When seniors Molly Troutman and Lauren Ringhiser were freshmen in 2016, the Gahanna Lincoln High School softball team earned the No. 1 seed and captured its fourth consecutive Division I district title.
The Lions entered this year's district tournament without the accolades as the No. 9 seed and with nearly double-digit losses, but they landed in familiar territory as a district championship team.
In 19 seasons under coach Jim Campolo, Gahanna has won 12 district titles, including seven in a row and 10 in 12 seasons.
The Lions beat 18th-seeded Newark 4-2 in a district semifinal May 14 and defeated 15th-seeded Watterson 4-0 in a district final May 17 at Pickerington Central to improve to 17-9. They played Mount Vernon in a regional semifinal May 22 at Ohio State, with the winner facing Westerville Central or Grove City in a regional final Saturday, May 25, at Ohio State.
The regional champion plays Mason, Liberty Township Lakota East, West Chester Lakota West or Harrison in a state semifinal May 31 at Firestone Stadium in Akron. The state final is June 1 at the same site.
"We've been here a lot, and this is my fourth (district title)," Ringhiser said. "It's really exciting."
In the district final, Watterson loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning before Ringhiser ended the threat by striking out three consecutive batters. The Eagles also had two runners on in the fourth but didn't score.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ringhiser led off with a single, Sam Lindsey doubled to deep center and Alaina Marcum followed with a triple off the wall in right to drive in two runs.
Caroline Heller then flew to deep center and the ball went off the fielder's glove, scoring Marcum to make it 3-0.
A solo home run by Troutman to lead off the fifth completed the scoring.
"Basically, we struggled a little bit at first with our hits and were popping everything up, but we just all came together collectively," Marcum said. "My first at-bat, I popped up and I just stood back in the box and thought the next pitch that comes down I'm just going to hit it, and I hit it.
"It's almost like a legacy for us. We own the district."
Girls track team adds to title streak
The girls track and field team also won its seventh consecutive Division I district championship, scoring 186 points in the 14-team district 2 meet that concluded May 18 at Hilliard Darby.
The latest showing of the Lions' depth came in the form of eight first-place finishes, double placements in six events and advancing all four relays to the regional, which began May 22 and concludes Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North.
The top four finishers in each regional event advance to the state meet May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
Brooke Johnson won the shot put (44 feet, 1 1/4 inches) and was third in the discus (103-7) and Joi Bradley placed second in the 400 meters (58.0 seconds) and fourth in the 200 (26.41).
Also winning district titles were Alexis Thigpen in the 400 (57.68), Madison Martinez in the 800 (2:11.29), Alyssa Shope in the 1,600 (5:14.42), Faith Hunter in the high jump (5-7), the 800 relay of Bradley, Thigpen, Shynae Deas and Shaina Rutledge (1:42.31), the 1,600 relay of Deas, Martinez, Trinity Houpe and Thigpen (3:53.78) and the 3,200 relay of Thigpen, Deas, Megan Massmann and Martinez (9:24.63).
Also placing second were Houpe in the 300 hurdles (46.28), Bronte Johnson in the discus (105-6), Lacey Stringer in the shot put (41-6 1/4) and the 400 relay of Kaylan Hairston, Ciarra Carter, Nya Bailey and Rutledge (49.76).
Also advancing to regional were Sara Buckner in the 3,200 (fourth, 12:18.22), Carter in the long jump (fourth, 17-5 3/4), Sophia Hill in the high jump (fourth, 5-0), Amanda Lee in the 100 hurdles (fourth, 15.55), Massmann in the 800 (third, 2:22.51) and Lauren Stringer in the 300 hurdles (third, 46.72).
The boys team scored 59.5 points in the 16-team district 2 meet that concluded May 18 at Darby to finish sixth behind champion Pickerington North (84).
The 3,200 relay of Donovan Hight, Riley Jackson, Ben Towner and Caleb Shovlin finished first in 8:04.65.
Also advancing to regional were Lee Bennett in the 100 (third, 11.33), Jackson in the 3,200 (fourth, 9:59.01), Ache' Sanchez-Baccus in the shot put (fourth, 50-11 1/4), Towler in the 1,600 (fourth, 4:27.91), Kelly Wilson in the 110 hurdles (third, 15.0) and the 800 relay of Bennett, Derrick Bradley, Mateo Jones and Blaiden Kirk (fourth, 1:30.86).
Senior LaCarr Trent, who was state runner-up in the 100 the past two seasons, could be done for the season. He had the fastest preliminary time in the 100 (10.77) but was unable to compete in the final because of a tight hamstring.
Trent and Jayden Hill, who also was unable to compete at district because of injury, could be options in the 800 relay if their health permits.
"It's definitely unfortunate," coach Shawn Johnston said. "Guys stepped up across the board, which was great to see. ... (It) has definitely been a season of adversity."
Boys volleyball team advances in region
The third-seeded boys volleyball team was 22-3 before playing fourth-seeded Dublin Jerome in a Division I East Region semifinal May 21 at Mount Vernon.
