Kai Britz of the Thomas Worthington High School boys tennis team lost his only match in the Division I state tournament.
But the senior knows that just qualifying for the state tournament, which was held May 24 and 25 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, was an achievement in itself.
"I worked for this for a long time and I came up just short of making state the past two years," Britz said after placing second in singles in the district tournament that concluded May 18 at Reynoldsburg. "The goal was just to compete there."
A three-time district qualifier, Britz lost 6-3, 6-3 to Massillon Jackson's Cyprien Voisvenel in the first round at state.
"He won 25 matches this year by the time you add them all up," coach Andrew Sinclair said of Britz. "He had a great run and was the first player from Thomas to play at state since Casey Cempre (in 2011)."
Britz finished 25-5, with his other four losses coming against St. Charles' Reece Yakubov, including 6-0, 6-1 in the district final and 6-4, 6-1 in the sectional final May 11 at Reynoldsburg.
"He beat Suriya Sundaram of Columbus Academy, who played doubles in the postseason and won the Division II state title," Sinclair said. "It was a dream season overall for Kai."
The Cardinals are losing three other seniors in Steve Jackman, Xander King and Aaron Zeller.
At sectional, Jackman went 0-1 in singles and Zeller teamed with junior Deep Gupta and went 2-1 and reached a district-qualifying match. Junior Mitch Button and sophomore Ryley Briones also went 2-1 and lost a district-qualifying match in doubles, and sophomore Will Newberry went 2-1 and reached a district-qualifying match in singles.
"We reached quarterfinals on four of five courts at sectional, but just came up short of reaching district on three of them," Sinclair said. "But it was a great season and I was happy with the way the boys worked and competed."
The Cardinals finished 12-6 overall and went 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal to place third behind Jerome (7-0) and Kilbourne (6-1).
Girls track team reaches state meet in five events
Led by sisters Gia and Carina Napoleon, the girls track and field team qualified for the Division I state meet Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State in five events.
Competing in the regional meet that concluded May 24 at Pickerington North, Gia Napoleon won the 800 meters in 2 minutes, 8.65 seconds, just missing the regional record of 2:08.23 that she set in 2017.
"Gia is just incredible," coach Andy Cox said. "She is the most humble elite athlete I have ever coached. She just goes out and runs. She just took it to another gear in the last 100 meters and she continues to surprise me because she has it whenever she needs it."
The 3,200 relay of Lydia Miller, Morgan Edwards and the Napoleons also won (9:03.05), and Carina Napoleon was runner-up in the 1,600 (4:58.18) and anchored the third-place 1,600 relay behind Gia Napoleon, Sarah Charley and Sarah Alderman (3:57.42).
"Carina finished second in the (1,600) despite getting boxed in for 3 1/2 laps," Cox said. "She had to sprint the final 300 meters, but she got the monkey off her back. She desperately wanted to qualify for state as an individual for the first time and she got that done. But we're already working on race strategy for state because she can't get boxed in like that again."
Charley also qualified for state in the long jump by placing second (17 feet, 7 1/2 inches).
"Sarah is amazing," Cox said. "She barely got into the finals and then she came out with three strong jumps in the finals. She just stays so focused. She combined her talents with such a mental toughness. It's great and it's fun to watch her compete in anything."
Also competing at regional were Miller in the 1,600 (sixth, 5:06.48), Breanne Beatty in the 300 hurdles (seventh, 45.87) and 100 hurdles (10th, 15.85) and Leila Boussedra in the 3,200 (eighth, 11:30.01).
The top four finishers in each event automatically advanced to state. In addition, two at-large berths were awarded in each event based on time, height or distance statewide.
"Lydia Miller dropped six seconds off her best (time in the 1,600) and was disappointed not to get an at-large state berth," Cox said. "Like Carina, she was hoping to make it to state in an individual event. But she's strong in the (3,200 relay) and she's going to have a great senior year next season. I also see Leila getting better and better in the next three years.
"Breanne had a personal record in the 300 hurdles. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get to state, but when your last open race is the best of your career, you can't ask for anything more."
The Cardinals totaled 48 points at regional to place fifth behind champion Gahanna (89) as 38 teams scored.
Justin Braun led the boys team at regional by placing second in the 400 (47.53) and joining Theory Schroder, Ali Jalloh and Macario Etienne on the fourth-place 1,600 relay (3:19.65).
"We were thrilled by advancing to state in those events," coach Bill Darling said. "Justin is a freshman who was runner-up in the 400 in a very tough region in that event. On the (1,600 relay), only Theory had regional experience going into the meet and now they'll get some experience at state, so that's exciting."
Also competing at regional were Schroder in the 300 hurdles (sixth, 39.52), Zubin Jha in the 3,200 (sixth, 9:30.5), Luke Srsic in the pole vault (10th, 13-0) and the 400 relay of Bernard Oteng, Sony Kipre, Jayvaun Lane and Jalloh (11th, 44.38).
"Zubin and Theory both ran very well and will have strong senior seasons," Darling said. "Zubin had a (personal record) in the 3,200."
The Cardinals finished 12th (19) behind champion Pickerington Central (101) as 42 teams scored.
Girls team seeking 'breakout' in 2020
The girls lacrosse team will need to replace seven seniors, including five starters, next season when it will look to improve on a 13-8 overall record.
The third-seeded Cardinals saw their season end with a 17-6 loss to top-seeded Upper Arlington in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal May 20. They opened the postseason May 14 by defeating 13th-seeded Hilliard Davidson 17-5 and beat sixth-seeded Pickerington Central 17-6 in a regional quarterfinal May 16.
Thomas finished 6-1 in the OCC-Cardinal to place second behind Jerome (7-0). The Cardinals lost to the Celtics 13-11 on April 10.
The senior starters were Tori Banks (midfielder), Reilly Ford (defender), Rachel Rinaldi (midfielder), Anneliese Sinclair (defender) and Sylvia Strange (attacker).
Banks was named first-team all-state, all-region and all-league, Rinaldi was second-team all-region and all-league and Ford was honorable mention all-league.
"The season was quite the roller coaster," coach Scott Hamilton said. "We were experienced at the midfield, but inexperienced everywhere else. Six of our starters were freshmen or sophomores."
The Cardinals went 2-4 in a six-game stretch from April 10-20, but won six of their final nine regular-season games and their first two postseason contests.
"I am really pleased with our growth and how the girls handled themselves during a rough part of the season," Hamilton said. "We look forward to 2020 as a breakout year."
Among the expected returnees are junior Abbey Midnight (attacker) and sophomores Bella Avila (defender), Mollie Estepp (attacker), and Carmen Ries (attacker).
Estepp had 86 goals and 45 assists and Midnight had 37 goals.
Estepp was first-team all-state and all-region and OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year, Ries was honorable mention all-region and Avila was first-team all-league.
Also expected to return are junior Megan Cooper, sophomore Hannah Welch and freshmen Amanda Armstrong, Emily Kendall and Kate McClellan.