Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Thomas Giles leads hockey team's resurgence

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Gahanna's Thomas Giles is at the center of the hockey team's turnaround. Three seasons ago, the Lions were 2-30. With Giles  leading the way with 13 goals, 17 assists and a plus-21 rating, the squad was 8-5 after an 11-0 victory over Cincinnati Sycamore on Jan. 3.

During the 2017-18 season, the Gahanna Lincoln hockey team finished the year with 13 players and went just 2-30 under first-year coach Kevin Schodorf.  

Among a six-member freshman class that season was Thomas Giles, who grew up playing the sport but was thrust into a key role while making the transition to the prep level.  

Three years later, Giles has been at the center of a turnaround story.  

After beating Cincinnati Sycamore 11-0 on Jan. 3 at Chiller North, the Lions were 8-5 overall.  

They also were 5-2 in the CHC-Blue Division after losing 3-0 to Olentangy Berlin on Jan. 2, with their other CHC loss coming 4-0 to Dublin Coffman on Dec. 21.  

Gahanna’s first five league wins all came over CHC-Blue opponents, while Berlin and Coffman are in the CHC-White.  

“It’s been really fun for us,” Giles said. “A couple years ago we were kind of rebuilding this program up from nothing and it’s been really nice to be able to see us grow and have a good group of freshmen help us win some games, seeing our hard work pay off a little bit.”  

Giles was a defenseman as a freshman and is back in that role this winter, but he also has seen action at forward throughout his prep career.  

Through 13 games, Giles had 13 goals and 17 assists and a plus-21 rating.  

Giles' parents, Charlie and Amy Giles, moved to central Ohio before Thomas was born and have been long-time fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets, which led him to start playing the sport as a youngster.  

Also a member of the boys tennis program, Thomas is savoring the final weeks of his prep hockey career.  

“I played a lot of minutes (as a freshman but) we didn’t have much to build off of from the year before, so it was really an opportunity for everyone to come in and make an impact right away,” Giles said. “I’ve obviously grown into a leadership role. As a freshman, I was just trying to impact the team and build my own skills and now I’m trying to take my game to the next step.  

“Coming into high school hockey after playing house league and select league, it was a little overwhelming at first to have to play this speed of the game. And after four years now, I’m a little more used to it and can use my mind and think with the game and work with my teammates more and play within our own system.”  

Giles is part of a five-member senior class that has gotten a boost from the return of forward Colton Heery, who played for Gahanna as a freshman and sophomore but was part of a junior program last year and at the beginning of this season before electing to return to the Lions.  

Senior forward Sincere Ruffin had three goals and nine assists through 13 games, and senior defenseman Ashwin Kumar also has been a key contributor throughout his prep career. 

Junior forward Rohan Schmidt had five goals and 13 assists, while freshman forward Nate Highland had five goals and 11 assists through 13 games.  

Schodorf also has been impressed with the play of freshman goalie Deke Travers.  

“We’re off to a really good start,” Schodorf said. “We were quarantined at the beginning (of the preseason), got one scrimmage in and then that order went through that we couldn’t play until Dec. 18, but since then we’ve (gotten in) a lot of games. The leadership has been great from (the senior class). Thomas has stepped up. Colton Heery came back and he’s really skilled.   

“This is the first group of seniors I’ve had all four years. … It’s been huge to see their leadership and growth. I’ve really challenged Thomas to speak up and be more vocal and I think he’s done a good job of that.”  

Naomi Johnson, who will play at Florida A&M, said the Lions are progressing despite losing three of their first four games.

Girls basketball team   

not down about start  

Naomi Johnson has a message for those who think the girls basketball team might be down following its Division I district championship run last season: “Don’t count us out yet.”  

"We’ve been progressing,” the senior guard/forward said. “We’ll be fine. It’s just everybody tapping into their roles and not being hesitant, being encouraging to each other.”  

Missing from last season is Edyn Battle, who was the Division I district Player of the Year and the school’s all-time leading scorer. She was part of a four-member graduating class that also included four-year starting guard Morgan Darnell. 

Juniors Bella Ward and Gabby Anderson were expected to lead the way this winter, but Anderson transferred to IMG Academy in the offseason, thrusting Ward into a new role as the team’s No. 1 scorer.  

Johnson and fellow returning seniors Cece Carter and Constance Scott also have been asked to take on bigger roles.  

With a 78-24 victory over Westland on Dec. 30 in its OCC-Ohio Division opener, Gahanna was 1-3 overall, but its losses came against a trio of teams expected to be among the area’s best in their respective divisions.  

The Lions opened with a 67-62 loss Dec. 18 to Dublin Coffman, which was a Division I district runner-up, and a 74-58 setback on Dec. 22 to 2020 Division I regional runner-up Pickerington Central.  

Gahanna also fell 56-37 on Dec. 29 to Hartley, which is one of the area’s top Division II programs.  

Johnson scored 11 points against Hartley.  

“(I’m trying to be) more of a vocal leader, bringing energy to the court and helping the team do what we have to do to win,” Johnson said. “We all have something to prove, so we’ve been committed to staying safe.”  

Johnson contributed enough at the prep and AAU levels the last few years to sign a scholarship offer in November to play for Florida A&M, but this is her first time being one of the Lions’ key leaders.   

Florida A&M’s roster also includes 2018 Gahanna graduate Anisja Harris and is what Johnson calls her “dream school,” where she plans to study physical therapy.  

Ward averaged 18.3 points over the first four games, with Johnson averaging 6.8 and sophomore guard Laila Marshall averaging 6.5.  

Against Westland, junior guard Keeley Wright, sophomore guard Clarke Jackson and sophomore forward Emily Marzetz each scored 13 points and Ward had 14.  

“Naomi has been playing real big," coach Ron Bailey said. "She has the capability to rebound the ball, get putbacks and help us get some defensive stops, jump in the passing lane and get steals. She’s another of our leaders. She’s been on varsity for four years so now it’s her time to step in with her and Bella and Cece to lead us.”  

Golf coaching duo  

announces retirement  

After 12 seasons heading the boys golf program, co-coaches Judy Ratzenberger and Lori Scott announced their retirement from the program.  

Both are Gahanna graduates, Ratzenberger in 1970 and Scott in 1972, and each previously also coached the boys volleyball program at the school.  

Ratzenberger was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2018.  

Ratzenberger and Scott coached the junior varsity boys golf team from 2000-08 before taking over the varsity program.  

The Lions won back-to-back OCC-Ohio Division titles, the first two in program history, in 2017 and ’18.  

"Beyond the wins and the records, coach Ratzenberger and coach Scott have been a great representation of Gahanna Lincoln athletics," athletics director Kathryn Harris said. "They’ve served with pride over the years, always putting student-athletes first and shaping them to become the best versions of themselves in helping prepare them for the future. Coach Ratz and Scott will be sorely missed.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com  

@UlreyThisWeek