In her first Division I state meet Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, Marie Belli of the Gahanna Lincoln girls swimming and diving team set a program record and reached the awards podium in two individual events.

Still, simply soaking in the atmosphere may have as big of a lasting impression on the freshman.

"I'm so thankful to be in this facility," Belli said. "Whether I was adding or dropping or staying the same, to me just being here feels amazing. I got my school record (in the 200-yard individual medley) and it was (her sister's, 2014 graduate Morgan Belli)."

Belli opened the meet by teaming with sophomores Eloise Fisher, Sami Kiss and Kendall Hitler on the 15th-place 200 medley relay (1 minutes, 47.38 seconds).

She then placed third in the 200 IM (2:03.09) and later placed fifth in the 100 butterfly (55.41).

"(In the 200 IM,) I had my (club) teammate, Martina Peroni, right next to me," Belli said. "We push each other in practice, and we train each other and push each other hard every day.

"Now, it's just about climbing the ladder from here. To get third and fifth, I couldn't be happier. Maybe eventually I'll be first one day."

The girls team finished 19th (34 points) at state behind champion Dublin Coffman (214) as 53 teams scored.

Also competing for the girls during the preliminary races Feb. 21 were sophomore Reagan Reetz in the 200 freestyle (22nd, 1:55.91), Hitler in the 200 IM (22nd, 2:09.89) and 100 fly (24th, 58.8) and the 400 free relay of Reetz, sophomore Gwyneth Payton, freshman Stella Brofford and Belli (19th, 3:36.62).

Junior diver Ashleigh Provan was unable to compete at state Feb. 20 because of sickness.

"It meant a lot to me to make states," Provan said. "I feel like I've been diving very well and consistent throughout the whole season. I'm very proud of my hard work and I enjoyed all of the fun practices I had with my high school dive team. There was never a dull moment."

The boys team tied for 46th (5) at state behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (310) as 53 teams scored.

Senior Johnny Belli, Marie's brother, finished 12th in the 50 free (21.3) and joined senior Derek Yu and juniors Nathan Vogelgesang and McCord Riegler on the 18th-place 200 free relay (1:28.22).

"It's kind of a dream come true because I've always wanted to come here," Johnny Belli said. "There was no better way to go out than being here. The atmosphere is amazing. I swam pretty well. I'm going to miss these guys and I can't wait to see what McCord and Nathan do."

Coach Jeff Riegler was pleased with the performances of both teams at state.

While the girls team is eligible to return its entire roster, the boys expect to return two other key swimmers in junior Caleb Gilger and sophomore Morgan Govekar.

"We knew (Marie Belli) was already good," Riegler said. "Johnny did really well this year and Marie is the fourth of four (from her family to swim at state).

"With our relays, the boys broke the school record again (in the 200 free relay) and Johnny broke the 50 and 100 free (program records Feb. 13 at district). The boys 400 free relay broke the record for the third time in four years (earlier in the season)."

Girls basketball team wins tourney opener

The seventh-seeded girls basketball team opened the Division I district tournament Feb. 21 by routing 46th-seeded Briggs 79-20.

The Lions were 18-6 before playing 10th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a district semifinal Feb. 26, with the winner facing fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman or 19th-seeded Dublin Jerome in a district final Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Columbus Convention Center.

The district champion will play Watkins Memorial, Newark, Canal Winchester or Olentangy Liberty in a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 3, at Otterbein.

Against Briggs, Edyn Battle had 15 points and Bella Ward scored 13.

"I was just happy to be (seeded) in the top eight because you've got to play everybody anyway," coach Ron Bailey said. "There are a lot of good teams in our bracket. We've been going on a nice little run."

Bowling teams open tourney play

The bowling teams will compete in the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 29, at HP Lanes.

The top three boys teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams and the top four girls teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the state tournament March 6 (boys) and March 7 (girls) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.

The boys finished 10th (3,615) at the 47-team sectional Feb. 21 at HP Lanes behind champion Reynoldsburg (3,991). Nathan Minzler tied for 29th (555 three-game series) of 270 bowlers, followed by Kevin Foit (tied for 49th, 537), DeAndre Quiero (56th, 528), Jimmy Walther (tied for 57th, 526) and Eddy Pax (82nd, 493).

Then on Feb. 22, the girls finished runner-up (3,553) at the 42-team sectional at HP Lanes behind Westerville Central (3,653). Lilu Smith was medalist of 192 bowlers with a 671, Lindzi Oakman was runner-up (589) and Kaitlyn Mundschenk was 42nd (452) to lead the way.

Wrestlers prep for postseason

The wrestling team will compete in a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 29, at Watkins Memorial, where the top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.

The Lions closed the regular season Feb. 15 by finishing fifth (99.5) in the 14-team Nye Cardinal Classic at St. Charles behind champion Lancaster (325.5).

Charles Williams (132 pounds) finished first, Paolo Dragin (152) was third, Justice Richardson Falls (220) placed fourth, Griffin Flusche (220), E.J. Lee (120) and Ricky Alli (170) all finished fifth and Quran Burns (160) and Jaden Hammond (heavyweight) placed sixth.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek