XENIA — While the way we all consume and experience sports has been affected lately, 2021 primarily brought back familiar enjoyment to the fields, parks, and stadiums we attend.
Grandstands have filled up, cheerleaders once again sparked the crowd’s excitement, and athletes welcomed it all with open arms to bring friends and family a sense of happiness unique to sport.
With recognition to Sebastian Hills being purchased and plans to reopen as Jasper Hills, Greeneview football coming back to win its division, and the numerous milestones local athletes reached during their play this year, here is our list of Greene County’s top-10 sports stories of the year:
10. Wright State women win NCAA Tournament game
Angel Baker is the answer to the trivia question for Wright State fans as to who hit the game-winning shot in its first NCAA Tournament victory.
Baker and the Raiders defeated No. 4-seed Arkansas 66-62 in the first-round of the tournament in Austin, Texas. It was the third NCAA Tournament appearance for Wright State’s women’s program, all of which have come since 2014.
9. Daniel Michalski makes Olympic trials
The former Cedarville University national champion finished a half of a second outside of the top-three in the 3000-meter steeplechase to narrowly miss a Tokyo Olympic berth.
Being invited to compete is no easy task, and the Xenia native was able to do so after finishing second during the same race at the USATF Golden Games in May.
8. Cedarville boys reach regional final
A fantastic run for the Indians only ended when it ran into the eventual state champions. Cedarville pulled off multiple double-digit comebacks during district and regional play, and upset the top-ranked Division IV team in the state, Tri-Village, along the way.
Trent Koning won OHC South Player of the Year honors and was named second-team All-Ohio, and the Indians enjoyed its deepest postseason run in school history.
7. Carroll girls make state semifinals
After being pulled off the court before getting a chance to play in 2020, Carroll got another chance by earning a third-straight appearance this year and nearly found itself playing for a state championship.
A final shot to send its game to overtime just missed, but it was an accomplishment to be proud of made better by the fact games were being held at UD Arena rather than in Columbus. Sarah Ochs was named second-team All-Ohio in Division II.
6. Gerhard/Henley die
Longtime Carroll wrestling assistant coach Mark Gerhard and Beavercreek Stars founder Terry Henley were major influences in their sport.
Gerhard was looked at beyond his title by his peers. Described as selfless and influential, he spent countless hours working with younger wrestlers in organizing the Miami Valley Kids Wrestling Association.
Gerhard was a multi-sport athlete at Carroll, graduating in 1966. He was selected for the Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Hall of Fame, received an award for youth program direction from USA Wrestling, and earned special recognition from the Ohio High School Athletic Association for his behind-the-scenes efforts in his own district in March 2019. He directed the Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament from 1987-1997 and organized many other wrestling events as well.
It was Henley’s vision that led to the creation of the Beavercreek Stars — one of the most successful and well-respected youth programs in Ohio and in the United States — and Henley Hall, the program’s facility.
Henley was a chemical engineer and held 11 patents in nine different fields. But it was on the court where he made his biggest contribution in Beavercreek. Searching for basketball options for sons Barron and Troy, in 1975 Henley created the Stars youth program for students in grades three to six. He personally funded the entire operation so financial concerns wouldn’t keep prospective players away.
5. Longtime coaches retire
Two local coaches made decisions to move on from their longstanding roles in Kent Anderson at Xenia and Mike Sheets from Carroll.
Anderson has coached multiple sports in his 37 years in the profession but reached 300 career wins as a basketball coach in 2021 and had 144 of them come at the helm of Xenia boys basketball. Anderson was replaced by Michael Arlinghaus.
Sheets led the Patriots’ baseball team for 26 years and after announcing it would be his last, his team reached the district finals and defeated the defending two-time state champions to get there. Sheets had more than 350 wins and was also inducted into the Greater Dayton Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the 2018 class.
4. State champions
Greene County saw several standout performances and had multiple athletes reach the summit of their sports.
Legacy Christian’s wrestling team became the Division III champions in just its fifth season of competition. Dillon Campbell at 113 pounds finished undefeated, and joined Camron Lacure at 132 and Gavin Brown at 145 in earning individual crowns. It was the second for Brown.
Six of the team’s seven qualifiers earned spots on their podiums, with Eli Campbell, Logan Attisano and Nick Alvarez joining their teammates.
Jack Agnew of Carroll also earned the “state champion” title by completing a sweep of the district, regional and state Division II boys cross country races. Agnew was neck-and-neck heading into the final stretch before his burst of reserve speed left no doubt as to the race winner.
Quick acknowledgements to Andrew Magill and Maya Brink of Bellbrook as well for also making state tournament appearances in boys golf and girls tennis.
3. Ed Zink calls it a career
In a coaching class of his own, the Beavercreek native and multi-sports standout announced his retirement in May after 46 years, more than 1,000 games, 810 wins, three Division-I state championships, 21 league championships in the Western Ohio League and Greater Western Ohio Conference, 18 district championships and six regional championships.
Zink wrapped up his time at Beavercreek as the winningest coach in Ohio girls basketball history since it became a sanctioned sport for the 1975-76 season. With a career record of 810-277, Zink’s teams averaged 17 wins and just six losses per season.
“I’ve just been thinking about it for a couple years here,” Zink, 69, said at the time of his retirement. “I don’t have all the energy that I used to have. I still enjoy it. Last year kind of wore me out a little bit with the COVID and everything. I just felt that it’s about time to turn it over to someone younger.”
Former assistant Aric Seilhamer is now in charge and has guided Beavercreek to a 7-3 start to its season.
2. Emma Hess named Player of the Year in Ohio
Hess averaged 18.6 points, and 7.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range in her senior season in leading her Legacy Christian Academy team the Metro Buckeye Conference title for the fourth straight season while also winning a district title.
“I know a lot of people had like (Toledo Christian senior) Madison Royal-Davis, she was always usually listed above me or (Minster senior) Ivy Wolf,” Hess said after being told she was the award winner. “So to be on top, that’s insane. That’s just really crazy to me to see that people think that I’m that good.”
As a freshman at Liberty University, she is currently averaging 4.4 points per game and 12.3 minutes, while hitting 38.7 percent of her three-point attempts. She recently came close to her first collegiate double-double on Dec. 14 with 11 points and nine rebounds.
1. Grace Norman wins silver at Paralympics
Norman, a Jamestown native, followed up her triathlon gold medal from the 2016 Rio games with another outstanding performance during 2020 Tokyo.
Racing in the extreme heat, she completed the unusual five-year wait after the event was postponed by a year to finish another remarkable journey for the 23-year-old.
Born with congenital constriction band syndrome in her left leg at birth, which resulted in the amputation of her left leg below the knee when she was young, Norman now runs with a J-shaped, carbon fiber prosthetic and is a rival to anyone able to put any number of feet on the ground.
“It’s been a long time coming for this games,” she said shortly after winning the silver medal. “It’s just been super. Coming across the finish line. I had a great race start to finish. No regrets. Gave it all. I’m just overjoyed.”
Norman finished 41 seconds behind the gold medalist, and is already looking ahead to 2024 in Paris where she surely would love to make it a three-peat on the podium.