Collage created by Mikalah Kostalas
The Lady Pacers basketball team finished the season 21-5, reaching the district final at Ohio Dominican University. After the Pacers started 6-3, the team turned red hot after the calendar flipped to 2022, going 12-1 the rest of the regular season.
The run was filled with dominant performances including a 55-18 win against Olentangy Berlin, a 54-8 win against Franklin Heights and convincing wins against Worthington Kilbourne and Mt. Vernon, as well as Buckeye Valley on Senior Night. With key contributions from players like senior Sophie Midura, junior Porter Barickman and senior All-American Chloe Jeffers, the Pacers’ tournament run featured wins against Thomas Worthington, Watkins Memorial and Bishop Watterson.
While Jeffers passed the 1,000 point mark for her high school career this season, the focus was never on the personal accolades.
“I flipped that switch on the first day of practice for what the team needed because that’s how I reached 1,000,” Jeffers said. “I always thought: ‘I’m going to do whatever I can for my team to win. My points will come.’ I never knew how many points I had during the game. I was always just focused on winning.”
While the Butler University commit will be graduating, she said she still hopes the girl’s team gets more attention.
“I think the issue is with the students.” Jeffers said. “This season, we had a lot of parents and adults come out and support us each game, and I am forever grateful for that support system. But we’ve contacted students, posted on social media, won more games, and we still never got that support from our own classmates.”
With a culture that prioritizes fun so long as the work allows it, the Lady Pacers will look to continue the dominance of the OCC Capital Conference and build a tight-knit team.
The boys’ basketball team finished the season with a record of 17-8, landing 3rd in the division. With important contributions from Jesse Burris, Jake Lowman, Hezekiah Russell and Jayson and Jacob Enke in scoring as well as defensive output from CJ Holmes and Ryan Polter (who led the team in charges taken), the Pacers went to the district semi-finals.
Last season, the Pacers were 4-9 in games with a 10-point difference in the final score. This year, the team went 10-2 in such games.
The season was highlighted with a 56-52 win against arch-rival Buckeye Valley, a 46-44 win at Marysville and a 60-54 win against Westerville North,
The ability to make the most winning plays was key for the team and was imperative to the 5-game win streak before the district semi-final against eventual champion Pickerington Central.
“Just the adversity we were able to go through last year, it really helped our group,” Polter said. “It allowed us to win those close games.”
The win column is not the only area of improvement for Hayes, as the return to a normal season helped a return to a normal culture of a Delaware Basketball program.
“I think [the culture] is a huge growth from last year,” Polter said. “Now, ‘we’ is bigger than ‘me.’ Everyone’s closer and a better teammate.”
Growth will be a focus for the team going forward, as team leaders will graduate. With solid play from this year’s freshmen all the way to juniors, continued progress is in the Pacer’s sights.
With the Covid restrictions being loosened for this past season, it marked the first time cheerleaders have been able to travel for basketball games since the beginning of the pandemic.
The season brought the cheerleaders together, even through navigating the challenges of a lingering pandemic, and created some memorable moments.
“[My favorite moment was] our last practice where we talked about favorite memories and ate cookies,” junior Katie Connell said. “This team was one big family where we all could talk and laugh together.”
While the return to the court was a welcomed one, the support from the cheer reached farther than the gym on game nights. The program won the Outstanding Peer Mentors Award from the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, an organization that helps service support for over 2300 people. The award goes to people or groups who spend time enhancing the lives of people with disabilities in the county.
The gymnastics team wrapped up the year with their highest score of the year at 123.35 on Senior Night. This helped show the improvement that took place, as the team finished 3rd at the first competition. With gymnastics being an extremely demanding sport due to the level of difficulty in the routines, growth over the season can be challenging.
“The feeling when you get a new skill, especially one that you’ve been working on for a while, is unmatched,” senior Katie Hejmanowski said. “For me, that was my back tuck. I’d been moving towards it for years now and finally doing it by myself on the floor was euphoric.”
While Hejmanowski was out for a period as she battled injuries during the season, she said she trusted the recovery process.
“I got a back injury last year that’s still lingering,” Hejmanowksi said. “It sometimes makes it difficult to push myself to the same level as other gymnastics. That, and I got a concussion halfway through the season that had a long recovery period. But it was better to deal with the long recovery than to jump back in and make it worse.”
As Hejmanowksi will be graduating, her advice to younger gymnasts is to give full effort regardless of confidence.
“Even if you’re new, even if you’re ‘bad,’ just throw yourself into the sport 100 percent,”’ Hejmanowski said. “Seeing achievement every day is worth so much more than placing in competition.”
The boys’ wrestling team had an abundance of extraordinary wrestlers this season, with district qualification from every graduation class.
Freshman qualifiers were William Cox and Jordan May, while juniors Devin Halliday, Erik Wells, and Ian Browning qualified as well. Seniors were represented by Thomas Ross, Paolo Sferrella, Joe Shrewsbery and Cannon Cavazos. In addition, sophomore Isaiah Clark and freshman Lincoln Seymour served as alternates.
While the regular season ended with a 78-3 win in the final dual match, the success didn’t end there. Cavazos placed second at sectionals, and Halliday and Sferrella were sectional champs.
While wrestling’s nature and required conditioning regime are grueling, Delaware pushed through, with many wrestlers receiving All-OCC honors.
“[The hardest part] is the conditioning,” sophomore Caleb Forney said. “Seal Week is just seal training. It’s really absurd.”
The hard work paid off for the Pacers, creating a culture of intensity and appreciation.
“[The team is] really respectful,” Forney said. “I think we all respected each other very well. We’ll cuss each other out and things like that, but we’re all friends.”
Delaware was represented at states by Devin Halliday, who went to the round of 12.
The girl’s wrestling team also had a successful season on and off the mats.
Kasey Wells finished 8th and Kelcey Dew at 3rd in the state, and the team finished 2nd at districts while Meredith Milligan was crowned district champion. Wrestlers also received All-Metro Honors, with Dew at first team, Molly Wells at second, and Cici Plaud and Ella Ries receiving honorable mentions.
This season’s victories were bigger than a match, though. The team is in its second year of being separate from the boys’ wrestling squad, and the increased recognition for girls’ wrestling will benefit the Pacers even more, because as of January 13, it will be an officially sanctioned sport in the OHSAA.
“It was big news for all of us,” junior Meredith Milligan said. “I am very happy they sanctioned it and when they did. It will come with a lot of new opportunities for high school girl wrestlers.
Swimming and Diving
For the aquatics teams, a change in the culture took place over the season. When Mackenzie Carter was named a captain, she said she wanted to make sure the team itself was in a good place.
“I wanted to bring some new energy to the team and really develop a culture I feel the girls’ team never really had,” Carter said. “We did a lot more team bonding activities this season and really made sure we knew one another before the season even started.”
With a sport that requires a 4:10 wake up call for a practice before school, a close team is a necessity. Luckily, a movement towards a strong culture was a collective effort.
“This season was unlike any other I have experienced,” Carter said. “The girls’ team came together, had some very fast swims, and showed more team spirit than I have ever seen.”
As the team grew closer, the results were coming in the pool as well. Each team won the OCC Championship, marking the first year both teams won at the same time since 2005.
Mark Sulek was ranked 2nd in Division One for diving and placed 16th at states. He also placed 3rd at districts and 1st in the OCC.
The girls had individual success as well, with Abigail Bricker placing 5th in the OCC’s for diving. Kaitlyn Sallows finished 6th in the 200 meter medley and 8th in the 500 meter freestyle at states. And for Mackenzie Carter, the season included breaking the school record for the 100 meter backstroke.
After a successful season this year, sights are already set on next year.
“Saying I am proud of my teammates is an understatement,” Carter said. “They all worked so incredibly hard this season and we all have grown so close to one another. I am very excited to see what next season brings.”
For the Hayes Bowling program, the ending to the season was triumphant as both squads won on senior night. The girl’s team advanced to sectionals for the 3rd straight year, and senior Hannah Halstead advanced to states for the 3rd straight year as well. Though she’ll be going alone, she still feels the team connection.
“It feels weird having to go by myself and not have my team there to support me,” Halstead said. “But I know they will be watching the video cheering me on from there.”
Halstead said she had both physical and mental goals going into the year. The top ranked Division One bowler in the district wanted to improve her average and stay present mentally. Her average went from 197 to 207, and she was pleased with the support from the team.
“I would describe the team as a family,” Halstead said. “When someone was down, there was always someone there to pick you back up. We got along very well.”