Olentangy Berlin junior Madison Nietfeld snapped a photo of junior teammates Kennedy Jesenovec and Megan McGuire posing with a school flag after the state team gymnastics meet Feb. 28 at Hilliard Bradley.
The Bears made their first state appearance as a team, and the girls were all smiles after finishing seventh (140.0) of 12 teams, behind champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights (148.35), which won its 17th consecutive state title.
Berlin was the top area school, finishing one spot ahead of OCC-Cardinal Division rival Dublin Jerome (138.55).
"It was crazy, and I can't believe we made it here," Nietfeld said. "We have had so many injuries this season and we really did our best here. We're pretty excited.
"I was here freshman year with Olentangy and this was a thousand times better because we worked so hard to get here. Being a second-year team and getting here was crazy."
Second-year coach Jen Hedrick was beaming with pride following the meet.
"It was a typical Berlin meet where we did well, but not our best," said Hedrick, whose team was presented the state's Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award. "I'm really proud of the girls. We came in and had fun, and we did well."
The Bears also had a pair of gymnasts compete in the state individual meet Feb. 29 at Bradley.
Senior Olivia Boone scored a 35.275 to finish 23rd of 37 participants in the all-around. She also competed on balance beam (8.9, tied for 31st of 36) and floor exercise (9.2, tied for 15th of 36).
"Considering it was my fourth year at state, it was awesome and fun," Boone said. "I was more energized (at state) last year when we didn't compete as a team (the day before).
"I was tired and I could have performed better, but it was a great experience. I'm proud of how well I performed throughout my senior season. It's been great."
The Bears also were represented in the state individual meet by freshman Stephanie Balthaser, who tied for 18th of 36 competitors on uneven bars (8.775).
"I was surprised with how well we scored at state," Hedrick said. "To come out and have our second-best score of the season was amazing."
Berlin advanced to state by placing second (139.275) in the district meet Feb. 22 at Worthington Kilbourne behind Thornville Sheridan (144.55).
The Bears won their first league championship by tying Jerome for the OCC-Cardinal title with 30 points and a 13-1 record. They won the league meet Feb. 6 at Kilbourne with a 139.725, just ahead of the runner-up Celtics (139.575).
Berlin is losing four seniors in Boone, Demera Harrison, Bri Hibbits and McKenzie Hinton.
"We had a great group of seniors and we're going to miss them tremendously," Hedrick said. "They left us in good hands and they made their mark. We'll carry on for them.
"We have a lot coming back and we'll see who comes out for us as freshmen. We want to make a run back here next year."
Crumb places second at state in wrestling
Maia Crumb placed second at 150 pounds in the inaugural state girls wrestling tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Davidson.
The junior went 2-1, losing to Dublin Coffman's Ayala Wolak 12-5 in the final.
"It was really fun," Crumb said. "When I started wrestling four months ago, I had no idea what it would be like and how much fun I would have with it. It's you versus the other person and there's no sport like it.
"I'm a catcher in softball, and I definitely think that helps with my legs because I'm always squatting. That helps a lot with my (wrestling) stance."
Hockey team falls to Patriots
The seventh-seeded hockey team lost to third-seeded Liberty 4-1 on Feb. 29 in a district quarterfinal Feb. 29 to finish 21-10.
Senior defenseman Layne Comyns scored for the Bears off a pass from sophomore forward Carson Jankowski.
Berlin opened the district tournament Feb. 23 with a 4-3 overtime win over eighth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in a second-round game. Comyns had two goals, including the game-winner.
Boys team battled injuries all season
The 45th-seeded boys basketball team lost at top-seeded Gahanna 58-30 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 22 to finish 4-19 overall.
Sophomore guard/forward Abel Abenet and freshman guard Gavin Kiener both scored nine points to lead the Bears.
"This was year two for us, but it was a lot more like 1B," second-year coach Donovon Barrett said. "At points, we were younger than we were last year.
"With so many injuries and odd things happening, it was tough. In my 21 years as a varsity coach, I never saw this many injuries. Injuries happen every year, but not in this quantity. In the final game, all but four points (by junior guard Austin Corley) were scored by freshmen and sophomores."
The difficulties started with senior post player Ethan Collins moving out of state just days before the season opener because of a family emergency.
Then came the injuries. Abenet suffered a broken hand the day before the season opener but returned for the final six contests, junior guard/forward Kalvin Betz had lingering back issues that ended his season a few weeks early, junior guard/forward Bryce Reed (4.6 points per game) missed all but the first five contests with a shoulder injury and freshman post player Jason Inbody (5.6 ppg, team-high 4.2 rebounds) suffered injuries to his right foot and left wrist on the same play during a 60-45 loss at St. Charles on Jan. 11.
"On the bright side, a lot of really young guys got some great opportunities to play," said Barrett, whose team went 0-14 in the OCC-Cardinal to place eighth behind champion Bradley (14-0). "Moving forward, you feel good, but you feel bad guys got hurt and the seniors didn't get to move ahead at full capacity."
The Bears are losing three seniors, led by guard Grant Schrieber, who averaged 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds and was honorable mention all-league.
Corley averaged a team-high 11.2 points and was special mention all-league, junior post player Aiden Loeffler averaged 3.0 rebounds and sophomore guard Adrian Stone averaged 4.4 points.
"We can't make excuses," Barrett said. "We have to have more depth in the program, and we have to get better. Our skill level still is not where it needs to be."