Glenn First couldn't believe his eyes during the Division II district swimming and diving meet Feb. 14 at Ohio State.
Correction: An earlier version of this story in print and online had an incorrect first name for bowler Michele Starner.
The Olentangy Berlin High School coach never had experienced a district meet before, and he was impressed with the atmosphere and how his athletes quickly made a name for the Bears.
The boys team finished second and the girls team has an individual -- junior Grace Butcher -- seeded second in the 100-yard breaststroke at the state meet Thursday, Feb. 21, and Friday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
"I've been here as a parent at the club level watching my youngest daughter swim in meets, but it's different being here at the high school level," First said. "It's been a thrill to have a first-year program and be able to come here and compete well at this level.
"I think all of the kids had lifetime bests here. They were dropping time like crazy. They really put their best foot forward in pool."
Butcher won the 100 breast in a meet-record 1 minute, 3.18 seconds. She also was fifth in the 100 butterfly (58.18) and is seeded 17th at state.
"It's incredible the way Grace came out of that swim (in the 100 breast) without being fully tapered," First said. "She had a (1:03.0) at the Northeast Classic (on Jan. 12), which is the same pool as state. She's pretty charged up and motivated. We're all excited to see what she can do at state."
The 200 medley relay of freshman Callista Rou sher, sophomore Julia Ritzler, junior Lauren Delligatti and freshman Staci Nation also qualified for state after finishing third in 1:51.8. The relay is seeded 15th at state after dropping more than five seconds from its finish of 1:56.94 at sectional.
"The girls 200 medley (relay) surprised me the most," First said. "They really knocked it out of the park at district with the amount of time they dropped."
The girls finished seventh (157.5 points) behind champion Columbus School for Girls (355) as 30 teams scored, and the boys were runners-up (206) behind Columbus Academy (251) as 37 teams scored.
Leading the way for the boys was Brogan Robinson, who qualified for state in the 500 freestyle and 200 individual medley. The freshman is seeded eighth in the 500 free after finishing second (4:45.12) at district and 18th in the 200 IM after a fourth-place (1:58.96) finish.
"(The atmosphere at district) isn't new, but it's a lot higher competition (than club)," Robinson said. "If you're in club, it's just age groups. This is four different (grades), so it's a lot tougher, but I enjoy it."
Robinson also was on two second-place state-qualifying relays with juniors Garrett Graybill, Jack Nebraska and Ben Paull. The 200 medley relay is seeded 17th (1:41.94) and the 200 free relay is seeded 20th (1:31.36).
"As a first-year school, this (district success) is incredible," Robinson said. "I'm excited for state. I like how my teammates did well. It's going to be special."
Bland, Starner to bowl at district
Sophomore Bella Bland and freshman Michele Starner advanced for the girls bowling team to the Division II district tournament Thursday, Feb. 21, at HP Lanes.
Starner finished 32nd of 180 participants with a 456 three-game series in the sectional Feb. 15 at HP Lanes. She was 10th of 12 individual qualifiers, and Bland rolled a 450 to tie for 38th and take the 12th spot.
The Bears finished 15th (2,809) behind champion Cardington (3,534). Grandview (2,873) earned the 12th and final team berth to district.
Junior Eve Pennington had a 373 and was the only other Berlin bowler to roll three games.
At district, the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state March 1 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
The boys team begins its postseason Saturday, Feb. 23, in the Division I sectional at HP Lanes. The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Girls basketball team begins district play
The 12th-seeded girls basketball team was 13-9 before opening the Division II district tournament Feb. 19 against 14th-seeded Bloom-Carroll.
The winner plays a second-round game Friday, Feb. 22, at sixth-seeded Beechcroft, and that winner advances to a district semifinal Tuesday, Feb. 26, at a site to be determined against third-seeded Big Walnut, 23rd-seeded Horizon Science or 24th-seeded Columbus International. The Bears defeated Horizon Science 75-16 on Jan. 23.
Jess Nation scored 25 points and Maddie Goodman and Courtney Suchan both added 11 as Berlin defeated Cardington 53-38 on Feb. 16.
Hockey team earns first district victory
The hockey team opened its first postseason with a 5-3 win over 22nd-seeded Troy on Feb. 16 but then had its season end with an 8-0 loss to third-seeded Liberty on Feb. 17 in the second round of the district tournament.
The 19th-seeded Bears finished 11-13-1-1 overall.
Junior forward Layne Comyns and freshman forward Zach Zielinski both had two goals against Troy. Freshman goaltender Josh Chmielewski had 20 saves.
Berlin came close to winning a Capital Hockey Conference division title. It finished second in the CHC-Blue at 8-5-1-1 with 18 points, behind champion Thomas Worthington (21, 9-3-2-1).
The Bears played in the consolation bracket of the Blue Jackets Cup, losing 10-2 to Thomas on Feb. 8 in the first round.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin boys basketball, gymnastics and wrestling teams:
Feb. 25 -- At top-seeded Columbus South in first round of Division II district tournament. Winner plays 20th-seeded Marion-Franklin in second round March 2 at home of better seed. The Bears are seeded 23rd.
Feb. 23 -- District meet at Worthington Kilbourne. The top three teams advance to state March 1 at Hilliard Bradley. The top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advance to state March 2 at Bradley.
Feb. 23 -- Division II sectional at Licking Valley. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 1 and 2 at Heath.