New Albany Roundup: Eagles girls swimmers revel in Division I state title

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
New Albany's Olivia Hovorka (facing) hugs teammate Carly Meeting after they helped win the 400 freestyle relay and the Division I state championship for the Eagles on Feb. 26 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

The New Albany girls swimming and diving team started the Division I state meet fast and finished even faster, all the while carrying the memory of what the Eagles considered a disappointing outcome from a year earlier.

Determined to take the next step after finishing second to Dublin Coffman by nine points at state in 2020, the Eagles quickly established control Feb. 26 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, winning the opening 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 41.56 seconds. Junior Ava Lachey (1:50.15), sophomore Carly Meeting (1:50.35) and freshman Ashlyn Morr (1:51.9) then finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the next event, the 200 freestyle.

New Albany won only one more event the rest of the night, the 400 free relay in 3:24.65, but that and the Eagles’ depth were enough to give the team its first state championship. They amassed 246.5 points to finish 26 ahead of runner-up Mason as 50 teams scored.

“(Being in first) made it easier for us, knowing we just had to get out there and swim like we normally do,” said Meeting, who was on both winning relays and runner-up in the 100 backstroke (55.04). “None of us were nervous going into (the final race, the 400 free relay). I wasn’t. I feel confident in myself because if I don’t, I get into my own head and get really nervous.” 

Senior Sydney Boals, junior Olivia Hovorka and Lachey rounded out the 200 medley relay. Hovorka, Lachey and Morr also were on the 400 free relay.

The members of New Albany's state championship 400 freestyle relay – Olivia Hovorka (left), Carly Meeting, Ashlyn Morr and Ava Lachey – pose for a photo after receiving their first-place medals.

“This whole season, wanting to win state has been in the back of our minds through every practice and every meet,” said Lachey, a UCLA commit who also tied for second in the 100 free (50.75). “It’s such an honor. We’re grateful to be here and be state champions. We knew from last year, a strong start was important. We had to set the tone right off the bat by winning the medley relay. We believed in ourselves for that and went from there.”

Boals, a Florida State recruit, led off the fifth-place 200 free relay (1:36.65) with juniors Marisa Downs and Evie Morris and Morr and also was sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:05.47) and 12th in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.84).

Other top-eight finishes came from Morr in the 500 free (fifth, 5:00.93) and Hovorka in the 100 butterfly (seventh, 55.5).

“It was fun to see them come together to do this,” coach Dave Wharton said. “Last year made the girls hungry. For sure they wanted to come back and step up. You always wonder when your seniors graduate how you’ll fill what they did so this is exciting to see them accomplish this. …

“Our program is in a fantastic place.”

Finishing outside the top eight were sophomore Hope Schimming in the 200 IM (10th, 2:08.49) and 100 back (11th, 57.02), Hovorka in the 50 free (14th, 24.1), Downs in the 100 fly (14th, 57.45), sophomore Elyse Bergmann in the 500 free (17th, 5:09.28), junior diver Emma Skinner (19th, 272.15), senior Kiara Crumbley in the 200 free (22nd, 1:56.15) and Morris in the 50 free (22nd, 24.25).

Crumbley is a Washington University commit.

Led by senior Patrick Daly’s fourth-place finish in the 200 IM (1:50.16), New Albany’s boys finished 13th (63) at state meet Feb. 27 at Branin Natatorium behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (227.5) as 51 teams scored.

Daly also was on the eighth-place 200 free relay (1:25.21) with classmates Cade Helms and Tommy Morris and junior Darden Spychalski and was 14th in the 100 breast (57.85).

Morris was 13th in the 50 free (21.16) and tied for 19th in the 100 free (47.33). Spychalski finished 13th in the 200 free (1:42.46) and 16th in the 100 free (46.94).

Hamish Patel placed fifth in diving (454.4), one of three freshmen in the top five behind champion Dominic Roberto of Solon and runner-up Kaden Springfield from Olentangy Liberty.

Freshman teammate Collin Morr was 23rd (154.45).

“I definitely dove to the best of my ability. It was great competing with some of my (club) teammates and friends,” Patel said. “From past competitions, I knew these guys were going to be here. It was a really tough competition, too. Three more years with the same guys should be interesting. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Trio leads wrestling

team at sectional

Although the wrestling team finished 10th of 11 teams in a Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Newark, three Eagles earned top-four finishes and advanced to district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.

Noah Rosen and Colin Swincicki finished third at 126 and 120 pounds, respectively, and Colin Mahoney placed fourth at 152. 

New Albany scored 81.5 points and finished 10th behind champion Coffman (277).

Also competing but failing to advance were Owen Perry (138, 3-2, fifth), Michael Roth (220, 1-2, sixth), Alex Chattos (195, 1-2), Chris Breuer (145, 1-2), Jack Lee (132, 1-2), Tyler White (170, 1-2), Ganan Balakrishna (160, 0-2) and Jack Sautter (182, 0-2).

At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state March 13 and 14 at Darby.

Key players expected

back for boys team

Sophomore guard Sam Dunn averaged 10.7 points, 1.9 assists and 1.7 rebounds to lead the boys basketball team, whose top five scorers are eligible to return after the Eagles went 7-13 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Ohio Division.

Junior forward Justin Perry averaged 9.9 points and 3.5 rebounds and was second-team all-league. Dunn was special mention all-league and junior forward Josh Evans (4.8 points, 4.3 rebounds) was honorable mention.

Junior forward Blake Pistro (5.4 points, 3.1 rebounds) and freshman guard Braylen Nash (6.3 points, 3.1 rebounds) also are expected back, as is junior guard Will Benseler.

Seeded 34th in the Division I district tournament, New Albany lost 66-46 at seventh-seeded Pickerington North in a second-round game Feb. 26.

“The biggest encouragement throughout the season was the valuable minutes so many young players were able to compete and learn each game,” coach Ryan Grashel said. “We lacked varsity experience going into this season and we have several guys returning next season that played significant minutes throughout (this) season.

“Our top priority moving into the offseason is strength training and skill development. We now understand the physicality that must be played with on a nightly basis in the OCC.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

BOYS BASKETBALL

Record: 7-13 overall

OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (9-1), Westerville Central (8-2), Pickerington North (7-3), Grove City (4-6), New Albany (2-8), Westland (0-10)

Seniors lost: Michael Berko, Braedon Elwer, Landon Thompson and Lleyton Thompson

Key returnees: Will Benseler, Sam Dunn, Josh Evans, Braylen Nash, Justin Perry and Blake Pistro

•Postseason: Defeated Franklin Heights 67-45; lost to Pickerington North 66-46 in second round of Division I district tournament

SWIMMING & DIVING

Seniors lost: Boys — Alejandro Aguila, Tyler Ballman, Gregory Betchkal, Patrick Daly, Cade Helms, Makana Knettler, Andrew Levine, Tommy Morris and Caleb Schimming; Girls — Audrey Betchkal, Sydney Boals, Kiara Crumbley, Emma Hogan, Abigail Leatherman and Rebecca Zhang

Key returnees: Boys — Collin Morr, Hamish Patel, Josh Smith and Darden Spychalski; Girls — Marisa Downs, Olivia Hovorka, Ava Lachey, Carly Meeting, Ashlyn Morr, Hope Schimming and Emma Skinner

Postseason: Boys — Fourth (197) at district behind champion Upper Arlington (348.5), 13th (63) at state behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (227.5); Girls — First at district (378.5), first (246.5) at state