Sophomore Hayden Apel continues to improve for the Hilliard Darby High School boys swimming and diving team.

In his second appearance in the Division I state meet Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, Apel finished ninth in diving with 412.8 points. He had placed 19th (260.75) last season.

"I started to feel a little bit more comfortable after the first couple dives," Apel said. "Going into finals, the last three dives, I messed up one of my dives, a front double-pike. So that kind of hurt me. I felt really good about my front two-and-a-half pike, which was my fifth dive, and my reverse one-half pike, which was the seventh dive."

Apel scored nine points for the Panthers, who tied for 36th behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (310) as 49 teams scored. He was pleased with his improvement, but plans to continue to move up.

"I did much better this year," he said. "I got 19th last year, so it was significantly better. I just put in more practice (during the offseason). I want to be prepared for (club) regionals at Miami (University) in April."

Apel was seeded sixth after placing fifth (482.6) at district Feb. 15 at Ohio State.

Also competing at state was freshman Mason Peck, who finished 21st in the 100-yard butterfly (51.82 seconds) on Feb. 22. He was seeded 17th after placing third (51.07) at district.

The girls team did not have any state qualifiers.

Hassay to compete in state gymnastics

Freshman Anne Hassay will represent the gymnastics team in the state individual meet Saturday, March 2, at Bradley.

Hassay will compete on balance beam, floor exercise and in the all-around after qualifying for those events during the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne.

"Anne had some very solid scores and it was a great meet for Darby overall," said Carol Eskay, who coaches all three Hilliard programs. "Anne is a freshman and we just want her to remain calm and do her best at state. That's all you can ask for. But we're very proud of her to get there as a freshman."

At district, Hassay tied Dublin Jerome's Grace Krouse for fifth in the all-around with a 35.7, as the top eight finishers in each event and the all-around advanced to state.

Hassay placed fourth on both beam (9.075) and floor (9.125) and just missed advancing on uneven bars, finishing ninth (8.75).

The Panthers finished fifth (135.175) of 24 teams as Thornville Sheridan (145.205), Jerome (139.8) and Olentangy (139.65) advanced to the state team meet Friday, March 1, at Bradley.

"Darby had its best team score of the season on beam and maybe the top beam score (at district)," Eskay said. "Everyone was very consistent today and there were no major flubs. I was so proud of all three teams on beam. I joked with them afterward that we were going to make an instructional video on how to compete on beam with district nerves. They were so good."

Bailey Miller finished 12th of 149 competitors on beam (8.875), Annamarie Bayer tied for 22nd (8.675) and Laurel Bonn tied for 24th (8.65).

Bonn finished 38th (32.05) of 92 competitors in the all-around.

Of 144 competitors on vault, Hassay finished 12th (8.75), Kate Kline tied for 26th (8.25) and Scarlett Evans tied for 36th (8.175). Jenna Hartwell tied for 17th (8.8) of 147 competitors on floor and Kline tied for 30th (8.0) of 143 competitors on bars.

Seven wrestlers qualify for district

Seven members of the wrestling team qualified for the Division I district tournament Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Darby.

Seniors Ben Brown (132 pounds) and Isaiah Beneker (heavyweight) both placed second in a 10-team sectional Feb. 23 at Newark.

Protecting a leg injury, Beneker forfeited the championship match and will enter district at 34-6 on the season. Brown is 30-11.

The top four finishers in each weight class at sectional advanced to district.

Placing third at sectional were senior Isaac Richards (126, 24-7) and sophomore Blayne Barnes (220, 26-11) and finishing fourth were senior Muneeb Ajlouni (145, 26-15) and sophomores Bradley Weaver (195, 25-9) and Kole Kendall (182, 13-15).

Senior Justen Shaw (170, 28-16) placed fifth and is a district alternate. Placing sixth were senior Luke Fleenor (160, 11-14) and sophomore Sam Pence (152, 24-15).

The Panthers totaled 136 points to place fifth behind champion Olentangy Liberty (214.5).

At district, the top four finishers in each weight class qualify for the state tournament March 7-9 at Ohio State.

Larsen, Maleh help boys bowlers advance

Led by Joshua Larsen and David Maleh, the boys bowling team qualified for the Division I district tournament Saturday, March 2, at HP Lanes.

Larsen rolled a 667 three-game series and Maleh rolled a 604 as the Panthers finished third (4,083) in the 42-team sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes behind Marion Harding (4,336) and Westerville Central (4,327). The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to district.

Also for the Panthers, Mason Bowers tied for 31st (593) of 242 competitors and was followed by Nicholas Carter (70th, 530) and Jalen Clisby (75th, 525).

The girls team will be represented at district by Emily Betteridge, who finished 15th (536) of 222 competitors at sectional Feb. 22 to earn the fourth individual district-qualifying berth.

The Panthers finished 19th (2,877) of 37 teams and fell 34 pins short of 16th-place Teays Valley (2,911).

Also competing in three games were Lyndsey Seagraves (85th, 415), Jayde Martin (93rd, 401) and Sarah Leming (116th, 362). Emily Decker (185) competed in two games and Callista Mann (114) rolled one game.

At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament March 8 (girls) and March 9 (boys) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

Girls basketball team reaches district semi

The 13th-seeded girls basketball team was 19-5 before playing fourth-seeded Watterson in a Division I district semifinal Feb. 27 at Franklin Heights.

The winner plays second-seeded Newark or 27th-seeded Westerville Central in a district final Saturday, March 2, at Ohio Dominican. The district champion will face Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Teays Valley or Northland in a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 5, at Otterbein. The regional final is March 8 at Otterbein.

The Panthers beat 16th-seeded Hartley 67-50 in a second-round home game Feb. 22 behind 21 points from Sydney Wyngarden and 18 apiece from Annie Rauch and Sophia Iosue.

Boys basketball team ousted by Patriots

The 40th-seeded boys basketball team lost 74-41 at fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 23 to finish 6-17 overall.

Sophomore guard Andrew Patrick had 13 points, senior guard Kyle Miller scored 12 and senior guard Jaeln Benjamin scored eight for the Panthers, who finished 3-11 in the OCC-Cardinal to place seventh behind champion Bradley (14-0).

Patrick was named second-team all-league and Miller was honorable mention all-league.

Darby is losing four seniors in Benjamin, Miller, forward Kai Burmeister and guard Jacob Foster. Benjamin missed the first half of the season with an injury sustained during football season.

Other expected returnees include junior guards Chase Dimick, Parker Hambel, Nick Skelskey and Cody Wendel and sophomore guard Mekhi Evans.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek