Junior Jordan Aurnou-Rhees defended her state championship and sophomore Nyah Funderburke won her first title to lead the Columbus School for Girls swimming and diving team to a fourth-place finish in the Division II state meet held Feb. 21 and 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

Aurnou-Rhees won the 100-yard butterfly in 55.23 seconds and Funderburke won the 50 freestyle in 23.46.

"I was really nervous before (the 100 fly) because I just came out of the 200 (individual medley)," said Aurnou-Rhees, who was runner-up in the 200 IM (2:02.71). "After a race like that, you don't have time to talk to your coach. You just have to gear up and get ready to go. I was definitely more nervous this year because now people have expectations. It gives you a sense of urgency. The desire not to lose is greater than anything."

Funderburke also placed third in the 100 fly (55.78).

"I think for the 50 free, you have to minimize how many breaths you take," Funderburke said. "I usually go for one (breath) down and one back, but (in the preliminary race), I went one down, two back. (In the final,) I went one down and one back. I think that helped me get the title."

The Unicorns totaled 136 points to finish behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (378), Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (167.5) and Toledo St. Ursula (155.5).

"It was an awesome meet," first-year coach Brian Botzman said. "When you come here with three individuals and two relays and you maximize your points and finish fourth, that says a lot. Jordan defender her title and Nyah earned her first title. I know Jordan wanted the 200 IM title, too, but she faced tough competition. I was proud of all the girls."

Also at state, Funderburke and Aurnou-Rhees teamed with senior Emily Dewolf and junior Cosette Persall to place fifth in the 200 free relay (1:37.54) and finish sixth in the 400 free relay (3:35.7) and senior AnnaRay Ziegler finished ninth in the 100 backstroke (57.66).

"AnnaRay just missed advancing to the championship finals and had to compete in the (consolation final), which she finished first," Botzman said. "But her time there was the fifth-fastest in the meet. She really rocked it and blew the doors off. It's unfortunate she didn't quite make it into (the championship final).

"I'm proud of all the girls who competed here and at district. After a little bit of a disappointing sectional, they really stepped it up at district. Every single girl had a hand in us winning the district title. It was a good season overall."

CSG won the district title Feb. 14 at Ohio State, scoring 355 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Columbus Academy (300).

Botzman, who had served as an assistant the past six seasons under former coach Stephanie Donley, was named Central District Coach of the Year in Division II.

"It was difficult replacing Stephanie because of what she did for this program," Botzman said. "I just wanted to keep us afloat as a program and help us build on the past. I also wanted it to be fun because I didn't want to let these girls or Stephanie down."

Basketball team improved record

The basketball team finished 6-16 overall after losing 45-33 at 15th-seeded Columbus Academy in the first round of the Division III district tournament Feb. 19.

That was a slight improvement for the 17th-seeded Unicorns, who had finished 4-17 a year ago.

CSG, which went 0-4 in its final season in the CCL, begins a new era next season when it joins the MSL-Ohio Division.

"Our goal (was) to prepare the young girls and be ready to compete in the new league next year against teams more our size," first-year coach Heath Goolsby said.

"We have mostly underclassmen and they have gained experience and learned a new offense and defense that takes two years to fully comprehend. That should be helpful next year."

Freshman guard Emma Spangler had 13 points and sophomore guard Eva Nicolosi scored 10 against Academy.

The Unicorns are losing three seniors in guard Annie Feibel, center Elizabeth Johnson and forward Hattie Person.

Other expected returnees include junior Veronica Ross (center), sophomore Bella Sloan (guard) and freshmen Makenna McCoy (guard) and Lauren Sloan (guard).

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek