Jack Matthews earned a similar finish to a season ago at the Division I state swimming and diving meet, but things felt different this time for the Olentangy Liberty High School sophomore.
Some of Matthews' best performances came toward the end of the 11-dive event Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, but a strong semifinal performance by Shaker Heights senior Lyle Yost helped him earn a third consecutive championship with 571.2 points.
Matthews and New Albany sophomore Jordan Rzepka battled throughout the competition behind Yost, with Matthews ultimately finishing as runner-up (534.0) and Rzepka placing third (505.45).
"My last dive is my favorite dive and I hit it the majority of the time, and I feel like I did this time," Matthews said. "I feel like last year I didn't dive as well as I wanted to, but this year I feel like it was much better and a lot more consistent. It was just a good atmosphere diving with everyone."
Matthews, who was third at state last season with 513.7 as Yost scored 602.4 and 2018 graduate Noah Duperre from New Albany scored 579.05, plans to work to gain a higher degree of difficulty heading into his junior season.
His performance helped the boys team finish 15th (42) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (310) as 49 teams scored.
Also reaching the podium was sophomore Olivia Lynch, who placed seventh in girls diving Feb. 21 with 433.2 points. She helped the Patriots finish 32nd (14) behind champion Mason (204) as 55 teams scored.
"I've had four wrist surgeries, so coming back and making states is so cool to me," Lynch said.
Liberty had seven swimmers advance from preliminaries Feb. 22 to the final day of competition.
The boys 200-yard freestyle relay of seniors Alexander Wisler and Christopher Tracewell, junior John Bently and sophomore Christian Hosler was 10th (1 minute, 25.4 seconds).
"Especially being (in the) state finals, we'll finish 10th in the state of Ohio and that's such a great accomplishment," Tracewell said.
Also reaching a boys B final were Bently in the 100 free (14th, 46.67) and the 200 medley relay of Wisler, Bently and juniors Isaac Iversen and Eli Grubbs (13th, 1:36.41).
Junior Kate Saczawa, the other girls state qualifier, finished 15th in the 100 backstroke (57.47).
The other competitors were Wisler in the 100 butterfly (17th, 51.4) and the 400 free relay of Bently, Tracewell, Wisler and junior Andrew Gehring (17th, 3:11.23).
"At the start of the season it was a really big goal (to get to state)," Wisler said. "Before we even swam, it was a dream come true."
Hockey team back in district final
The road to a third consecutive district championship game included some uneasy moments for the hockey team.
When the third-seeded Patriots got to OhioHealth Ice Haus on Feb. 23 for their quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller, they learned they needed to wear road jerseys even though they were the higher seed because they were the lower team on the bracket.
Loaned extra jerseys by Upper Arlington, which had played earlier that day, Liberty fell behind by two goals before forcing overtime. Then in the third extra session, Jack Bowden scored for a 3-2 victory.
On Feb. 24 in a district semifinal against UA at the Ice Haus, Liberty fell behind 1-0 but tied it early in the second period on a goal by Korey Raymond. With 9:43 remaining, Raymond scored again, and 49 seconds later Bowden gave his team a two-goal lead that held up as Liberty won 3-2.
That improved the Patriots to 23-9-2-3 and sent them into the district final Saturday, March 2, against top-seeded Dublin Jerome at the Ice Haus.
"Everyone was super tired and trying to go as hard as we could," Bowden said. "(Against Moeller) it was all power (play goals).
"(Against UA) it was nice to get a few five-on-five goals and finish it off."
After losing to Jerome 4-1 in the district final last season, the Patriots lost to the Celtics 3-1 on Feb. 10 in the Blue Jackets Cup final. Jerome also beat Liberty 5-1 on Jan. 2 and 7-4 on Jan. 12.
The Liberty-Jerome winner plays Hunting Valley University or Gates Mills Gilmour in a state semifinal March 8 at Nationwide Arena.
