The winter season can be filled with many distractions provoked by approaching holidays, snowy weather and breaks. But the winter athletes of Fairmont High School didn’t let any distractions or obstacles get the best of them as they earned various GWOC and state titles and posted winning seasons.
Teams banded together on the court and on the relay block, while individuals shined in the pool and the bowling alley and on the diving board and wrestling mat. A basketball team of mostly underclassman girls showed the state what the new dogs can do; five wrestlers made Fairmont history; 24 athletes represented their school in state championships; and 261 athletes set the winter months on fire.
The Firebirds shattered records and expectations, celebrated stirring victories and weathered heartbreaking defeats. The entire community cheered with them as they made their mark on 2011. One story could only cover a fraction of the memorable moments throughout Fairmont’s winter sports season.
Varsity Girls’ Basketball
The 2010-11 Varsity Girls’ Basketball team wrapped up their season with an appearance in the Division I State Championship for the first time in school history. A 59-50 win against Toledo Start on March 18 gave the Firebirds a chance to play in the State Finals at the Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University against the Twinsburg Tigers on March 19. Fairmont had a 10-point lead early in the third quarter, but the undefeated Twinsburg Tigers came back strong to get the 55-42 win.
The Firebirds accumulated a record-breaking 26 wins this season with only one regular season loss on the girls’ otherwise spotless record: a close 44-49 loss to Butler on Jan. 8.
The girls were ranked in the top 10 throughout the state all season long. During tournament time, the girls turned up the heat by defeating many highly touted teams including Cincinnati McAuley, Mason, Princeton, Springboro and Toledo Start. “We knew we would have a tough road ahead of us going into the season,” said sophomore Alona Skipper. “Our goal was to play the maximum of eight games in the State tournament and we did that.”
On the roster, the Firebirds had their youngest team ever with one senior, three sophomores and six freshmen. The girls didn’t let their youth bring them down as they were one of the last teams playing in the state of Ohio.
Coach Tim Cogan, who led the Firebirds during their successful season, walked away with his third GWOC Central Coach of the Year honor. Many individual players also earned awards. Sophomore Chelsea Welch was named First Team GWOC All Conference, as well as AP Player of the Year for the area. Welch also was named First Team All-GWOC Central Division, along with freshmen Makayla Waterman and Kathyrn Westbeld. Sophomore Alona Skipper was named Special Mention All-GWOC Central Division.
Varsity Boys’ Basketball
The Varsity Boys’ Basketball team’s season came to an end in their first tournament game. They lost a close game to Lebanon, 66-58. They compiled a record of 4-17, not quite the result they wanted. “We didn’t really get the record we had hoped for, but we lost some close games and played hard throughout,” said senior guard Ben Newell.
The Firebirds got one of their biggest wins of the season against GWOC Central rival Beavercreek. They defeated the Beavers 56-54 at Beavercreek on Jan. 14.
Two athletes earned GWOC titles in a very competitive league. Junior Jacob Roalef made Second Team All-GWOC and junior Jordan Glaser made Honorable Mention All-GWOC.
The Varsity Wrestling team had a very successful season as they sent five athletes to the State competition, the most in school history. The five competed at the Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University were juniors Tommy Kimbrell and Justin Kihn, sophomores Matt Denlinger and Garrett Conner, and freshman Josh Parrett.
At State, two Firebirds advanced to the finals to place, also a first in Fairmont wrestling history. Kimbrell placed 6th in 160-pound weight class, and Denlinger placed 8th in the 130-pound weight class. Conner, Kihn and Parrett lost their first-round matches. “It was great to place at State,” said Kimbrell. “But sharing the experience with four other guys was even better.”
With the success of the many powerful wrestlers, the Firebirds qualified for next year’s Ohio Duels. The top eight teams in the district are invited to the tournament.
In GWOC action, Kimbrell and Denlinger placed first in their weight class and Kihn and junior Ryan Huffman placed second in their weight class. Kimbrell and Denlinger also made First Team All-GWOC, Kihn and Parrett made Second Team All-GWOC, and Huffman made Special Mention All-GWOC.
The Varsity Swim and Dive teams completed successful seasons despite having to drive to Trotwood every morning for practice while their home pool at the Kettering Rec Center underwent extensive renovation. “The team came through it all together. It was fun to watch them respond,” said Swim Coach Steve Hippenmeyer.
Hippenmeyer believes the team created some of its finest moments at the Southwest District Classic Meet. The boys sent six individuals and a relay team to The Southwest District Finals on Feb. 18. Senior Kyle Flenar can add a feather to his cap for becoming the first Firebird ever to qualify for Districts in both swimming and diving. His dual-sport victory at the Feb. 11 Sectional Competition yielded his lifetime best record of 1:02.57 in the 100-yard backstroke.
