From the first swing of a golf club in August to the last swing of a baseball bat in June, the school year produced memorable moments for central Ohio athletes, teams, coaches and fans.
To put a bow on our coverage, each high school sportswriter from ThisWeek Community News and The Columbus Dispatch was given a task: Write a vignette about your favorite memory from the 2021-22 season.
Here are their six picks, in alphabetical order by school:
Chloe Jeffers’ stellar season fuels Delaware Hayes girls basketball team
It’s hard not to look at the season Jeffers had for the Pacers with awe. The Butler commit, who was a staple in the Delaware lineup for four years, was a force as a senior.
She averaged 21.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals and shot 50.8% from the field, including 42.5% from 3-point range, and 87.5% at the free-throw line.
But that just scratched the surface. Jeffers became the sixth player in program history to reach 1,000 points when she scored 26 in a 52-25 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Jan. 28.
She came back the following day to score 40 in a 67-40 win at Mount Vernon, breaking 2001 graduate Amanda Dehn’s single-game program record of 38.
Jeffers had been close to breaking the record on a couple of occasions, going for 37 in a 62-52 win over Olentangy on Nov. 23 and 36 in a 52-47 victory at Thomas Worthington on Dec. 21.
The Pacers became a fun story to follow, reeling off 11 consecutive wins and 17 of 18 down the stretch as they reached a district final for the first time since 1992 and finished 21-5.
On their way, Jeffers broke the single-game program record again, scoring 41 points to lead the Pacers to their first postseason win since 2013 – a 77-41 victory over Thomas on Feb. 15 in the first round.
–Michael Rich, ThisWeek
Grandview Heights boys soccer squad wins school’s first team title
James Gerdes isn’t one to stand pat. The coach constantly tinkers with his lineup to find his team’s best version.
Everything eventually fell into place last fall for the Bobcats, who defeated Columbiana Crestview 4-2 to win the Division III state championship at Lower.com Field. It was Grandview’s first team state title in any sport.
Grandview started 2-2-2 but won eight of 10 games to end the regular season. They finished 17-4-2, having closed the season with eight consecutive victories.
Seeded first in the Central District, Grandview avenged an earlier loss by defeating second-seeded Wellington 2-0 to capture its eighth consecutive district title. The Bobcats lost the earlier matchup 1-0 in MSL-Ohio Division play.
Senior Luke Clark-Moody moved from midfielder to goalie in the offseason and was nearly an impenetrable wall during the postseason. Before the title game, the only postseason goal he allowed came in a 6-1 victory over Berlin Hiland in a regional final.
The Bobcats knocked off top-ranked Cincinnati Madeira 2-0 in a state semifinal to reach the state championship game for the first time since 2014.
Danny Claypool showed Grandview wasn’t in awe of the big stage, scoring two of his three goals in the first 10 minutes of the state final. The Bobcats seized control early and rode that wave to cap off an iconic season.
–Scott Hennen, ThisWeek
Grove City baseball team reaches Division I state final
In terms of athletics in central Ohio, the 2021-22 school year ended with the Greyhounds falling short of their first state championship.
They were one win away, losing 6-1 to Sylvania Northview on June 11 at Canal Park in Akron in their first state title game appearance.
Grove City played in its fifth state tournament and first since making back-to-back trips in 2011 and 2012.
The Greyhounds’ success begins at the top with coach Ryan Alexander. His love for the game, his program and the school is infectious, spreading to his players and assistant coaches.
Upon completing his 13th season, Alexander remains one of the area’s top coaches. He shared OCC-Ohio Coach of the Year honors with New Albany’s Dave Starling, whose team won the Division I state title in 2021.
The Greyhounds and Eagles shared the league championship this spring at 12-3, with New Albany winning two of three league matchups, but Grove City advanced to state by beating New Albany in a regional final.
Nicknamed the “dirt bags” because of their gritty style of play, the Greyhounds relied on defense, pitching and timely hitting to reach state. This style was on full display in the postseason, as Grove City earned consecutive 2-0 wins over Lancaster, Hilliard Darby and New Albany.
Grove City loses eight players to graduation but should return a solid nucleus led by rising junior Keegan Holmstrom, a left-handed pitcher and Ohio State commit who was OCC-Ohio co-Player of the Year, first-team all-district and second-team all-state.
Led by Alexander and Holmstrom, look for the Greyhounds to make another bid for state next spring.
–Frank DiRenna, ThisWeek
Liberty Union star Jacob Miller signs autographs immediately after final loss of high school career
In the moments after his prep baseball career ended with a 4-3 Division III state semifinal loss to Apple Creek Waynedale, Liberty Union’s ace pitcher was nearly inconsolable.
Miller, projected to be a first-round pick in the MLB draft July 17, didn’t have his best stuff that day and was removed from the game in the top of the sixth inning after recording one final strikeout – the 382nd of his career. The Lions trailed 4-2 at the time and managed to plate a run in the bottom of the seventh, but the rally fell just short. That’s when the tears overflowed.
Miller was the last one out of the dugout, taking the slow walk of a player trying to process what had just happened. As the team was ushered up the stadium stairs, Miller stepped aside to speak with me and Lancaster Eagle-Gazette reporter Tom Wilson. In a very short conversation, he shared the raw pain of the loss and fought through tears as he tried to string a sentence together.
And as Miller continued his walk up the stairs, he stopped at the request of two young boys holding out baseballs, seeking his autograph. In an instant, he attempted to shake off his emotion and put a smile on his face, signing their baseballs and asking them about themselves.
When I look back on this season, I’ll remember watching Miller pitch and the frenzy of the scouts who followed his every move. But more than anything, I’ll remember that in one of his saddest moments, he took time for his young fans, who got to have a special moment with their hero.
–Bailey Johnson, Columbus Dispatch
Pickerington Central takes different route to Ohio Division I state title
Covering a state championship team always is fun, even for those of us whose only rooting interest is the quality of our stories.
Central’s boys basketball team gave me more to work with than I could have expected last winter, mostly because beyond first-team all-state forward Devin Royal, it truly was a toss-up as to who would step up on any given night.
An injury to Ohio State football recruit Sonny Styles late in the regular season meant others had to stand out, a trend that continued all the way to a 55-48 upset of undefeated and defending state champion Centerville in the Division I final.
Juwan Turner’s career-high 17 points in the district final against Olentangy Liberty, 12 of which came on 3-pointers, helped rescue Central from a fourth-quarter deficit. Markell Johnson chipped in a crucial 10 points in a regional semifinal win over Upper Arlington, and Rasheem Biles returned from a broken pelvic bone in time for the regional final and consistently made impact plays off the bench in the Tigers’ final three games.
At the time, none were household names. Expect that to change.
The Tigers were a prime example of why, at the end of the day, the only rankings that matter are those decided on a court, field, mat or rink.
–Dave Purpura, ThisWeek
Reynoldsburg girls basketball team rallies for a state championship
Things were set up perfectly for the Raiders to finally earn their long-awaited first Division I state championship last winter.
The Raiders had central Ohio’s best player in senior Imarianah Russell, one of the area’s top all-around talents in senior Mya Perry, plenty of experience and enough height to keep teams honest inside.
And it would be tough to find a more grizzled coaching staff, considering head coach Jack Purtell earned his 500th career victory during the regular season and Dave Butcher, with 700 career wins, was among the assistants.
Still, to win a state title in the big-school division has proven difficult the last two decades for central Ohio programs, and the Raiders were behind by double digits midway through the third quarter March 12 against Mason.
That’s when the magic began to occur.
Russell went on to score her 2,000th career point late in the game and put together a 28-point performance as the Raiders won 63-56 in overtime, but they likely wouldn’t have gotten the title if not for a role player.
Senior guard Trinity Ramos, who averaged 4.5 points last season, missed her first four shots but hit a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 57 seconds left to cut Mason’s lead to four. She then hit another 3-pointer 30 seconds later.
The shift in momentum was clear, and Reynoldsburg completed it with memories that will last a lifetime for those players and that community.
–Jarrod Ulrey, ThisWeek