Each of the past two seasons, Heath Thomas placed third in a Division II district swimming event but fell short of qualifying for state.

The Wellington junior eliminated the margin for error at this year's district meet Feb. 12 at Ohio State, placing second in the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 48.6 seconds to automatically earn his first state berth.

Also qualifying for state automatically for the Jaguars were two boys divers and two girls divers.

"It's very exciting after two years of trying to get second," Thomas said. "I had a good taper coming into (district) and felt really ready."

The top two finishers in each swimming event automatically advanced to the state meet Thursday, Feb. 20, and Friday, Feb. 21, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

Here's a list of area state qualifiers.

The boys team finished ninth (100 points) at district behind champion Granville (253) as 34 teams scored and the girls were 15th (50) behind champion Columbus School for Girls (401) as 31 teams scored.

Thomas also put himself in position to earn an at-large berth in the 500 free by finishing third (4:57.57).

After placing third in the 500 free and fifth in the 200 free at district as a freshman, Thomas went a different route last season at district, finishing third in the 100 breaststroke and sixth in the 200 individual medley.

"We're very excited (that he advanced to state)," coach Bill Miller said.

Thomas also competed at district on the seventh-place 400 free relay with sophomore Alex Lott and juniors Will Miller and Avery Rennick (3:34.56) and the 16th-place 200 medley relay with Lott, Will Miller and freshman Eric Albers (1:51.48).

Joining Thomas as an automatic qualifier from the boys team were junior twins George Callanan and Taso Callanan, who finished first (559.9) and second (501.35), respectively, in diving, as the top two advanced.

The state diving competition was Feb. 19.

"It felt like a really good day," George Callanan said.

Also competing for the boys at district were Albers in the 100 breast (13th, 1:06.23), Rennick in the 100 free (24th, 54.06) and 50 free (19th, 24.06), Will Miller in the 100 free (30th, 55.62) and the 200 free relay of Will Miller, Rennick and sophomores Simon Anderson and Josef Cios (23rd, 1:42.71).

Qualifying automatically for state for the girls team were junior Taylor Vargo and freshman Olivia Robinson, who placed second (352.05) and third (285.6), respectively, in diving at district, as the top three moved on.

Vargo placed fourth at district last season when the top two advanced.

"I thought Taylor had a chance because we had three coming out in this division after it had been two (state qualifiers) for a long time," coach Miller said. "Olivia was a big surprise as a freshman making the state meet."

Also competing at district for the girls were senior Sarah Anderson in the 100 butterfly (10th, 1:03.91) and 100 backstroke (15th, 1:06.08), the 13th-place 200 free relay of Anderson, senior Kath Olson and juniors Paige Bennett and Christine Cooke (1:52.21), the 20th-place 200 medley relay of Anderson, Bennett, Olson and senior Serene Abdelbaki (2:08) and the 23rd-place 400 free relay of Bennett, Cooke, Olson and senior D'Nisa Oocumma (4:26.49).

Boys basketball team set to begin tourney

Boys basketball coach Artie Taylor believes his team is battle-tested as it begins the Division IV district tournament Thursday, Feb. 20, at home against 20th-seeded Madison Christian.

The Jaguars, who are seeded second behind Grandview, are 12-9 overall and finished 6-6 in an MSL-Ohio Division that features five teams with winning records and is comprised mostly of Division II and III programs.

Wellington split its two league games with Grandview, winning 51-47 on Jan. 11 and losing 83-75 on Feb. 11.

The Jaguars beat Bexley 51-45 on Feb. 14 to close their league schedule and defeated Willoughby Andrews Osborne Academy 60-56 on Feb. 15 in their regular-season finale.

"We're trying to get better, trying to take it one game at a time, but the schedule definitely has been a grind," Taylor said.

The Jaguars led Andrews Osborne 38-22 at halftime but were outscored 22-9 in the third quarter. Sophomore guard Chase Ouellette had 15 points, including a 3-pointer late in the game to give Wellington the lead for good.

Senior guard Evan Henry scored 11 points and senior forward Elijah Meredith added 10 for the Jaguars, who are back in Division IV after competing in Division III each of the past two postseasons.

Wellington's last appearance in Division IV was in 2016-17, when it finished as state runner-up.

Meredith had 20 points against Bexley, a Division II program.

Girls basketball team to open postseason

The 19th-seeded girls basketball team had a first-round bye for the Division IV district tournament and takes a 1-21 record into its second-round game Friday, Feb. 21, at second-seeded Newark Catholic or 18th-seeded Northside Christian.

The winner faces eighth-seeded Galion Northmor or 12th-seeded Harvest Prep in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the home of the better seed, with that winner playing in a district final Feb. 29 at Ohio Dominican.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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