The Pickerington High School North girls swimming team's 200-yard freestyle relay was fine with gaining some time between the preliminaries and finals at last weekend's Division I state meet, as long as it wasn't too much time.

The relay finished the season achieving one of its top goals, finishing 15th in 1 minute, 39.21 seconds Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton with senior Grace Cherryhomes, junior Lindsey Keaton and sophomores Rylee Kreinbrink and Lilian Muszynski. That was .34 of a second slower from preliminaries the previous day, but still well under the 1:40 mark the relay wanted to avoid.

"It's hard to keep that fast time at the end after all the tapering and all the weeks of work, so to go under 1:40 is special to actually achieve," Cherryhomes said. "We did better than I thought we would do. I am tremendously proud of these girls pushing themselves throughout the year to get to where we are. Making it here was our big thing in two relays. Making it back (to the 200 free final) was such an accomplishment, something I really wanted."

The relay earned North four points and a tie for 46th place with Perrysburg, Wadsworth and Whitehouse Anthony Wayne behind champion Mason (204) as 55 teams scored.

Cherryhomes, Keaton, Kreinbrink and sophomore Regan Turnbull were on the 18th-place 200 medley relay (1:48.04), Kreinbrink finished 17th in the 100 butterfly (56.64) and Keaton was 18th in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.41).

Keaton and Kreinbrink were participating in their second consecutive state meet as individuals.

"I was happy to get here and drop the time I did," Keaton said. "I just missed (finals) in the (100 fly), so I will get after that next year and hopefully make it."

A combined 13 district qualifiers -- seven girls and six boys -- are eligible to return.

In addition to Keaton, Kreinbrink, Muszynski and Turnbull, other district qualifiers expected back for the girls team are junior Kate Kinley (400 free relay) and sophomores Emily Hardness (400 free relay) and Sydney Hopkins (100 backstroke).

District competitors eligible to return on the boys side are juniors Connor Daniel (100 back, 200 individual medley, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay), Jon Mason (200 medley relay) and Spencer White (200 free, 500 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay), sophomores Nicholas Clemons (diving) and Nathan Ojeda-Pesa (200 free relay) and freshman Gavin Mumma (200 free relay, 200 medley relay, 500 free relay).

"We're a young team. Our seniors will be missed and there was a decent number of them, but there's a lot of talent in the younger groups," coach Justin Dortch said. "Hopefully, we get more relays (to state). Kids are looking to step up and we're just going to keep getting better."

Boys team, Robinson advance in bowling

The boys bowling team and girls bowler Alana Robinson will compete in their respective Division I district tournaments Saturday, March 2, at HP Lanes.

Led by Steven Vance's 12th-place finish (633 three-game series), the boys team finished fifth (3,920) of 42 teams at sectional Feb. 23 at HP Lanes as the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district.

Also scoring for North were Kyle Mace (tied for 36th, 589), Justin Turnau (42nd, 573), Ethan Yuko (tied for 77th, 524), Jacob Dollmatsch (149th, 396) and Alex Zumock (239th, 107).

In the girls sectional Feb. 22 at HP Lanes, Robinson earned an individual district berth by placing 27th (516). The Panthers finished 28th (2,681) behind champion Westerville Central (3,777) as 37 teams scored.

Kathryn Van Court finished 96th (398), followed by Piper Clark (124th, 352), Evy Vance (tied for 125th, 350), Sienna Reedus (167th, 227) and Shea Dooley (188th, 135).

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

Ten wrestlers qualify for district tourney

The wrestling team will take a large group on the road this weekend as 10 of its 11 competitors at a 10-team Division I sectional Feb. 23 at Marysville qualified for the Central/Northeast/Northwest district tournament Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at Mentor.

Josiah George (182 pounds), Erik Gomez (113) and Braden Watts (195) all earned runner-up finishes at sectional to lead North to 161.5 points and second place behind Ashland (315). The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.

Other district qualifiers were Kyle Coffey (160, third, 3-1), Will Herdman (145, third, 2-1), Elliot Mahaffey (170, third, 2-1), Macston Reed (106, third, 2-1), Rajesh Bomjan (120, fourth, 1-2), Elijah Clarke (152, fourth, 2-2) and Tyce Neu (heavyweight, fourth, 1-2).

Titus Mahaffey went 1-2 at 138 and placed fifth.

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

Boys basketball team downs Warriors

The boys basketball team opened the Division I district tournament with a 56-36 home win over 42nd-seeded Watkins Memorial in a first-round game Feb. 23, a win the fifth-seeded Panthers hoped would begin a run to their second district championship in three years.

Jack Sawyer had a game-high 29 points and Hunter Shedenhelm scored 10 to lead North, which is 19-4 and will play host to 41st-seeded Briggs in the second round Friday, March 1.

When it came to placing his team on the tournament bracket, coach Jason Bates chose the route less traveled and opted for a potential district final matchup against second-seeded Hilliard Bradley. The Panthers had lost to top-seeded Dublin Coffman 72-66 on Jan. 8 and fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 75-64 on Jan. 26 and split two games with third-seeded Pickerington Central, losing 80-67 on Dec. 7 before a 65-55 win on Jan. 18.

"I thought we'd try our hand with Bradley considering we haven't seen them. Winning a district championship is never easy," Bates said. "Based on our record and the teams we've beaten and lost to, including three that are ranked better than us, we got a pretty good draw."

The North-Briggs winner plays 10th-seeded Canal Winchester or 25th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 6, at a site to be announced. The Panthers defeated Canal Winchester 92-63 on Feb. 5 and Jerome 52-44 on Feb. 12.

The semifinal winner advances to a district final March 9 at Greater Columbus Convention Center.

"The key to winning this time of year is controlling the game and playing your style," Bates said. "Anything can happen. Look at last year (when top-seeded North lost to Mount Vernon in a district semifinal). Several of our guys were around for that loss. It's something we can draw on and learn from."

Girls basketball team falls to Eagles

The girls basketball team took an early lead in a Division I district tournament second-round game Feb. 22 at Watterson, but fell to the fourth-seeded Eagles 37-31 to finish 8-15.

North led 11-8 after the first quarter but trailed 22-16 at halftime. Mickale Bates and Malea Bess each scored eight points to lead the 20th-seeded Panthers, who had a first-round bye and finished the season with six consecutive losses.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave