Grace Butcher made history for the Olentangy Berlin High School swimming and diving program to cap an impressive inaugural season.
The junior became the first Bears swimmer to earn a state medal, placing sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 3.8 seconds) in the Division II meet Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
"It's been amazing, an absolutely amazing first year," coach Glenn First said. "Coming here and bringing (eight) kids with us in the first year and to send one to the podium is amazing. I couldn't be more proud of what they have done."
Butcher also competed in the 100 butterfly, placing 13th in 57.96.
Both of her preliminary performances were program records. She entered the finals as the third seed in the 100 breast (1:02.55) and the 12th seed in the 100 fly (57.73).
"I did really well (in the preliminary races), but not as well (in the finals)," Butcher said. "I just tried to have fun and stay relaxed."
Butcher also was a member of the 16th-place 200 medley relay (1:51.75) with freshman Callista Rousher, junior Lauren Delligatti and freshman Staci Nation.
The girls finished 33rd (19 points) behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (378) as 53 teams scored. Hawken won its 20th consecutive state title.
For the boys, freshman Brogan Robinson placed ninth in the 500 freestyle (4:45.13) and 14th in the 200 individual medley (1:59.97). He turned in a program-record 1:58.55 in the 200 IM preliminary race.
"I did OK, but not as well as I thought I would," Robinson said. "But it's all part of the experience of learning how to swim at the state level against all of these good swimmers.
"I need to not stress so much before a race. I spent all of my energy (before preliminaries) stressing on what place I should get. I should have just been focusing on swimming my best."
Robinson joined juniors Zach Lambert, Jack Nebraska and Ben Paull on two relays. The 200 free relay was 20th (1:31.87) and 200 medley relay was 23rd (1:44.39).
"We had to swim an alternate, Zach Lambert, in the relays for (junior) Garrett Graybill, who was out sick before the meet," said First, whose team tied for 39th (12) behind champion Hunting Valley University (331) as 61 teams scored. "Getting here and being down one guy then finishing in the top 23 (in both relays) in the state is great. There were 82 teams in our district and four districts feed into state, so it's an amazing accomplishment."
The Bears made their mark in the district meet Feb. 14 at Ohio State, as Butcher won the 100 breast in a meet-record 1:03.18 and the boys team was runner-up (206) to Columbus Academy (251).
"We started from the ground up with this program," First said. "I remember on the first day of practice, walking in, taking a deep breath and saying, 'Here we go!' The kids jumped in the pool and from there, it's all in the record books.
"It's exciting times for Berlin and our program. I'm excited to see what we can do next year. I'm pretty sure that we'll be Division I next year, so it will be like starting new and fresh next year. I have no doubt that these guys will rise to the occasion and get back here (to state)."
Two wrestlers reach district
Junior Corey Hill and freshman Ian Stokell will represent the wrestling team in the Division II district tournament Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Heath.
Both finished third in a sectional Feb. 22 and 23 at Licking Valley.
Hill improved to 31-8 by defeating London's Darian Huff 5-4 in the third-place match at 160 pounds. Stokell is 18-13 after winning his third-place match at 145 in an 18-2 technical fall over Buckeye Valley's Jacob Smothers.
Israel Foston (152), Caiden Hooks (138) and Matt Kirsop (195) all placed fifth and are district alternates. Matt Barreca (113) and Hugh Peterson (132) both were sixth for Berlin, which finished fifth (111.5) behind champion London (235.5) as 22 teams scored.
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 7-9 at Ohio State.
Boys team falls to top-seeded Bulldogs
The boys basketball team opened the Division II district tournament by losing at top-seeded Columbus South 70-21 on Feb. 25 in the first round.
Austin Corley and Grant Schrieber both scored five points to lead the 23rd-seeded Bears, who finished their first season 3-20.
Boone, Marks reach state in gymnastics
Junior Olivia Boone and sophomore Abby Marks will compete for the gymnastics team in the state individual meet Saturday, March 2, at Hilliard Bradley.
In the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne, Boone won balance beam (9.25), tied for fifth on floor exercise (9.1), tied for seventh on vault (8.95) and placed seventh in the all-around (35.65).
The top eight in each individual event and the all-around advanced to state.
"I had my season best on bars and finally went over 9 on floor," Boone said. "I'm extremely happy how things went."
Marks placed fourth on uneven bars (9.1).
Olentangy edged Berlin 139.65-138.6 for the third and final state team berth behind Thornville Sheridan (145.205) and Dublin Jerome (139.8).
"The girls had a season-high score and it's been an amazing first year, especially without any seniors," coach Jen Hedrick said. "The girls continue to get better and Olivia finally had a day where she hit just about all of her events.
"We knew Olivia had that potential, it was just a matter of putting it all together on the same day. She had a phenomenal day, but every single girl stepped up for us. That's how we were able to finish fourth."
Bowling teams conclude season
The boys and girls bowling teams saw their seasons come to an end at HP Lanes.
Sophomore Bella Bland and freshman Michele Starner competed for the girls in the Division II district tournament Feb. 21 at HP Lanes.
Bland tied for 15th (504) and Starner finished 57th (376) as the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, March 1, at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. Ready's Mary Zerrien (564) was fourth overall and the third individual qualifier.
The boys team was 25th (3,353) in the Division I sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes. Marion Harding (4,336) won and Orange (3,644) earned the 16th and final team qualifying spot to district Saturday, March 2, at HP Lanes.
Junior Logan Wright (538) was 64th of 242 participants to lead Berlin. Thomas Worthington's Nate Johnson (558) was the 16th and final individual qualifier to district.
Also rolling three games for the Bears were juniors Brody Moore (483, tied for 106th) and Hunter Kraft (479, 110th) and freshman Jacoby Olivrio (456, 124th).
Girls basketball team loses district opener
The girls basketball team lost at home to 14th-seeded Bloom-Carroll 53-46 on Feb. 19 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
Junior forward Jess Nation scored 18 points and sophomore guard Maddie Goodman added nine as the 12th-seeded Bears finished 13-10 overall.
Berlin finished fifth (6-8) in the OCC-Cardinal Division behind champion Hilliard Darby (12-2).
Nation (first-team all-league) averaged team highs of 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. Goodman (honorable mention all-league) averaged 9.3 points and sophomore guard/forward Courtney Suchan (second-team all-league) averaged 8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists.