Quick success was achieved for ThisWeek’s Spring Coaches of the Year as six of the eight honorees completed their first or second seasons with their teams.
Grandview Heights soccer coach James Gerdes was named the overall Coach of the Year at the Central Ohio High School Sports Awards, presented by Encova Insurance and in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine and Raising Cane’s. The event was June 15 at the Ohio Theatre.
Upper Arlington football coach Justin Buttermore and Reynoldsburg girls basketball coach Jack Purtell were the other finalists.
To read bios of athlete honorees, go to dispatch.com/sports/central-ohio-high-school-sports-awards.
Ryan Alexander, Grove City
Alexander guided the Greyhounds to a Division I state runner-up finish as they fell to Sylvania Northview 6-1 in the final to finish 26-8 overall.
Grove City advanced to the state tournament for the fifth time and reached the state final for the first time.
Alexander, who completed his 13th season, shared Coach of the Year honors in the OCC-Ohio with New Albany’s Dave Starling.
“Having coach Alexander as a member of the Grove City coaching staff sets an exemplary standard that is hard to reach,” athletics director Kris Sander said. “His commitment to baseball, athletes and the entire athletic program is evidenced through all he does for the school and the community. Coach Alexander exemplifies sportsmanship and is humble, giving credit to players and those who assist him for the success of the baseball program.
“He can be easily described as an ambassador for the city of Grove City, for Grove City High School, for the sport of baseball and as a coaching role model.”
2021: Tim Bates, Westerville South; 2020: No season; 2019: Dave Starling, New Albany; 2018: Ty Brenning, Olentangy Liberty
Dave Ames, Hilliard Davidson
It was history-making season for the Wildcats in Ames’ second season.
The second-seeded Wildcats reached their first regional final, falling to top-seeded Upper Arlington 17-4 in the Division I, Region 3 title game.
Davidson finished 16-6 overall and went 3-2 in the OCC-Central to tie Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange for second behind UA (5-0). The Wildcats posted their first winning season since going 12-9 in 2018 and the most wins since finishing 16-5 in 2017.
Senior defender Quinton Frazier credited Ames for the team’s improvement.
“He pushed me a lot,” said defender Quinton Frazier, a 2022 graduate who will play at Thomas More University. “He’d point out the little mistakes that I was making and make me work on it over and over and over until I got it right. He’s completely flipped the culture around. You can tell from how we performed.”
2021: Andy Asmo, Dublin Jerome; 2020: No season; 2019: Chris Sauter, Watterson; 2018: Shane Comisford, Dublin Coffman
Matt Bailey, Gahanna Lincoln
With a background in travel softball and two daughters already on the team, Bailey proved to be an immediate fit after he was named coach in January.
The Lions went 13-11 in 2021 but became one of the area’s top teams this season with an approach that Bailey calls “creating chaos” on the bases.
Gahanna amassed 207 stolen bases, including a program-record 57 by Bailey’s daughter, junior Kirnan Bailey, as the Lions went 28-3 and reached a Division I regional semifinal.
“I’ve always been taught from a young age from my dad to be aggressive, just looking for the next base and not being happy with the one you’re on,” Kirnan Bailey said.
The Lions went 10-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division and were seeded fourth for the district tournament, where they beat sixth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 6-0 to secure the program’s 11th district title in 14 seasons.
With three key seniors and five juniors leading the way, Gahanna had won 12 in a row before losing to Lancaster 1-0 in the regional.
“I just feel like we have a lot more chemistry and were allowed to have a lot of fun,” junior outfielder Sarah Carr said. “That’s what contributes in this game.”
2021: Stephanie Peterson, Pickerington Central; 2020: No season; 2019: Brian Wamsley, Westerville Central; 2018: Jennifer Segner-Maxwell and Chris Shirer, Marysville
Jim Cornett, Olentangy Berlin
Cornett looked to change the culture for the Bears and made great strides in his first season.
The Bears finished 19-8 after losing to top-seeded DeSales 27-25, 25-20, 25-22 on May 25 in a Division II, East Region semifinal. In the third-year program’s two previous seasons, it combined for nine wins.
As an industrial technology teacher at Berlin, Cornett watched the progress of the program and decided to become coach when the opening came about last summer.
“I targeted Jim when we opened (in the 2018-19 school year), and the timing wasn’t right with his family,” Berlin athletics director John Betz said. “I knew when he finally said yes to the job that we had a good one.
“He is very kid-oriented, and players gravitate to him. The program is probably one of the fastest-growing programs in our school.”
Cornett brings experience as a player and a coach. The 1999 Worthington Kilbourne graduate was named first-team all-state as a senior and has served as an assistant with his alma mater and Olentangy.
The Bears finished fifth (6-6) in the OCC-Cardinal behind champion Thomas Worthington (11-1). They had won only three league matches prior to this season.
