Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions girls swimmers hit peak in postseason

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Gahanna Lincoln's Kendall Hitler competes in the 100-yard butterfly during the Division I state meet Feb. 26 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. She finished eighth to reach the awards podium, helping the Lions place 10th as a team.

Not allowing the limitations of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to get in the way of its goals was among the focuses for the Gahanna Lincoln girls swimming and diving team the past few months. 

The evidence that the Lions were successful in that objective took place in their final two meets of the season. 

Gahanna finished third in the Division I district meet Feb. 21 at Bowling Green, advancing all three relays and six individuals to the state meet Feb. 26 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. 

The Lions finished with 70 points at state to place 10th of 50 teams that scored, with two individuals and one relay reaching the awards podium by placing in the top eight. 

“We all just put all of our training in this season and gave it our all,” sophomore Stella Brofford said. “Especially with the unprecedented time, I’m very happy.” 

Brofford swam a program-record 5 minutes, 6 seconds while finishing fifth in the 500-yard freestyle at district and followed that with an 11th-place finish (5:06.45) at state. 

Also at state, Brofford swam on the sixth-place 200 medley relay (1:45.71) with juniors Kendall Hitler and Sami Kiss and sophomore Marie Belli and on the 14th-place 400 free relay (3:35.25) with Belli, Hitler and freshman Cambell Payton. 

The other podium finishes for Gahanna were by Belli, who placed eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:06.34) and by Hitler, who was eighth in the 100 butterfly (56.07). 

Gahanna’s 200 free relay of Kiss and juniors Reagan Reetz, Eloise Fisher and Gwyneth Payton finished 22nd (1:40.18). 

Also competing individually were Belli in the 100 backstroke (19th, 57.6), Kiss in the 200 IM (13th, 2:08.98) and 100 breaststroke (14th, 1:05.07), Hitler in the 200 IM (14th, 2:09.29) and Reetz in the 500 free (21st, 5:07.22). 

In diving, senior Ashleigh Provan finished 18th (273.05) in her first state appearance. She also qualified last season but could not compete because of illness. 

“We started off a little rough, but then people started getting into the groove,” coach Jeff Riegler said. “We made it to (state) in a lot of stuff. It’s kind of been the plan. We’ve got a group of girls that are a year older and that’s what you’re supposed to do as a group. This year’s been tough because of COVID.” 

Sophomore divers Benita Alli and Vicky Miller also competed at district.

There was no OCC-Ohio Division meet after the Lions won the title last season. 

Gahanna competed in a sectional at New Albany, with sophomore Zoey Callander (100 breast), junior Kiersten Marks (100 fly, 100 back), freshman Addi McCusker (50 free, 100 breast), sophomore Chayse Neese (100 back) and freshman Samantha York (50 free, 100 free) among those participating. 

Riegler closes career 

at state swim meet 

Coach Riegler’s son, senior McCord Riegler, represented the boys swimming team in the state meet Feb. 27 in Canton. 

After placing 10th in the 100 breast in 58.84 at district, Riegler improved his time to 58.08 and finished 17th at state to miss scoring by one spot. 

“He likes the team part of it,” coach Riegler said. “He’s a really good swimmer but he doesn’t do it for himself.” 

The other seniors who competed at district were Brandon Patrick (100 breast, 200 medley relay), Nathan Vogelgesang (50 free, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay) and Caleb Gilger (200 free relay). 

The others on the 200 medley relay were junior Ethan Krier and McCord Riegler, with McCord Riegler and freshman Eli Riegler also on the 200 free relay and juniors Morgan Govekar, Michael Jolley and Eli Riegler also on the 400 free relay. 

Competing individually at district were Govekar and Krier in the 200 IM, Krier in the 100 back, McCord Riegler in the 100 free, Eli Riegler in the 500 free and freshman Josh Riegler in the 100 back. 

Freshman guard Aaliyah Younger is among the top expected returnees for the Lions girls basketball team, which won the OCC-Ohio title but was upset in the second round of the postseason.

Most of girls team 

eligible to return 

The biggest highlight for the girls basketball team this winter was winning the OCC-Ohio championship at 10-0. 

The Lions were seeded sixth for the Division I district tournament and had their season end with a 42-40 loss to 28th-seeded Thomas Worthington on Feb. 20 in a second-round game. They finished 15-6 overall.

There were only two seniors in the program in forward Naomi Johnson, who was a key backup and has committed to Florida A&M, and guard Constance Scott. 

“(We) showed a whole lot of toughness throughout the season,” said Ron Bailey, who was the league’s Coach of the Year. “They grew throughout the season and I’m definitely proud of how everybody played. I truly believe all the young ladies grew as players and teammates. 

“We won the outright league title and finished undefeated in the league, which I thought was a great accomplishment. We set out at the beginning of the year that one of our goals was to go undefeated in the league and I’m definitely proud of the girls.” 

The Lions’ top player was junior forward Bella Ward, a Butler commit who averaged 15.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals and was named league Player of the Year. 

Sophomore guard Laila Marshall averaged 10.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals and was first-team all-league. 

Sophomore guard Clarke Jackson was second-team all-league. She averaged nine points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals. 

Freshman guard Aaliyah Younger was honorable mention all-league. 

Junior guards Juju Grubich and Keeley Wright, sophomore forward Emily Marzetz and freshman guard Kya Jordan are other key contributors eligible to return. 

“Our future is very bright,” Bailey said. “We’ve got to put in the work in the offseason. We’ve got to grow, develop a higher basketball IQ and we’ve got to continue to work together as a team. If we continue to do that, we can have another successful season next year.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek 

GIRLS BASKETBALL 

Record: 15-6 overall  

OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (10-0), New Albany (8-2), Grove City and Pickerington North (5-5), Westerville Central (2-8), Westland (0-10) 

Seniors lost: Juju Grubich, Clarke Jackson, Kyla Jordan, Laila Marshall, Emily Marzetz, Bella Ward, Keeley Wright and Aaliyah Younger 

Key returnees: Naomi Johnson and Constance Scott 

Postseason: Defeated Mount Vernon 57-25; lost to Thomas Worthington 42-40 in second round of Division I district tournament 

SWIMMING & DIVING  

Seniors lost: Boys — Nate Foster, Caleb Gilger, Brandon Patrick, McCord Riegler and Nathan Vogelgesang; Girls — Destiny Ishmael, Sami Jolley, Mackenzie Massmann, Ashleigh Provan, Addy Redman, Rylee Slisher, Eden Weber and Olivia Zeltman 

Key returnees: Boys — Morgan Govekar, Michael Jolley, Ethan Krier, Eli Riegler and Josh Riegler; Girls — Marie Belli, Stella Brofford, Eloise Fisher, Kendall Hitler, Sami Kiss, Gwyneth Payton and Reagan Reetz 

Postseason: Boys — 15th (43) at district behind champion Upper Arlington (348.5), did not score at state; Girls — Third (231) at district behind champion New Albany (387.5), 10th (70) at state behind champion New Albany (246.5)