The Big Walnut High School girls bowling team has produced many program and personal records this season, including its first state tournament appearance.
The Golden Eagles totaled 3,629 pins in the 16-team Division I district tournament March 2 at HP Lanes to finish runner-up to Westerville Central (3,785) and ahead of third-place Westerville South (3,465).
The top three teams advanced to state held March 8 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
"We've all just had an amazing season, and in the last two weeks we've really come together to place second, which is something we've never done at this school. And to be able to do it our senior season is really cool," senior Kaitlyn Morrison said.
Morrison finished second of 104 bowlers with a career-best 636 three-game series. Briggs' Dakota Fink won the district title with a 708 and had six consecutive strikes in both her second and third games and did not have an open frame.
Others competing for the Golden Eagles were Anna Tanner (10th, 553), Ashleigh Westervelt (22nd, 511), Autumn Leidtke (tied for 39th, 471) and Caitlyn Lambert (61st, 431).
"We know just how close we are to (Central), and that drives us to do our best," Morrison said. "We just keep pushing, because we know how close we are."
Braden Buchs rolled a 567 series to lead the boys team, which finished ninth (3,701) of 16 teams at district, as Central (4,243), Marion Harding (4,216) and Westerville South (4,015) advanced to state held March 9 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Buchs finished 37th of 106 bowlers as Whitehall's Jason Kefauver (654) earned the third and final individual state qualifying spot.
Johnny Lemaster (44th, 560) was next for the Golden Eagles, followed by Bryan Mengel (66th, 520), Jacob Bowens (67th, 512) and Erin Hoover (tied for 89th, 313).
Boys team comes up short against Tigers
The boys basketball team hung with third-seeded Pickerington Central in a Division I district semifinal March 6 at Gahanna, but fell short in its bid for a second consecutive upset.
The 26th-seeded Golden Eagles lost to the Tigers 49-39 after opening the postseason by beating 15th-seeded and host Gahanna 59-52 in a second-round game March 1.
Carson Becker hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter against Central, including one that gave Big Walnut a 21-20 lead at halftime.
"That gave us a lot of momentum going into halftime, and we knew then that nearly wasn't our best half of basketball," senior guard Jordan Koebel said.
Central went up by as many as eight points in the third quarter and led 36-33 entering the fourth. The Tigers closed the game on an 11-3 run.
Brody Lawhun had 12 points to lead the Golden Eagles, who finished 15-9 overall. Kegan Hienton added 10 points and Becker scored nine against Central, which improved to 24-1 and played seventh-seeded Reynoldsburg in a district final March 9.
Against Gahanna, Hienton had a game-high 20 points, Nathan Montgomery scored 14 and Lawhun added 13.
"I'm really proud of how hard we fought," Koebel said. "Nobody expected us to beat Gahanna and probably thought we'd get blown out by (Central)."
Young wrestlers hope to learn from season
Several freshmen gained vital experience this season for the wrestling team, but that youth made the Golden Eagles' postseason even more of a challenge.
Juniors Max Lenz (220 pounds) and Ryan Coletta (152) competed in the Division I district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby, where Big Walnut finished 29th (10 points) behind champion Dublin Coffman (170) as 36 teams scored.
Lenz went 3-3 and placed sixth after losing to Olentangy Liberty's Kaden Tong 11-3 in the fifth-place match. Coletta, who was a sectional champion, went 0-2.
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the state tournament March 7-9 at Ohio State.
"We're going to lose senior leadership, but we're getting our sectional champ (Coletta) back, and we're getting our district placer (Lenz) back," first-year coach Aaron Renner said. "I think the kids are already working hard in the weight room, and we have our offseason goals set and look for a strong run next year."
Senior Josh Halbakken (170, 41-7 overall) finished fifth at sectional and was a district alternate.
Big Walnut also is losing seniors Levi Piceno (126, 10-14) and Drew Armstrong (138, 13-16).
In addition to Lenz (37-11) and Coletta (37-12), other expected returnees include juniors Christian Jodrey (120, 13-12) and Noah Hines (heavyweight, 2-26), sophomore Cali Lang (113, 12-16) and freshmen Wyatt Lenz (195, 11-15), Gavin Miller (160, 18-16), Austin O'Malley (182, 11-19), Lawrence O'Malley (145, 22-15), Andrew Parker (106, 20-19) and Grayson Segars (132, 6-13).
"The freshmen came along just like we wanted them to, and they stepped up big in the OCC matches," Renner said.
Big Walnut went 13-7 in dual matches and finished at 3-2 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie with New Albany and Newark for second behind Groveport (5-0).
Halbakken and Max Lenz were first-team all-league, Parker and Segars were second-team all-league and Coletta, Lang, Wyatt Lenz, Austin O'Malley, Lawrence O'Malley and Piceno were honorable mention all-league.