Senior Haley Banner and sophomore Lauren Richner seemingly have been inseparable all season for the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls swimming and diving team.
Richner will be making her first appearance in the Division I state meet this week and can follow the lead of Banner, who will be making her third trip to state, which will be held Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Both will compete in the 50-yard freestyle and join freshmen Evie DeCarlo and Nanami Campbell in the 200 free relay.
"We're all really excited about the relay because we haven't had a relay make it to state in a long time," Richner said. "It's kind of cool that we have two freshmen going with us. I went last year, but only to watch. So I'm just like Evie and Nanami. We're all going to be a little nervous in that environment. I've competed in Junior Olympics on a big stage, but it's not loud like it is (in high school swimming). Thankfully, we'll be with Haley."
Banner and Richner experienced some drama in the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State, as they were in a three-way tie with Watterson's Mia Brown in the 50 free after each finished in 24.15 seconds. Consequently, there was a swim-off, in which Brown finished first (24.09), followed by Banner (24.25) and Richner (24.33).
"The three of us were going to finish fifth, sixth and seventh depending on the swim-off," Banner said. "Usually, our district seems to get the fifth-place finisher to state, but sixth place is usually on the bubble and seventh place becomes very questionable. So you just worry that you could be eliminating your teammate, which is tough. Fortunately, all three of us made it out."
The top two finishers in each swimming event automatically qualified for state. In addition, 16 at-large berths were awarded in each event based on times statewide.
As swimmers throughout the state awaited the release of the at-large berths, Banner and Richner did some research.
"We were on FaceTime and I had this spreadsheet that I was keeping tabs on," Banner said. "When we realized the relay made it, we freaked out. Lauren called Nanami and I called Evie. Then we all went out for some celebratory ice cream. Our season goal was to get a relay to state and we're just all so excited about that."
Banner is seeded 21st at state in the 50 free and Richner is seeded 22nd. The 200 free relay, which finished sixth (1:38.8) at district, is seeded 19th.
In Banner's two previous state appearances, she competed in the 100 free. This season, she placed ninth (53.73) in the event at district and did not qualify for state. Richner finished 19th (54.68) in the event.
Banner, Richner, DeCarlo and Campbell also placed eighth in the 200 medley relay in a school-record 1:48.85.
The Wolves, who improved their sectional times in nine of their 10 swims at district, scored 92 points to finish 10th behind champion Upper Arlington (306) as 27 teams scored.
The boys team improved its sectional times in six of its eight swims at district and totaled 16 points to tie for 22nd behind champion Dublin Jerome (301) as 27 teams scored but does not have any state qualifiers.
"I'm very excited for our state qualifiers and I couldn't be prouder of the girls 200 free and 200 medley relays," coach Jim Callahan said. "They've worked so hard for this. Actually, I'm proud of all the girls and boys because they all gave it their all and dropped time, for the most part."
Boys team avenges loss to Cardinals
The boys basketball team closed the regular season by winning five of its final seven games to generate momentum for the Division I district tournament.
The Wolves are seeded 35th of 47 teams and have a first-round bye. They will play eighth-seeded Upper Arlington or 36th-seeded Mount Vernon in the second round March 1.
Kilbourne beat host Thomas 63-60 in its regular-season finale Feb. 15 to avenge a 54-35 home loss to the Cardinals on Jan. 11. Zach Wilson led the Wolves with 23 points, with Ayden Parsons and Kyler Archual adding 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Kilbourne is 8-13 overall and finished 6-8 in the OCC-Cardinal, fifth behind champion Hilliard Bradley (14-0).
Wrestlers getting set for sectional
The wrestling team will compete in a 10-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at Marysville, where the top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.
The Wolves defeated Thomas 42-10 on Feb. 14 to finish 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Season concludes for girls basketball team
The girls basketball team was outscored 19-7 by 15th-seeded Thomas during an early stretch and couldn't recover, falling to the host Cardinals 50-38 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16 to finish 10-13.
The 23rd-seeded Wolves took a 9-4 lead early, but Thomas forced a spate of turnovers and scored in transition to build a double-digit lead.
"When you play your rival and they have two Division I (college) athletes, you have a small margin for error and we surpassed that margin," said coach Jim Strode, whose team had split two OCC-Cardinal Division contests with the Cardinals, winning 64-62 in double overtime Dec. 11 at Thomas and losing 56-34 on Jan. 11 at home.
"We lost our composure late in the first quarter after a good start. We turned the ball over way too much in the final 11 or 12 minutes of the first half and a lot of that led to transition points for (Thomas). Their defense is their best offense. We compounded the problem a few times, too, fouling them and giving them three-point plays."
Kilbourne also struggled at the free-throw line, going 6-for-20.
"That hurt a lot because we couldn't take their momentum away when we got to the line," Strode said. "Early in the third quarter, we were down seven and we had four free throws, but made only one. We just couldn't make the plays to get back into it. We'd make a small run, but it was like taking one step forward and one and a half or two backward. We just had too many turnovers and we missed a ton of bunnies and free throws."
Freshman Lauren Scott had 18 points to lead the Wolves and freshman Celeste Sloma scored 13.
Kilbourne is losing two seniors in Sarah Baxter and Reilly St. Myer, but expects to return four starters in Scott, Sloma, junior Julia Taylor and sophomore Amya Harris.
"We finished 7-16 last season and we had a young team and improved by three games this year," Strode said. "We've got a strong corps coming back with our freshmen and sophomores, plus our j.v. team had its first winning record in the past six seasons. I see a ton of potential and I'm asking the girls to work hard in the offseason and hold each other accountable."
Other expected returnees include juniors Alexis Hudson, Alyssa Hudson and Jackie Wolford.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne bowling and gymnastics teams:
Feb. 22 -- Girls: Division I sectional at HP Lanes. Top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Feb. 23 -- Boys: Division I sectional at HP Lanes. Top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Feb. 23 -- District meet at home. Top three teams advance to state team meet March 1 at Hilliard Bradley and top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advance to state individual meet March 2 at Bradley.