During practice the night before the Division II district swimming and diving meet, George Callanan slipped while preparing to step onto the diving board and injured his shins.

Fortunately for the Wellington junior, his injuries were minor and he was able to compete at district Feb. 12 at Ohio State. Had he suffered a worse injury, it might have taken away one of the greatest moments in his life as well as in program history.

Callanan, who proceeded to win the district title and entered the state meet Feb. 19 at Branin Natatorium in Canton as the No. 1 seed, became the first boys diver from the school to win a state championship.

He scored 469.5 points at state, finishing nearly 45 points ahead of runner-up Angus Williams of Gates Mills Hawken (425.15).

"I was nervous (after the injury) that I wouldn't be able to compete, but it felt a lot better (the next) morning," Callanan said. "(The right one) was really swollen (the night before district).

"I'm really happy with how I did (at state). It feels really good. It's really exhilarating having everyone here. It's something I haven't felt before."

Callanan, who attended Upper Arlington as a freshman, joined the Jaguars' program last season and finished fourth at state.

He is a former gymnast who won a national title on floor exercise as an eighth-grader.

"Winning a state championship is something for my school and not just for myself," Callanan said.

Callanan and his twin brother, Taso, both train under Kenyon College coach Ron Kontura.

Taso Callanan placed fourth (402.75) at state as Wellington finished 17th (35) behind champion Cincinnati Indian Hill (224).

"(George) started diving club last year and I started diving club a couple months ago," Taso said. "Because we have a good team relationship, it just makes competitions more fun and we do better overall. It's competitive, but it's a healthy competition."

Taso became the first boys diver from Wellington to reach the state podium in 2018 when he finished seventh. He placed seventh at state again last year.

"This was one of the first major competitions we've had against each other and it's a lot of fun," George said. "Taso wasn't too thrilled with the turnout (at state), but I'd say he had a very successful (performance)."

Competing at state in girls diving Feb. 19 were junior Taylor Vargo, who finished 19th (212.35), and freshman Olivia Robinson, who placed 24th (135.0).

"Last year, I got third at district and only the top two qualified for states," Vargo said. "This year, my dives have gotten a lot better."

Robinson had competed in only two 11-dive meets before the district meet, in which Vargo was runner-up and Robinson placed third to earn the final two state-qualifying berths.

"I was really surprised (to qualify for state)," Robinson said. "Taylor, George and Taso have helped a lot with just knowing how to do stuff and what to expect. It's nice to start diving with a lot of experienced divers."

Representing the boys swimming team at state Feb. 21 was junior Heath Thomas, who finished 21st in the 500-yard freestyle (4 minutes, 57.78 seconds) and 24th in the 200 free (1:50.86).

"Heath (has done) awesome," coach Bill Miller said. "His best event has been the 500, but it's tough because up until now there's been older kids that have been faster. Now he's one of the older kids."

In addition to Thomas and the Callanan brothers, juniors Will Miller and Avery Rennick, sophomores Simon Anderson, Josef Cios and Alex Lott and freshman Eric Albers are eligible to return after competing at district.

The girls team is losing a pair of seniors who competed at district in Sarah Anderson and Kath Olson, but juniors Paige Bennett and Christine Cooke are eligible to return in addition to Robinson and Vargo.

Boys basketball team wins tourney opener

The second-seeded boys basketball team opened the Division IV district tournament Feb. 20 by beating 20th-seeded Madison Christian 99-26 at home.

The Jaguars played host to 18th-seeded Northside Christian on Feb. 25 in the second round of the district tournament.

The winner faces 12th-seeded Morral Ridgedale or 15th-seeded Grove City Christian in a district semifinal Friday, Feb. 28, at a site to be announced.

Potentially looming in a district final March 5 at Ohio Dominican is third-seeded Berne Union, which played 13th-seeded Granville Christian in a second-round game Feb. 25.

Against Madison Christian, Elijah Meredith had 17 points and Yoshi Parker and Brandon Ivery both scored 16 as the Jaguars improved to 14-9.

Season ends for girls basketball team

The 19th-seeded girls basketball team lost to second-seeded Newark Catholic 54-12 on Feb. 21 in the second round of the Division IV district tournament.

Wellington finished 1-22 overall and 0-14 in the MSL-Ohio, with its win coming against Marietta St. John Central, 40-9 on Dec. 7 in the consolation game of its home Jaguar Invitational.

The Jaguars had just two seniors in wing player Eli Burkhardt and guard Ellie Weinberg.

Sophomore guards Jameela Askira, Abigail Burkhardt, Rhea Singh and Hannah Jones-Beyene, freshman guard Lilliana Adkinson and freshman forwards Dani Casline and Katie Kuttrus are eligible to return for Wellington, which went 4-18 last season.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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