collin Palmer wrestling coach on Jan. 24.
Palmer, who was 147-4 at Lakewood St. Edward and won the 112-pound state title as a freshman in 2006 before finishing first at 125 as a sophomore, 135 as a junior and 140 as a senior, replaced Nick Preston, who resigned Jan. 15 after leading the Stallions for 5 1/2 seasons.
"Nick stepped down and we needed to move on," Neubert said. "Collin has a tremendous amount of coaching experience and he is well-known in the wrestling community. It's phenomenal for us to have somebody like him in the program who is ready and willing to step into this role. We're extremely fortunate to have him around. Hopefully, it will be an easy transition."
Palmer was an assistant coach under Preston the last two seasons and also runs the CP Wrestling Club, which operates from DeSales. His collegiate career at Ohio State was cut short by injuries.
Assistant coach Eric Potts, the father of heavyweight Cole Potts, led the Stallions during the Catholic Invitational Tournament that concluded Jan. 20 at Toledo St. John's.
DeSales' next scheduled competition is the CCL duals Feb. 13 at Ready.
Boys team suffers first league loss
The boys basketball team's hopes for an undefeated season in the CCL ended with a 50-45 home loss to Watterson on Jan. 25, but the Stallions still lead the league by one game in the loss column over the Eagles and St. Charles heading into a home game against Hartley on Friday, Feb. 1.
Desmond Watson had 15 points and Kobe Righter scored 12 against the Eagles, who answered DeSales' 10-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters with a 6-0 spurt to take a 47-43 lead with 55 seconds remaining. The Stallions led only once in the second half, after Righter hit a jump shot with four minutes left to make it 43-41.
"We didn't play our tempo or pace. We probably only had a three- or four-minute spurt where we dictated the game and played the relentless style we wanted to play," coach Pat Murphy said. "We had some empty possessions and turnovers that led to some layups for them. This is adversity. Our goals are all still in sight. We can still win the league and get some momentum going into the (Division II) district tournament draw (Feb. 10)."
DeSales was 10-5 overall before playing Licking Heights on Jan. 29 and is 4-1 in the CCL. Watterson is second in the league at 4-2, followed by St. Charles (3-2).
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and hockey teams:
*Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Hartley. The Stallions defeated the Hawks 50-47 on Dec. 21.
Feb. 5 -- At Jonathan Alder
*Jan. 31 -- At Ready. The Stallions lost to the Silver Knights 35-33 on Jan. 10.
Feb. 2 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*Feb. 4 -- Linden-McKinley at HP Lanes
*Feb. 6 -- Ready at Game of Western Columbus
*Feb. 2 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North