Luke Walden hasn't been pole-vaulting for long, but the sophomore has made his mark for the Olentangy Berlin High School boys track and field team.
After only 18 months in the event, Walden owns the program record and became the first league champion for the Bears in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet, which concluded May 11 at Hilliard Davidson.
Walden cleared 13 feet, 6 inches to capture the league title. Earlier in the season, he cleared 14-0 to set the bar for Berlin boys vaulters.
"It all about consistency, hitting those positions and a lot of offseason training," Walden said. "If you can go in during the offseason and you can put in the work, you definitely will see it in your heights."
Vaulting coach Whitney Bice credits the success to Walden's attention to detail.
"Luke used to dive into his jumps, but now he's jumping off the ground," said Bice, a 2012 Olentangy graduate who vaulted for the Braves. "He's tweaking everything in the little spots and it's making him so much better. He knows how to pole vault. It's just that he's making each little part better. It's gotten him to where he is right now."
Teammate Ian Poehler placed sixth in the event in the league meet with a 12-6. Walden said the two make each other better.
"It's very helpful having Ian there," Walden said. "Just knowing that any moment he could creep up keeps me on my toes. I have to make my jumps."
Bice said the two vaulters work hard in an effort to stay within striking distance of one another.
"At the beginning of the season, Luke would win a meet then Ian would win a meet and Luke would win the next," she said. "They have this thing where they have to stay within six inches of each other. When Luke hit 14-0 and Ian had only hit 13-0, he was like, 'I'm out of my 6-inch gap.' So the next meet, (Poehler) jumped 13-6. They always have to be a jump away from each other. I love that they keep that competition to motivate them."
Walden said winning the league title was a step toward possible postseason success. The Bears are competing in the Division II, district 1 meet, which began May 14 and 15 and concludes Saturday, May 18, at Westerville North. The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 23 and 25 at Lexington.
"It's a confidence-booster going into district," he said. "I'm starting to hit 13-6 consistently and if I can hit that, I definitely should be going on to regional."
Also in the league meet, Corey Rinehart was third in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 34.01 seconds) as the Bears finished seventh (42 points) behind champion Hilliard Darby (141).
In the shot put, Noah Dursik was fifth (44-3) and Gabe Chrysler was sixth (44-0). Jalen Weitzel was sixth in the long jump (19-7 1/2).
The girls team also had two vaulters place. Maggie Conrad was runner-up (8-6) and Taylor Stark was sixth (8-0) as Berlin finished seventh (38) behind champion Darby (183).
Anne Freeman placed third in the shot put (36-0) and Skylar Stevenson was sixth in the long jump (15-2).
Baseball team begins district competition
The 11th-seeded baseball team played host to 18th-seeded Columbus South on May 14 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
The winner plays at fifth-seeded Licking Valley on Thursday, May 16, in the second round. That winner faces second-seeded Lakewood, 14th-seeded Caledonia River Valley or 22nd-seeded Beechcroft in a district semifinal Monday, May 20, at a neutral site.
The district final is Wednesday, May 22, at a neutral site with top-seeded Hartley or seventh-seeded DeSales as possible opponents.
The regional semifinal is May 30 at Ohio University.
The Bears ended the regular season with four consecutive wins to improve to 14-12 overall and finish 8-6 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Girls lacrosse team opens postseason
The 11th-seeded girls lacrosse team is 9-9 entering its postseason opener at sixth-seeded Hartley on Thursday, May 16, in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 tournament.
The winner plays third-seeded Granville or 13th-seeded Chillicothe in a quarterfinal Saturday, May 18, at the home of the better seed. That winner plays Tuesday, May 21, in a regional semifinal at the home of the better seed, with second-seeded Columbus Academy as a possible opponent.
The regional final is May 24 at a neutral site.
Boys lacrosse team falls to Vikings
The boys lacrosse team lost at third-seeded Academy 20-7 on May 13 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 tournament.
The 15th-seeded Bears finished 2-15.
Berlin closed the regular season by defeating Granville 13-11 on May 10 as Jack Nebraska and Gavin Angell both had five goals. Goalie Sam Warner had 13 saves.
Boys volleyball team set for postseason
The boys volleyball team is seeded 10th in the Division II East Region tournament and opens Saturday, May 18, against seventh-seeded Eastmoor Academy at St. Charles.
The winner advances to play top-seeded and host St. Charles later that day. That winner moves on to play in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at a site to be determined.
The regional final is May 24 at Westerville Central.
The Bears are 3-18 overall and finished 1-13 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Berlin closed the regular season by losing to Eastmoor 25-21, 25-20 18-25, 19-25, 17-15 on May 8.
Softball team falls to Highland
The 14th-seeded softball team won its first postseason game, defeating 13th-seeded and host Buckeye Valley 10-6 on May 7 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.
The Bears then lost at sixth-seeded Sparta Highland 10-0 in five innings May 10 in the second round to finish 8-15 overall.
"Overall, the season went really well," said coach Jenna Haskins, whose team tied Dublin Scioto for fifth (5-9) in the OCC-Cardinal behind champion Delaware (14-0). "The girls got along well and we know we can only get better. We have a good core and we should come back strong."
Junior Kirsten Kracht (SS) led the Bears in batting average (.458), home runs (4), runs (23), triples (6), on-base percentage (.512) and slugging percentage (.833). She also had 16 RBI.
Sophomore Allie Burkhart (1B) batted .384 with two homers, 13 RBI and 16 runs, and junior Blythe Beaumont (C/3B) hit .343 with 13 RBI. Sophomore Maia Crumb (C/OF) batted .328 with four homers and led Berlin in RBI (18) and doubles (7).
Freshmen Kali Bateman and Ally Siegrist were the team's pitchers.
Boys tennis team ends season at sectional
The boys tennis team competed in a Division II sectional tournament May 9 at Academy but did not have any athletes advance to district.
The Bears did not win a postseason match. Junior Vishnu Dasaka, sophomore Akhil Damarla and freshman Kathir Maarikarthykeyan played singles. Sophomore Brody Edgson and freshman Ansh Arora comprised one doubles team, and sophomore Jack Webb and freshman Adithya Balachandar teamed to form the other.
"It was a good learning and growing experience for the boys," said coach James Savinell, whose team finished 2-14 overall and eighth (0-7) in the OCC-Cardinal behind champion Dublin Jerome (7-0). "We're beginning to build the program and we're excited to get things going in the offseason. The boys handled the season well and we had a high level of morale throughout."