Although proud of the programs they can offer students, Columbus Academy officials believed they were behind the times in terms of preparing athletes for competition.
A recently completed $12.6 million project, which features a new 24,000-square-foot field house, not only will remedy that situation for the athletics department but all of the school's 1,149 students should benefit.
"I'm very fortunate," said athletics director Jason Singleton, who is in his first year at the school. "It's a blessing to have such a beautiful facility. I had some of my Ohio State friends come in and say this might be nicer than Ohio State's practice gym."
Singleton is a former men's basketball player at Ohio State who later served as the university's assistant athletics director for student-athlete development.
Funds for the project, which also includes the renovation of Academy's theater, were raised through private donations from families along with monies from the school's annual fund, said Bob Lee, director of communications and marketing.
With limited indoor practice space available before the project, teams had to juggle practice times. The new facility features three courts and will allow programs to have practices at more convenient times.
"All of our teams from seventh grade through high school have been able to practice right after school, whereas before we had to stagger them," Singleton said. "Things are moved up and people can get home in time to study. ... Our direction is trending forward and hopefully we can help kids reach their goals and develop and grow."
JoAnne Adams, chair of the school's physical education department, hopes to move physical education classes to the field house by late February or early March.
"I'm so excited," she said. "It's a challenge to schedule pre-K through 12th grade in two gyms, so it's nice to now have five courts (throughout the school) that we can use and the Barton room. ... Just having alternative activities is going to be great."
The Barton room is located on the upstairs level of the school and also serves as the competition and practice area for the wrestling team.
The field house includes a climbing wall that already has been a big attraction for students and faculty members.
"I think the kids are going to love (the climbing wall)," Adams said. "For us, it's going to be all about learning how to manage putting the harness around quickly and taking it off. It's going to be a hit."
Ina Arnold, a second-grader, joined several schoolmates in testing the wall Jan. 22.
"It's fun for me," she said. "I was a little scared at first because I felt my foot slipping and some steps are really small, so when I put my hand on it my hand would start to slide. But once I almost got to the top, I realized that the smaller (steps) were really helpful."
The field house's three courts are surrounded by 18 drop-down backboards for basketball as well as in-floor installations to convert the courts for volleyball and tennis.
The facility also can be used for training purposes in other sports. For example, there is heavy-duty drop-down netting to allow for hitting baseballs and golf balls indoors.
The field house also features six offices for coaches along with a conference room. There also is a renovated wellness center featuring modern weight-lifting and aerobics equipment.
"The amount of kids that you can get through now with a lot of efficiency is a lot more accommodating," strength coach Mark Hammond said. "We have access to new equipment, which allows us to do different movements more efficiently for the kind of kid we're dealing with. For the amount of kids we have rolling through here, it's state of the art."
Another added feature is a new athletic training area with an examining room, additional taping tables and aqua-therapy. The project also includes four new locker rooms, along with the previous locker rooms being refurbished.
Adams and Singleton both credited former athletics director Dominic Facciolla for being instrumental in the project, which began in November 2018. Singleton replaced Facciolla on July 1.
They also said Doug Bennett, the director of facilities and grounds, played a key role.
"Dominic and Doug did a really good job of planning everything," Singleton said. "I'm reaping the benefits of what they laid out."
The theater project includes the addition of a balcony, new seating that increased capacity by 100 to 550 and improved acoustics thanks to sound paneling installed on the ceiling and walls.
Swim teams compete in league meet
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams turned in strong performances in the MSL meet Jan. 25 at home.
The boys finished first (238) of 13 teams ahead of runner-up Bexley (201) as Gavin Lewis won the 100-yard freestyle (52.9 seconds) and James Cao finished first in the 100 backstroke (57.89).
Cao and Lewis teamed with Luke Boltz and Rowan Hennessy to win the 400 free relay (3:33.95) and Alek Balaloski and Cyrus Hannallah to win the 200 medley relay (1:48).
The girls finished second (224) of 15 teams behind Columbus School for Girls (393).
Lauren Klinefelter placed second in the 100 butterfly (59.98) and joined Taylor Warren, Abby Yakam and Annalise Grammel on the second-place 200 medley relay (1:59.71) and Grammel, Mary Kate Prall and Alexandra Butnariu on the second-place 400 free relay (3:49.68).
"I'm really proud of all of our swimmers," coach Craig Yakscoe said.
Hockey team enjoys successful weekend
The hockey team remained in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division title chase with a pair of wins last weekend.
The Vikings are 8-9-3 overall and 6-4-1-1 (14 points) in the CHC-Blue after a 5-4 overtime loss to Olentangy on Jan. 26. Academy is first in the division, ahead of Watterson (12, 6-5).
Academy defeated Dublin Scioto 10-6 on Jan. 25 behind five goals from Campbell Gwin. Luke Budzik and Philip Soderberg had two goals apiece and Max Walker added one.
The Vikings rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Gahanna 5-3 on Jan. 24. Budzik scored two goals and Gwin, Allen Koganov and Andrew Zaki each added one.
Below are the coming schedules for the Academy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. Wellington. The Vikings lost to the Jaguars 56-54 on Dec. 10.
Feb. 1 -- Home vs. Hudson Western Reserve Academy
Jan. 30 -- Home vs. Harvest Prep
*Feb. 1 -- At Buckeye Valley. The Vikings lost to the Barons 59-39 on Dec. 10.
Feb. 4 -- Home vs. Patriot Prep
*Jan. 31 -- Haugland Learning Center at HP Lanes
Feb. 1 -- MSL-Ohio tournament at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Feb. 3 -- Columbus West at HP Lanes
Feb. 4 -- Gahanna at HP Lanes
*Feb. 1 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North
*Feb. 2 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller Easton
Jan. 30 -- At West Jefferson with Logan Elm and Utica
Feb. 1 -- At Western Reserve Academy with Saltsburg (Pa.) Kiski