The memories of an auto accident that killed one and injured five others are still fresh within the Worthington water polo community more than three years later.
The events of that August 2016 day always will be on the minds of those who were on the scene in northwest Ohio and those who helped lend support afterward.
That is because the Worthington water polo community is made up of families. They help out with tournaments and travel. They keep statistics and records. Whatever is needed, a family will step up to help.
It makes what is happening this fall with the Kilbourne girls team even more special. The Wolves are ranked second in the state and senior Melanie Fisher, whose older sister, Courtney, was killed in the accident, is among the biggest reasons why.
Vicki Fisher was driving daughters Courtney, Betsey and Melanie and two other Kilbourne players to the Wolves' first tournament of the 2016 season at Napoleon. Their van was pulling away from a two-way stop and was hit by a tractor-trailer. Courtney, who was on a break from college, died at the scene and the five others were injured.
"A lot of families travel with the team," Melanie's father, Jeff, said. "We drive most weekends to tournaments. We drive the players -- there's no school bus or anything like that. As a parent you get to know the other players. They're almost like your own kids."
Melanie got involved in water polo because sisters Lindsey, Courtney and Betsey played before her, including for Kilbourne. She continues to play because she loves the sport -- just like her sisters.
"Subconsciously, I think that's my real catalyst for doing well in water polo and life in general. I had a near-death experience," Melanie said. "So, I want to make every second worth it. I want people to have fun (and) learn. I just love water polo so much. I just want people to love it as much as I do. That was (Courtney's) thing. She just wanted people to love the sport as much as she did and that's where I try to carry her legacy on through."
It's been a long journey to this point for coach Olivia Miranda and the Wolves. They got together as a team after the accident and voted to continue playing the 2016 season.
"It was discussed that we join with Thomas and just be a Worthington team for a year," Miranda said. "They wanted to compete (that) season -- they wanted to do it for Courtney. So, that's what we did. I followed the lead of the girls."
Kilbourne finished 3-19-1 that year and has slowly improved since.
"The other thing that gets forgotten is that Cleo (Melvin) and Katie (Rzymek) were freshmen the year of the accident," Miranda said. "They were forced to start as freshmen. They didn't know the game. They had no experience. So, watching them go from being the worst team in the state -- by far -- to being a huge competitive player has been really exciting."
Melvin and Rzymek now are standouts on the team along with Melanie, who led the Wolves with 67 goals and 57 steals and was second with 21 assists behind Phoebe Saunders' 24 through the Beast of the East tournament Sept. 28.
"I think it's incredible, honestly," Melanie said about the season. "I give credit to all the girls on the team. We put in the work in the offseason. We went to camps together this offseason. We did stuff together in the winter. Everyone is working hard."
The Wolves went 2-1 in a tournament at Milford on Oct. 4 and 5 to move to 21-5-1, including 19-3-1 against Ohio competition before playing at Thomas on Oct. 8 and at Upper Arlington on Oct. 9.
"Water polo, especially this season, is an atmosphere I've never experienced before," Melanie said. "It's truly incredible. I want to be at practice and I don't want practice to end."
Rzymek was second on the team with 39 goals. Melvin had 35 goals, 30 steals and 17 assists, and goalkeeper Fiona Saunders had 118 blocks.
"I love spending time with these girls," Melanie said. "I spend my Fridays and Saturdays with them. We travel to tournaments and we stay in hotels nearly every weekend. I just love them so much and I think that's what helps us succeed. We have a really good chemistry."
Jeff Fisher runs the Ohio Cup tournament and will continue to do that even after Melanie and her twin brother Mitchell, who is a standout on the Kilbourne boys team, graduate.
"I'm going to still do it in honor of Courtney because she always loved that tournament," Jeff said. "It's one way for us to give back. The whole water polo community has been supportive of us, certainly after the accident. It's an understatement to say thank you because you can never thank everybody."
At the time of the accident, Courtney was entering her sophomore season at Marist, where the water polo team honored her memory by keeping her on the roster through her senior season. No one wore her No. 17 uniform through last season, and her black-and-white photo was among the colorized versions of her teammates on the school's athletics website.
Marist also printed "CF-17" on its uniforms and athletics apparel.
"There's a lot of things that they've done for us," Jeff said. "Water polo is not a big-time sport in terms of number of athletes out there. Whether we play for Kilbourne or Worthington or Marist, everyone is very family-oriented and I think (Marist's gesture) was a testament to that."
Boys golf team wraps up season
All five boys golfers did what they had done all season long in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 1 at Darby Creek. They all shot in the 80s.
The Wolves shot a 334 to finish 10th of 15 teams as Dublin Coffman (299), Olentangy Liberty (303), Olentangy Orange (303) and Hilliard Darby (311) advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
"We were pretty right true to form," coach Gavin Meeks said. "It was pretty much what happened to us all season long. We're right there and not for a shot here or there."
Senior Garrett Meeks shot an 80 to lead the way. Junior Mark Towns followed with an 81, and junior Isaac Henry (86) and senior Jack Hale (87) rounded out the scoring.
Freshman Owen Cotterman (89) also competed.
"There's a lot of positivity going on and a lot of the guys are really excited already for next season," coach Meeks said.
Girls golf team finishes season
The girls golf team shot a 548 to finish 11th in a Division I sectional Oct. 1 at Royal American as Dublin Jerome (321), Pickerington North (349) and Darby (363) advanced to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
"I'm proud of the girls for competing," coach Jon Baird said. "I was proud of how the girls supported one another. We had two return juniors and they really embraced the newcomers."
Sophomore Presley Zwayer led the Wolves with a 109. Also competing were juniors Hannah Kramer (126), Cassidy Oyer (144) and Maeli O'Briant (169).
"All five (including freshman Gabby McElwain) will be back (along with) hopefully three incoming freshmen," Baird said. "Our goal this offseason will be to bring in new players and acclimate them to the team and raise enough money for greens fees and other activities."
Girls tennis team closes season
The girls tennis team wrapped up its season in a Division I sectional Oct. 3 at UA.
The doubles teams led the Wolves in the sectional. Senior Hanna Lindeman and freshman Lily Hershey won two matches, including over Groveport Madison's Lori Hill and Mama Bintou Tunkara 6-1, 6-1 in the second round, before falling to UA's Ella Hazelbaker and Wendy Shi 6-0, 6-0 in a quarterfinal.
Sophomores Eva Bomsta and Ellie Needleman picked up a win over Canal Winchester's Layla Fox and Lauren Snider 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 before falling to Marysville's Maddie Blaisdell and Ellie Williams 6-1, 6-1.
In singles, senior Libby Costello fell to Canal Winchester's Erin Duckworth 6-1, 6-0, senior Elise Elliott lost to Sudi Pelluru of Jerome 6-0, 6-1 and junior Rhea Taneja fell to Canal Winchester's Ellie Stedman 6-2, 6-1 in the first round.
Below are the coming schedules for the Kilbourne cross country, field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 12 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 16 -- At fourth-seeded New Albany in second round of district tournament. The Wolves are seeded sixth.
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 29th-seeded Mount Vernon or 43rd-seeded Marion Harding in second round of Division I district tournament. The Wolves are the top seed.
Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Hartley
Oct. 16 -- Home vs. 36th-seeded Whetstone in first round of Division I district tournament. The Wolves are seeded 24th.
Oct. 16 -- Home vs. 20th-seeded New Albany or 32nd-seeded Teays Valley in second round of Division I district tournament. The Wolves are seeded 13th.