Girls basketball team makes district semi
The 10th-seeded girls basketball team was 17-7 before playing ninth-seeded Hilliard Davidson in a Division I district semifinal Feb. 27 at Jerome in a rematch of a game the Patriots lost 43-38 on Jan. 22.
If Liberty won, it will play top-seeded and defending state champion Pickerington Central or 17th-seeded Dublin Scioto for a district title Saturday, March 2, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion plays Dublin Coffman, Gahanna, Westerville South or Dresden Tri-Valley in a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 5, at Otterbein.
The regional final is March 8 at Otterbein.
On Feb. 22 in a second-round game, Liberty beat 29th-seeded Delaware 72-36 as Teegan Pifher had 19 points and Caitlin Splain and Abby Erickson both scored 10.
"Four minutes into the game it was 3-3, but we had any shot we wanted and the kids did a nice job shooting through it," coach Sam Krafty said. "We caught fire at the end of the first quarter and that carried over."
Boys basketball team moves to second round
With a 74-41 victory over 40th-seeded Hilliard Darby on Feb. 23, the fourth-seeded boys basketball team improved to 19-4 and advanced to play host to 39th-seeded Licking Heights on Friday, March 1, in a second-round Division I district tournament game.
The winner plays 22nd-seeded Westerville North or 28th-seeded Grove City in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 6, at a neutral site.
The district final is March 9 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The Patriots built a 36-18 lead by halftime against Darby. Ben Roderick scored 26 points and Nick Nakasian had 15.
Ten wrestlers advance to district tourney
The wrestling team will have 10 competitors in the Division I district tournament Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Darby.
The top four finishers in each weight class qualify for state March 7-9 at Ohio State.
On Feb. 23 in a 10-team sectional at Newark, the Patriots scored 214.5 points to capture the championship.
Winning titles were Lucas Uliano (126 pounds), Connor Brady (160), Carson Kharchla (170) and Kaden Tong (220). Jayce Fitzpatrick (145) and Ben Cox (195) were runners-up, Stephen Dirksmeier (182) and Brady Kuhn (heavyweight) placed third and Austin Bensman (138) and Ethan Stamp (152) finished fourth.
Placing sixth were Nick Rutsky (106) and Hunter Ford (113).
Gymnasts end season at district
The gymnastics team had its season end with a 16th-place finish (122.875) in the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne as the top three teams advanced to state.
It was the final meet for seniors Abigail Archer and Chelsea Naples, both of whom competed in the all-around. Naples' score of 8.625 on floor exercise placed her 32nd and was the Patriots' best individual score.
Sophomore Katie DiSalle tied for 53rd (31.0) and junior Noelle Meeker was 57th (30.4) to lead Liberty in the all-around. Freshman Kenna Henry also competed in the all-around, and freshman Beth Finn competed on uneven bars and balance beam.
Others in the program were juniors Caroline Beck, Kathryn Edwards and Courtney Street.
"The first meet for the freshmen, they were a little bit nervous, but at this point they're super comfortable and it's really cool to watch how much they grew," Meeker said.
Bowling teams conclude season
The boys and girls bowling seasons came to an end at the Division I sectional level.
On Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, the girls didn't post a team score as junior Breanna Withrow led with a 64th-place finish (444). Senior Lauren Suhodolsky, junior Stefanie Greeno and sophomore Meaghan Suhodolsky also competed.
The boys finished 34th (3,108) of 42 teams Feb. 23 at HP Lanes behind champion Marion Harding (4,336). Sophomore Nick Bateson was 91st (501), and juniors Andrew Holycross and Jadin Mumaw and sophomores Brendan Sheehan and Matthew Lawrence also competed.
Freshman Carter Street averaged 204.3 in 12 games during the regular season but did not compete at sectional.
Other competitors for the girls this winter included junior Eryn Temby and sophomores Nandini Kasam and Jnapika Palacharia.
"We have a young team," coach Linda Ridolfo said. "It's a building year, but it's been a good year."