The winner plays second-seeded Mount Vernon or seventh-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a regional final Friday, May 24, at Westerville Central. The regional champion advances to a state quarterfinal June 1 at Capital.
Gahanna beat 10th-seeded Hilliard Davidson 25-19, 25-16, 27-25 in a regional quarterfinal May 18.
The Lions had a 21-match winning streak snapped May 14 when they lost to host Darby 25-19, 25-19 in the OCC Challenge. Darby is the East Region's top seed.
Baseball squad reaches district semi
The fifth-seeded baseball team was 18-7 before playing 15th-seeded Central Crossing in a Division I district semifinal May 20.
The winner played top-seeded New Albany or 20th-seeded Groveport in a district final May 22. The district champion plays Olentangy Liberty, Canal Winchester, Pickerington Central or Upper Arlington in a regional semifinal May 30 at Dublin Coffman.
In an 8-7 victory over 37th-seeded Thomas Worthington in a second-round game May 15, the Lions scored five runs in the top of the first inning but gave up one run in the fourth and six in the fifth.
Gahanna tied the game at 7 in the fifth and scored the winning run in the seventh when Max Bowman drew a bases-loaded walk after Noah Laurent was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Evan Wolf picked up the victory in relief. John Belli had three hits and Zach Marzetz drove in two runs.
"We were fortunate to pull it out," coach Mike Shade said. "Thomas Worthington hit the baseball. We got into a dogfight."
Tennis duo falls at district tourney
Junior Kyle Fout and sophomore Aoi Higuchi of the boys tennis team lost to Olentangy's Sam Routzahn and Omar Khayat 6-3, 6-4 in a first-round doubles match in the Division I district tournament May 16 at Reynoldsburg.
Fout and Higuchi entered district after becoming the first doubles team to win a sectional title under Chris Schwinnen, who completed his 10th season as coach.
"Aoi is a very good player," Schwinnen said. "Once we knew Aoi was going to be here in the fall, they've developed a really good friendship."
Gahanna, which finished 12-2 overall and won the OCC-Ohio Division at 5-0, had no seniors in its lineup but will be losing two starters in Higuchi, an exchange student from Japan, and junior Pierre Christiaen, an exchange student from France.
Higuchi split time between first and second singles and Christiaen played doubles.
Christiaen teamed with sophomore Zach Wunderlin to reach the second round of the sectional held May 9 and 11 at Pickerington Central.
Also eligible to return are sophomore Nick Wunderlin, who reached a sectional quarterfinal in singles, and sophomores Thomas Giles and Shawn Ugbana, who lost in the first and second round at sectional, respectively.
Sophomore Jacob McFall is another eligible to return.
Boys lacrosse team 'learned a lot'
The boys lacrosse team should return a pair of strong juniors in Mason Hall (attacker/midfielder) and Aidan O'Harra (goalkeeper) as it looks to improve next season under Brad Tarbutton, who took over as coach this season.
The Lions finished 3-15 overall and 1-6 in the OCC-Central, defeating Newark 18-0 on April 30 in league play. Gahanna also beat Westerville North (10-9 on March 15) and Johnstown (19-6 on May 7).
On May 14, the 15th-seeded Lions lost to third-seeded New Albany 18-0 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament.
There were six seniors in the program.
"We had a great group of seniors, but it's a pretty small class," Tarbutton said. "We've got a young team and our youth program is growing. They're learning a whole new defense, a new offense and a new way of doing things. They learned a lot. We're going to regroup and get better."
Sophomore midfielder Mykohl Martin also was among the team's top offensive players, according to Tarbutton.
Others eligible to return include junior midfielders Steven Dong, Ben Herman, Dylan Inman, Michael Leibas, Dominic Pernotto, Zane Thayer and Carson Wilson, sophomore defender Braeden Henry, sophomore attackers Zacc Hoffman, Maciah Houpe and Colton Ramsey and freshman defender Josh Knuckles.
Girls lacrosse team losing six seniors
Seeded 14th, the girls lacrosse team lost to fifth-seeded Dublin Scioto 18-3 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 13 to finish 7-10 overall.
The Lions went 1-5 in the OCC-Central, posting their only league victory against Marysville, 18-8 on April 11.
Gahanna is losing six seniors, including midfielder Sydney Ankrim, goalie Lexi Bochenek and attacker Melanie Whalen. The team also is losing coach Maggie Maley, who is stepping down after two seasons.
"I have decided to resign after this year, which was a difficult decision, but this is a wonderful program and will continue to grow and improve as our youth program grows," Maley said. "We had a wonderful season despite several unfortunate injuries. We had several younger players step up and fill important roles on our team."
Junior midfielder Julia Foresi had 54 goals and 14 assists and freshman midfielder Kenzie Streby scored 36 goals.
Others eligible to return include juniors Julie Bray (defender), Emma Hasenstab (attacker) and Nevaeh Lashley (goalie/defender) and sophomores Emma Burkhart (defen-der), Gabby D'alberto (attacker), Brooke Gates (defender), Rachael King (attacker), Anna Linnabary (attacker) and Haley Meheren (goalie).