2021: Zach Franklin, Hilliard Bradley; 2020: No season; 2019: Mike Sage, Gahanna; 2018: Karen Kochheiser, Olentangy
Elaina Enich, New Albany
Even if “fun” was the last word on the minds of New Albany girls lacrosse players as the season wound down, it was front and center for Enich.
“She called a timeout when we were down by three goals (12-9 with three minutes left in the Division I state final) and all of our heads were down and she started laughing and smiling and said, ‘This is what we’ve worked for all season. This is where it gets fun,’” junior attacker Abby Cole said. “And we ended up coming back and winning.”
The 13-12 overtime win over Upper Arlington in the state championship June 4 was the latest highlight in a successful two-season run for Enich, who is 41-6 overall with two finals appearances.
The 2013 New Albany graduate recorded 230 goals and 36 assists in high school, winning a Division II state title as a senior before playing at Cincinnati.
“She pushed us to reach our full potential even when times got rough and taught us very important lessons such as accountability, discipline and how to face adversity,” Cole said. “She preaches about what a privilege it is to be a part of this team and to wear the letters across our chests proudly.”
2021: Michael Murphy, Dublin Coffman; 2020: No season; 2019: Joe Finotti, DeSales; 2018: Wendy Pinta, Upper Arlington
Will Gingery, Bexley
Gingery, a second-year coach, helped the Lions reach the OTCA Division II team state tournament for the first time since winning the title in 2017.
Bexley defeated Lexington 3-2 in the consolation final, finishing 14-8. It lost to the Minutemen 4-1 in the regular season. The Lions lost to eventual champion Cincinnati Indian Hill 3-0 in a state semifinal.
Bexley reached the OTCA state by defeating Columbus Academy 3-2 in a district final. The Lions avenged an earlier 3-2 loss in MSL-Ohio play.
“We are truly fortunate to have coach Gingery working with our student-athletes,” athletics director Eli Goldberger said. “He is always looking to create positive opportunities for our kids. This year rather than cutting kids from the program, he went out of his way to create a third team – a varsity B team – to keep more kids involved in the program.”
The Lions were second (5-1) in the MSL-Ohio behind Academy (6-0).
Bexley also had players advance to the state individual tournament for the first time since 2017. Austin Flamm and Stefan Schiff qualified in doubles, going 1-1. In singles, Sam Lessard lost his opening match. He was the first singles qualifier since 2012.
2021: Marc Thomas, New Albany; 2020: No season; 2019: Marc Wurtzman, Columbus Academy; 2018: Thomas
David Mentlow, Westerville Central
Girls track and field
In his second season, Mentlow helped guide the Warhawks to their best performance in the Division I state meet as they finished second (31) behind Gahanna (47).
Central finished second (50) at regional behind Gahanna (73), won the district 1 meet (103) and finished second (131) in the OCC-Ohio meet behind Gahanna (153).
“We’re very happy for coach Mentlow as he receives this recognition as the girls track and field Coach of the Year,” athletics director Andy Ey said. “Coach Mentlow has done a great job creating a team atmosphere and gets the kids to work really hard, improve and perform their best in the biggest meets.”
With underclassmen leading the way during the postseason, the future looks bright for Mentlow and his team.
Junior Amari Kiluvia, a transfer from Eastmoor, led Central at state, finishing second in the 100 hurdles (13.77) and long jump (18-11 1/2). Sophomore Olivia Pace finished second in the 100 (11.71) and seventh in the 200 (24.73).
At regional, Pace finished first in the 100 (11.84) and 200 (24.73) and Kiluvia placed second in the 100 hurdles (14.26) and in the long jump (17-8).
2021: Adam Kessler, Watterson; 2020: No season; 2019: Roger Whittaker, Gahanna; 2018: Whittaker
Adam Walters, Olentangy Orange
Boys track and field
In his seven seasons, Walters consistently has one of the top programs in central Ohio, and 2022 was not different.
The Pioneers had their best finish at the Division I state meet by taking the runner-up spot with 30 points, one point behind champion Pickerington Central.
It was the fourth top-five finish at state for Orange in the past five seasons. It also third in 2019, fourth in 2017 and fifth in 2018.
“It’s pretty amazing what Adam has accomplished,” Orange athletics director Brett Diehl said. “He does an outstanding job of bringing kids into the program, and then he is able to put them into events where they can find success.”
The Pioneers also finished runner-up (43) at regional behind Westerville Central (55), and second (116) in district 2 behind Gahanna (122).
Orange also won its sixth consecutive league title, winning the OCC-Central for a second season in a row.
“Coach Walters has done a great job for numerous years,” Diehl said. “His teams don’t just excel in one area but in a wide range of events from distance to sprints to the field events. He helps his athletes reach their potential in all areas of the sport.”
Walters, who won this award in 2018, also leads the girls track and boys cross country programs.
2021: Dave Spring, Pickerington North; 2020: No season; 2019: Jason Roach, Pickerington Central; 2018: Walters