Luke Cheetham faced his toughest competition to date on Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The Olentangy Orange High School senior was diving in the Division I state meet for the fourth time, and for the second consecutive season he reached the podium as one of the top eight competitors.
Cheetham finished eighth with a score of 430.7, but that was fewer than 17 points from the fourth-place total of 447.05 by Solon's Jacob Smrdel. Shaker Heights' Lyle Yost won with 571.2 while Liberty's Jack Matthews was second (534.0) and New Albany's Jordan Rzepka was third (505.45).
"I feel really good and don't think I could have done better," Cheetham said. "The points were so close between first and eighth that one dive could make all of the difference."
Cheetham placed eighth (453.1) last year after finishing ninth (427.6) as a sophomore and 12th (412.8) as a freshman.
"It was surreal for it to be my last high school meet," he said. "It's the end of a great thing. ... I represented Orange well.
"Putting in all four years here (at Orange), I have had the chance to meet and work with a lot of great people and I've built such great bonds. It's going to be weird diving somewhere else."
Cheetham, who was the lone state competitor for Orange, will compete at the University of Cincinnati. He scored 11 points to put the boys team in a tie for 34th behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (310).
Cheetham's twin sister, Michigan signee Lauren Cheetham, did not dive in the postseason for the second time in four seasons. Surgery to her left rotator cuff in July kept her from competing this winter, and she missed her sophomore postseason with a broken wrist.
Although the girls team didn't have any state qualifiers, it performed well at district Feb. 15 at Ohio State. The 400-yard freestyle relay of freshman Alex Knodel, sophomores Brooke Farren and Emma Logan and freshman Kayla Fisher finished eighth in a program-record 3 minutes, 42.29 seconds.
"We had a great (district) meet and a great season," fourth-year coach J.R. Fourqurean said. "If you asked me after OCCs how we would do, it was pretty bleak, but they stepped up and performed really well."
Seven wrestlers reach district
Juniors Tristan Bluntschly (170 pounds) and Rocco Torio (132) won championships for the wrestling team in a Division I sectional Feb. 23 at Upper Arlington.
They lead seven Pioneers into district Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class at district qualify for state March 7-9 at Ohio State.
Torio improved to 23-8 by defeating UA's Jesse Bowers by a 15-5 major decision in the championship match. Bluntschly is 15-8 after pinning UA's Gavin Schafer in 1:17 in the final.
Matt Hipsher (145) was runner-up and Mitchell Broskie (160), Cole Jackson (120) and Alex Lopez (195) all were third. Also advancing was Zach Miller (138), who placed fourth as the Pioneers finished second (184.5) of 10 teams behind champion UA (237).
Orange has five district alternates in Cole Benjamin (126), Dylan Dempsey (182), Cardan Mutai (220), Zach Stevenson (heavyweight) and Connor Svantner (152). All placed fifth at sectional.
Bowling teams qualify for district
The boys and girls bowling teams will compete in the Division I district tournament Saturday, March 2, at HP Lanes.
The boys earned the 16th and final district-qualifying spot from sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes by totaling 3,644 as Marion Harding (4,336) won the title.
Jake Norz was 24th overall with a 607 to lead Orange. Jake Burre (553, 56th), Tanner Davidson (534, 67th) and Marcus Turner (495, tied for 97th) also rolled three games.
The girls were 15th (2,940) on Feb. 22 at HP Lanes behind champion Westerville Central (3,777). Raymie Shields (493, 39th), Makenzie Peterson (492, tied for 40th), Eve Wicks (449, 61st) and Remy Gray (409, 91st) rolled three games.
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on those teams advance to state at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. The girls compete March 8 and the boys compete March 9.
Boys basketball team awaits district opener
The boys basketball team plays its Division I district tournament opener Friday, March 1, at home against 20th-seeded Delaware in the second round.
The 13th-seeded Pioneers are 15-7 and haven't played since a 66-53 win over Massillon Perry on Feb. 16.
Orange has not played Delaware this season. The winner faces top-seeded Dublin Coffman or 47th-seeded Franklin Heights in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 6, at a neutral site. The Pioneers lost to the Shamrocks 67-59 on Jan. 22 and defeated the Falcons 75-40 on Feb. 5.
The district final is March 9 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Ritterspach leads gymnasts at district
Grace Ritterspach led the gymnastics team as it closed its season in the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne.
The sophomore tied for 21st of 92 athletes in the all-around with a 33.6. Her effort was led by her 16th-place performances on uneven bars (8.6) and floor exercise (8.85).
Freshman Molly Wheeler was 24th in the all-around (33.175) led by her effort on bars (8.75, tied for 15th). Junior Holly Schutte was 47th in the all-around (31.25) with a 8.725 on floor (tied for 23rd).
Junior Olivia Dieckmann and sophomore Emma Wood tied for 55th in the all-around (30.675).
Orange finished 11th (109.85) at district behind champion Thornville Sheridan (145.205) and placed second (16 points, 3-1) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Olentangy (20, 4-0).