Bridget Parker of the Olentangy High School girls swimming and diving team felt at home in Canton's Branin Natatorium during the Division I state meet last weekend, but in another sense she stood apart from her teammates.
Parker was the only senior state qualifier along with junior Emily Espy and three freshmen in Cameron Kuriger, Anna McGrath and Martina Peroni. It was the fourth state meet for Parker, a Dartmouth recruit, and she beamed with pride at working with the future of the program while capping her prep career with two top-16 finishes.
Peroni gave the Braves two of their best finishes Feb. 23 at state with fifth-place efforts in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 4.08 seconds) and 500 freestyle (4:58.11). Kuriger was fifth in the 100 butterfly (55.02) and Parker placed 10th in the 200 IM (2:06.18) and 13th in the 500 free (5:06.05).
"I feel like a veteran with all our freshmen. They're only going to get better," Parker said. "I really gave it my all for my last state meet and I had a lot of fun swimming with my teammates one last time.
"I wasn't where I wanted to be coming here so I wanted to see where I could be. The 500 isn't really my forte anymore, probably not (an event) I will swim in college because it's always the same day as the 200 IM, so I wanted to see what I could do. The 200 IM is definitely my favorite race."
Olentangy finished 13th (55 points) behind champion Mason (204) as 55 teams scored.
Kuriger, McGrath, Parker and Peroni also guided the 400 free relay to 16th place (3:35.03).
Peroni, who was the only freshman in the 500 free, dropped 3.11 seconds from the preliminaries Feb. 22 to the final. She was in the odd position during that race of swimming virtually by herself because the adjacent lane was empty.
"When that happens it's all about knowing your pace and your own stroke. You have to trust you are going as fast as you can," Peroni said. "(The prelims) were pretty rough but (Feb. 23) was better. It's been an amazing season, being a freshman and having the chance to be in the top eight."
Kuriger attributed her success to power-based training and a better diet with more water and proteins.
"I've definitely done more endurance work because I am a 200 butterfly (competitor in club swimming), not a 100, so being able to put that work in and show it off here is really amazing," Kuriger said. "A lot of this comes from eating better, too. Being a swimmer, sometimes you think you can eat whatever you want and get away with it, but eating better and drinking more water has been a huge help."
The 200 medley relay of Espy, Kuriger, Parker and Peroni finished 19th (1:48.31).
The state effort concluded a season in which the Braves won the OCC-Buckeye Division championship, their first league title since 2014 when they were in the OCC-Capital.
While the girls team thrived with its youth, the boys also expect to return three district qualifiers in juniors Preston Kuriger and Chris Sabharwal and freshman Max McAlister. All were on the district-qualifying 200 medley and 400 free relays, while Kuriger advanced in the 100 backstroke and 100 free, McAlister qualified in the 100 fly and Sabharwal swam at district in the 100 back and 500 free.
Gymnasts returning to state meet
The gymnastics team will participate in its fourth consecutive state team meet Friday, March 1, at Hilliard Bradley, hoping to continue or better a trend that has seen it improve by two places each of the past two years.
Olentangy finished third (139.65) in the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne behind champion Thornville Sheridan (145.205). Madeline Vouis led the Braves with a second-place finish on balance beam (9.125), a performance that earned her a berth in the state individual meet Saturday, March 2, at Bradley.
Dublin Jerome (139.8) earned the other state team berth.
Also qualifying for the state individual meet were Jaedyn Tucker (tied for fifth, 9.1) and Wen Holmes (sixth, 9.0) on vault.
The top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advanced to the state individual meet.
Lillian Towles was ninth in the all-round (34.9) and Vouis was 19th (33.9).
Olentangy finished ninth as a team at state in 2016, seventh in 2017 and fifth last year.
Six wrestlers qualify for district
Championships for Colton Doup (182 pounds), Jacob Sherman (120) and Nick Varanelli (132) led the wrestling team to second place (166) in a 10-team Division I sectional Feb. 23 at Newark behind Liberty (214.5).
They led six Braves who qualified for district Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Hilliard Darby. Nick Boyarko (170) and Brady Pethtel (145) earned third-place finishes and Vaughn Fowler was fourth at 113.
Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were Gabe Bulugaris (106, fifth, 2-2), Mohammed Hussein (160, fifth, 3-2), Jackson Moses (120, fifth, 3-2), Adam Orndorf (152, fifth, 2-2), Dan DelGratta (195, sixth, 1-3) and Kaden Doup (138, 0-2).
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class will qualify for the state tournament March 7-9 at Ohio State.
Bowling teams head to district tourney
Both the boys and girls bowling teams earned top-10 finishes in their respective Division I sectional tournaments last weekend to qualify for district Saturday, March 2, at HP Lanes.
In the girls sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, Addison Starr finished 11th (554) to lead Olentangy to fourth place (3,394) behind champion Westerville Central (3,777). Also competing were Hannah Lamar (24th, 519), Savannah Claar (29th, 513), Kristen Mullins (tied for 55th, 458) and Ana Oliverio (tied for 105th, 377).
The next day in the boys sectional, Tyler McMaster finished 26th (602) and the team placed seventh (3,871) behind champion Marion Harding (4,336). Also competing were Nick Madaris (tied for 36th, 589), Michael Lamar (tied for 49th, 564), Noah Johnson (tied for 73rd, 526), Ahmed Mohuiddin (162nd, 358) and Jacob Rhinehart (224th, 131).
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state. The girls compete March 8 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, followed by the boys the next day at the same site.
Boys basketball team prepares for Vikings
The boys basketball team's first game in 10 days will come Friday, March 1, when it plays host to 19th-seeded Northland in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Olentangy, which is seeded 16th, is 13-9 and has not played since an 80-76 win at Marysville on Feb. 19. Jake Elmore scored 15 points, all on 3-pointers, and Sean Marks added 14 for the Braves, who scored at least 80 points for the second time this season. They racked up 89 points in a 15-point win over Centennial on Feb. 2 at Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana.
The Vikings, who are 15-6, have not played since losing to Columbus South 65-51 in the City League championship game Feb. 16 at Africentric.
The Olentangy-Northland winner will play sixth-seeded Hilliard Davidson or 29th-seeded Teays Valley in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 6, at a neutral site. That winner will advance to a district final March 9.
The Braves defeated Davidson 61-54 on Feb. 5.
Girls basketball team losing top scorer
After sitting out her junior year to concentrate on volleyball, which she will play at Ohio University, senior forward Olivia Margolies led the girls basketball team in both scoring and rebounding this season.
Margolies averaged 12.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.0 blocks as Olentangy went 10-12, losing at 10th-seeded Liberty 49-36 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 16. She was named first-team all-league.
Sophomore guard Meg Spohn averaged 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals and was second-team all-league. Senior guard Lauren Tarpey was honorable mention all-league.
Other key players eligible to return include junior forward Bailey Cummings, sophomore guard/forward Kennedie Doup and freshman guard Bridget Stafford.
Doup set the program's sophomore scoring record with 31 points in a 72-50 win at Caledonia River Valley on Nov. 27, the Braves' best individual and team scoring output of the season.
Doup averaged 6.6 points.
Hockey team falls to UA
The hockey team's season came to an end Feb. 23 with a 4-1 loss to second-seeded Upper Arlington in a district quarterfinal at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Kyle Gavin scored and goaltender Dominik Rusnak made 19 saves for the seventh-seeded Braves, who finished 19-10-0-3.