The District competition gave way to a strong showing at GWOC, which Hippenmeyer said included the “best overall team finish in recent years.” The girls’ team held their own, finishing third out of six on the first day of GWOC with 382 points, and then went on to place fourth out of 15 in the Championships the next day. The boys improved from last year, earning seventh place out of 16 in the Championships, just two points shy of Troy, who narrowly defeated the Firebirds this time last year. During the Saturday meet, Firebird swimmers established 47 season’s best times on 69 possible events, a PR rate of 68 percent. The stands rung with the team’s signature cheer (an Emeril style “BAM”) to acknowledge each personal record.
Natalie Rohr held the school’s eye captive with a monumental season. She started strong with victories in two events at Sectionals and runner-up titles in two events at District. At GWOC, the junior claimed the crown of Swimmer of the Year and qualified to swim the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events at the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Championship in Canton. She earned trips to the podium in both events with a sixth and seventh place, respectively, which Hippenmeyer feels was the highlight of the season. In her personal records, Rohr broke the school record in the 100 freestyle. Her performance was just one among a strong lineup of individuals.
The team recognized some of the outstanding swimmers at the March 7 awards banquet. Senior Rohr and senior Brian Bendel were awarded Most Valuable and seniors Lindsey Overberg and Nate Welch were awarded Most Improved. The Coaches’ Award went to seniors Kevin LaVoy and Audrey Gleason, while the Sportsmanship Award went to seniors Daniel Strohminger and Maura O’Neill. Seniors Kate Hufnagle, Amanda Feairheller, Brandon Urmey and Ian Brittain-Mynes received recognition for their Spirit. Senior Tony Cannon had an especially rewarding night, receiving the Chase Hale Memorial Scholarship.
Hippenmeyer attributes part of the team’s success to an “unbelievable” senior class “filled with amazing leaders who understood the importance of sportsmanship.”
The varsity divers started the season strong at the Bellbrook Ice-Breaker 6-Dive meet, where the girls secured first place. Senior Captain Kaydee Miller took first place, junior Kamryn Hyde took fourth, and freshman Taylor Hamilton set her varsity career on the right path with a sixth-place finish out of 13 divers. Junior Sarah Miller posted her personal best. The gentlemen lost by two points to Bellbrook, with senior captain Kyle Flenar as runner-up and Tim Kendig finishing fourth.
The season picked up pace two weeks later at the Milford Invitational, where Kaydee Miller captured the bronze medal and established the second highest score in Fairmont history with 256.10, earning her the title of third all-time GWOC performer. Natalie Uy placed 15th with a score of 204.35, and Bethany Blumenstock followed closely at 17th with a score of 196.95. Junior Jackson Kissel proved himself Fairmont’s “top-gun” at the meet, placing 6th with his score of 248.25. Tim Kendig and Alex Durham rounded out the performances in 8th place and 11th place, respectively.
The Jan. 15-16 Southwest Classic Meet yielded several personal achievements, with Uy, Blumenstock, Hamilton, Sarah Miller, and Durham establishing personal bests and junior Kamryn Hyde establishing a seasonal best with a 12th place score of 163.60. Kaydee Miller at last shattered the school record for the six-dive, and Kissel came just seven points shy of breaking the men’s record. Miller, Flenar and Kissel advanced to the Finals, where Miller placed 11th and Flenar placed 13th.
Flenar, Miller and Kissell finished among the top 24 divers at the OHSAA Sectional diving competition, catapulting them to the District finals, where Miller placed 13th, Flenar placed 19th and Kissel placed 24th.
Varsity Boys’ Bowling
Fairmont High School Boys’ Bowling Head Coach Rex Wolfe had the best shave of his life on Feb. 28 at the 2011 District Championship at Eastern Lanes in Middletown. That’s because Wolfe agreed to shave his decade-old goatee if his bowlers qualified for the Ohio State University Buckeye Classic tournament.
The boys won the overall battle among five teams by 103 pins, with a final score of 4,567. Wolfe dashed to the restroom with scissors and razor in hand.
The win was part of a successful 8-1 season for the Varsity boys, who had the highest team average of 1064.3 per game in the GWOC competition. Their teammates in Junior Varsity added to the vibe with their 9-1 season record. Two Varsity bowlers stood out in particular: junior Zach Grubb bowled a 724 and junior Ryan Wolfe scored a 698.
Coach Wolfe believes last year’s loss at Districts gave the boys more drive to make it to State this year for a shot at the title. The Varsity boys made the journey to Columbus on March 5 and finished 5th in the competition.
Varsity Girls’ Bowling
The Varsity Girls’ bowling team finished their season with a 7-2 record in the GWOC. Fairmont scored some of its biggest wins against Piqua, Fairborn and Lebanon. Sophomore Molly Crouch qualified to represent the girls at their State competition. The OHSAA State Bowling Championship was held on March 4 in Columbus. Crouch finished 48th in individual play for the girls.
Crouch is very proud of the team and says that everyone worked very well together and helped each other out with advice and support. “We always helped each other improve on our skills this season. It was a memorable year,” said Crouch.