Upper Arlington Roundup: Play two sports? 'Why not,' Bears' Aubrey Steiner says

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Hours after leading the Upper Arlington girls cross country team to a fourth-place finish in the Division I regional meet Oct. 31, freshman Aubrey Steiner scored a goal in the girls soccer team's upset of top-seeded New Albany in a Division I district final.

At first, Aubrey Steiner didn’t know she could be a two-sport athlete. 

The Upper Arlington freshman’s talents on the wing were obvious to girls soccer coach Andrew Kessinger during tryouts, but only when the team ran time trials did Kessinger realize she might have untapped potential. 

“She blew everyone away. We’re talking six-minute miles, and I told her she ought to think about being a two-sport athlete,” said Kessinger, who then contacted girls cross country coach Allison Ewing. “I went to Allison and asked, ‘Would you have her at your time trial?’ We came to the stadium on a Friday night, under the lights, and she did very well.” 

The result has been a season Steiner – who ran her first cross country race Sept. 5 – said she never could have anticipated. 

Aubrey Steiner sprints to the finish Nov. 7 at the Division I state cross country meet at Fortress Obetz. The freshman closed her two-sport fall season by placing 52nd in 19:19.5.

Steiner was the team's top finisher in each of her six races, including placing 52nd (19 minutes, 19.5 seconds) at the state meeting Nov. 7 at Fortress Obetz as the Golden Bears were 17th of 20 teams.

Coming off the bench most of the season for the soccer team, Steiner had four goals as UA won its first district championship since 2015. Steiner started early in the year while Tennessee commit Abby Reisz recovered from an injury. 

“I wasn’t sure I could do two sports at once, but the way I figured it (was), ‘Why not?’ I might as well try it and give it a go,” Steiner said. “It ended up being something I loved to do (and this season was) nothing like I expected.” 

“Doing both of them at the same time was probably the hardest thing for me and so was trying to get close to all of my teammates and make (both teams’) practices, with the conflicts. But it all worked out.” 

Steiner’s best time of 18:45.7 came Sept. 19 during the Central Ohio Cross Country Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park. Steiner finished third at district (18:58.5) Oct. 24 and 11th at regional (19:37.1) Oct. 31. 

“Aubrey was this amazing blessing,” Ewing said. “She has an infectious personality. She raises the bar for everyone.” 

Less than four hours later after her regional race, Steiner scored the first goal in the soccer team’s 2-1 upset (4-2 on penalty kicks) of top-seeded New Albany in a district final. 

“I went straight from the 4 p.m. meet to the New Albany game. I was definitely thinking about it during the race but all of my coaches, even Kess, would say to just focus on the race. Don’t worry about soccer right now,” said Steiner, who estimated that she runs 2 1/2 to 3 miles in a normal soccer game. “That day, it was one of the best feelings I’ve had. I scored one of the goals in the district final, and we were district champs. We were district champs in cross country, too. Having that accomplishment as a freshman and then getting to state was crazy. It was just surreal.” 

The soccer team finished 13-4-2, losing 3-1 to visiting Olentangy in a regional semifinal Nov. 3. 

Kessinger himself was a cross country and soccer standout at DeSales, advancing to the state cross country meet in 1986 and 1987. He still holds the program record of 16:21 as well as its top senior, junior and sophomore times. 

“I’m proud of her for juggling two sports and thankful to Allison for allowing it to happen, for buying in,” Kessinger said. “For Aubrey, it’s just a great experience.” 

Boys soccer team falls to Eagles 

Going for a Division I district championship without senior defender and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year Nate Erre, the boys soccer team held its own for most of a district final Oct. 31 at second-seeded New Albany but lost 3-1 to finish 9-5-4. 

Junior forward Theo Constantinides scored on a breakaway 16 minutes into the game, but the Eagles’ Calvin Criger tied the game five minutes later and Jack Poulos scored the game-winner when a pass deflected off his knee less than a minute into the second half. 

New Albany’s Derrick Harris added an insurance goal with less than two minutes left in a second half both coaches agreed that 10th-seeded UA dominated for long stretches. 

Erre had to sit out the game after receiving two yellow cards during a 1-0 home semifinal win over 13th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 27.  

He was part of a defense – which allowed just 15 goals and recorded nine shutouts – that also included seniors Sam Milburn and Alex Kennedy, junior Evan D’Herete and senior goalie Mac Scholl. 

“We didn’t start great (Oct. 31). Our goal kind of came out of nothing,” coach Kevin Donovan said. “We didn’t have our normal lineup. We missed an opportunity in the first half to take the game by the throat and then they got the early second-half goal (to take the lead) and I thought we totally dominated and deserved more from there.  

“We had a few other missed chances. We didn’t play our best and still outplayed them. We absolutely feel like this is one that got away.” 

The Bears fell in a district final for the second consecutive year. They lost 1-0 in double overtime in 2019 to Olentangy Liberty, which went on to reach the state championship game.  

Senior forward Perry Stevenson scored a team-leading six goals with four assists. Junior forward Max Collier added five goals and Constantinides and senior forward Alex Woods each had four. 

Other key players eligible to return include D’Herete (defender) and Zac Yoakam (defender/midfielder) and sophomore Miles Bonham (midfielder). 

Senior Sergio Ly, a three-year starter in the midfield, was first-team all-league along with Erre, while Stevenson and D’Herete were on the second team, Woods was special mention and Bonham was honorable mention. 

“The legacy these guys created the past four years, culminating in two district finals in a row, is impressive,” Donovan said. “But nothing I could say right now will make these guys feel better.” 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave 

BOYS SOCCER 

•Record: 9-5-4 overall 

•OCC-Central standings: Olentangy Liberty (5-0), Dublin Coffman (4-1), Upper Arlington (2-2-1), Hilliard Bradley and Olentangy Orange (1-3-1), Hilliard Davidson (0-4-1) 

•Seniors lost: Matthew Acock, Nate Erre, Tyler Grimm, Alex Kennedy, Sergio Ly, Ian McLaughlin, Sam Milburn, Nick Mitchell, Mac Scholl, Josh Shepherd, Perry Stevenson, Duke Takanashi, Alex Trifelos and Alex Woods 

•Key returnees: Miles Bonham, Max Collier, Evan D’Herete and Zac Yoakam 

•Postseason: Defeated Olentangy 4-1; def. Worthington Kilbourne 1-0; lost to New Albany 3-1 in Division I district final