When she reflects on her time competing in track and field at Reynoldsburg High School, senior Nia Amerson will remember the laughter, the fireworks she and her teammates got to enjoy during some meets and the way they motivated each other to improve.
Last year's OCC-Ohio Division champion in the discus, Amerson had eyes on her first Division I state berth and was off to a good start during the indoor season over the winter.
The outdoor league meet begins Thursday, May 9, with the girls discus competition starting at 4 p.m., and concludes Saturday, May 11, at Groveport, but Amerson won't be among the athletes competing.
She's come to some practices and meets this spring but only to encourage her teammates after a heart issue ended her career in the sport shortly before what would have been her final prep season this spring.
Amerson was born with two holes in her heart -- each was the size of a quarter -- which led to her having congestive heart failure, but the defect wasn't discovered until January during the indoor track season.
"I was complaining about not being able to walk up the stairs and was having a hard time making it to class on time because of my breathing," Amerson said. "Every single time I went to the hospital, they'd say that nothing was wrong with me and send me home with (an asthma inhaler). The day I had a track meet (Jan. 13), I felt weird within my chest and was able to hear my heartbeat louder than I was supposed to. They took me to the hospital and thought I had pulled a muscle and they were going to send me home."
According to her mother, April Amerson, Nia had been squatting more than 200 pounds during a workout a few days before the indoor meet in January, which led doctors to believe her symptoms might have been muscular, but that changed after doctors examined an X-ray.
"From her appearance, it didn't look like anything was wrong," April said. "She had expressed that she hadn't been feeling good and said let's go to urgent care just to see what they find and so that she wouldn't miss school during the week. The doctors asked what's going on. She wasn't breathing hard, but her stomach was moving up and down in her chest. When he came back to look at the ultrasound machine, her heart looked enlarged and he saw that she did have fluid on her lungs, so they said, 'What hospital would she like to be transferred to?' It got a little serious at that point and I got a little scared."
Once Amerson was transferred to Riverside Methodist Hospital, doctors determined she had suffered congestive heart failure, and an echocardiogram the next day revealed the holes in her heart. Rather than perform open-heart surgery, doctors proceeded with a more non-invasive procedure up through her groin to cover the holes.
She has had one episode since that time in which her heart began to beat rapidly because of elevated cardiac enzyme levels, persuading Amerson to give up competing in track even though she had become one of the area's best throwers.
As a sophomore, Amerson finished fifth in the discus at district with a toss of 112 feet, 2 inches. She missed advancing to regional by four inches.
Last spring, she earned the OCC-Ohio title (111-9), was district runner-up (112-9) and finished ninth at regional (105-1).
"The cardiologist released her back to track, but after that episode, we went to see another heart specialist," her mother said. "He said if it was his daughter he wouldn't let her compete because when you strain in the discus, your heart lets off cardiac enzymes.
"Throughout this whole thing, Nia has had a very positive spirit. She was kind of let down because she couldn't do track and was getting college letters so it hurt her that she couldn't compete, but being positive, she'd go over and help the other kids. Even going to the hospital and getting ready to go to surgery I was the crybaby and she never expressed any concern or fear. She was like, 'Hey it's OK,' with a smile. She's handled this very well."
According to Scott Webster, who is Reynoldsburg's shot put and discus coach, Amerson was "probably going to vie for a spot at the state meet this year."
Instead, she has turned her attention to another thing she loves and plans to attend the Columbus College of Art and Design, where she is considering studying animation and design.
According to her mother, Amerson has become more "free with her drawings and (hasn't been) afraid of trying different things" artistically since her surgery.
"I'm still recovering now and I have to take things slower," Amerson said. "It kind of just came out of nowhere, but I was cool the whole time. I was actually doing well (in track), but (the heart problem) just caught up to me. I do art. I'm self-taught and do sketches, painting and characters. I want to do a lot of things."
Tennis team set for sectional play
The boys tennis team is the host program for one of the four sites for the Division I sectional, which will be held Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11.
Many of the area's top players will be in attendance, including defending state champion and No. 1 seed Robert Cash of New Albany and defending state doubles champions Nathan Jose and Devin Boyer of New Albany.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 16 and 18 at Reynoldsburg.
In singles for the Raiders, senior Boban Mihajlov opens against Olentangy's Ayush Sunkad, senior Preston Harmon opens against Olentangy Orange's Dillon Messick and freshman James Knorr opens against Orange's Zach Shaver.
In doubles, seniors Gunnar Green and Sean Burns open against Boyer and Jose, and senior Chase Cotner and sophomore Brian McClain open against Chillicothe's Jonah Halm and Garrett Anders.
In the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament, the Raiders were planning to play Delaware at some point before sectional, with the winner to face Marysville at a date to be announced.
Reynoldsburg was 10-8 before facing the Pacers.
Tourney arrives in baseball, softball
The 29th-seeded softball team opened the Division I district tournament May 6 at home against 39th-seeded Westerville South.
The winner played May 8 at 11th-seeded Pickerington Central in a second-round game, and that winner plays 10th-seeded Teays Valley or 45th-seeded Franklin Heights in a district semifinal Monday, May 13, at a neutral site. The district final is May 17 or 18 at Central.
Reynoldsburg was 7-15 overall heading into the tournament. The Raiders lost to Lancaster 12-1 on May 1 to finish 0-10 in the OCC-Ohio.
The baseball team is seeded 32nd for the Division I district tournament and will open Monday, May 13, at 21st-seeded Canal Winchester. The winner plays at 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto on Wednesday, May 15, in a second-round game.
Before facing Central on May 6 and Pickerington North on May 8, the Raiders were 8-13 overall and 1-10 in the OCC-Ohio. They beat Ready 21-2 on May 4.
In addition to playing host to Lancaster on Friday, May 10, Reynoldsburg has a league game to make up at Grove City on Thursday, May 9. The Raiders' league win was a 7-3 decision over Grove City on April 10. They also lost to the Greyhounds 11-8 on April 12.