Our staff picked some of our favorite moments in sports this year.
Northland High School had won nine of the previous 10 City League boys basketball championships. South High School hadn't been to a title game in 29 years—and hadn't won one in 37. Northland has a hoops legacy that includes local legends like Jared Sullinger and Trey Burke. Just a few years ago, South went 1-19. With those differences as a backdrop, you can understand why the South faithful weren't ready to leave the gym after their team's shocking 65-51 victory in this year's City League championship in February. When Goliath goes down, David deserves a few extra moments to celebrate.
The most dominant athletes at Ohio State don't wear football helmets. In March, the OSU synchronized swimming team won its 30th national title. That's more than any other Ohio State sport—and it's not even close. The runner-up is men's swimming and diving with 11 national titles. What's more, synchronized swimming reached its milestone in just 40 years.
Oklahoma cornerback Michah Quick never expected to get a big bear hug from Ohio State wide receiver Noah Brown during their anticipated matchup in September. But with 13 seconds left in the first half and Ohio State at the Sooners' 25-yard line, quarterback J.T. Barrett floated a pass toward Brown in the back corner of the end zone. Quick made a desperation leap in coverage and got between Brown and the ball, but that didn't stop the sophomore receiver, who, with one hand, reached around Quick and pinned the ball to his defender's back, then secured it there with his other hand before the pair tumbled to the ground for a touchdown. “Oh my goodness … this catch was unreal,” exclaimed Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt. “That's as good as it gets. Wow! Unbelievable.” It was Brown's third touchdown catch of the half, helping OSU to a 45-24 victory.
DeSales' Maureen Cummins overcame spinal surgery to become a champion swimmer, winning the 100-yard backstroke and coming in second in the 50-yard freestyle at the Central Catholic League championships this past season. In October, she signed a letter of intent to swim for Xavier University.
Adam Shaheen, a former Big Walnut High School basketball star, began his college career playing Division II hoops for the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown before transferring as a sophomore to Ashland University—to play football. It was a good choice. Shaheen, a tight end from Galena, was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the NFL draft this spring.
At a March postgame press conference, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella—who has a long history of prickly, entertaining interactions with the media—gave a generic answer that led a reporter to quip, “I knew all this in December, John.” Never gun shy, Coach Torts fired back: “Well I wish you'd told me. Then I wouldn't have to go through it with you.” He's mostly bark—he showed his softer side when he missed the NHL All-Star weekend to care for a sick pit bull that belongs to his son, an Army Ranger stationed abroad.
Act of Charity
In celebrating a touchdown, former Buckeye and current Dallas Cowboy Ezekiel Elliott leaped into an oversized Salvation Army kettle in the back of the end zone. And though officials flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct, it had the exact opposite effect for the Salvation Army, which reported that donations spiked following Elliott's prime-time advertisement for the charity.
Also featured in last year's Best of Columbus issue, the Ohio State men's volleyball team defended its 2016 national title in nearly identical fashion in May. The Buckeyes beat Brigham Young for the second year in a row, again in straight sets, and also recaptured the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award (Nicolas Szerszen). The only real difference was that OSU pulled off the title sweep at home in St. John Arena in front of more than 8,000 fans this year.
Act of Self-Deprecation
Cardale Jones' football career at Ohio State got off to a wobbly start when he tweeted, during his redshirt year as a freshman, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” Ultimately, he redeemed himself on the field, leading the Buckeyes to the 2014 national title. He also redeemed himself in the classroom, earning his diploma in May. On top of his graduation cap were the words, “Sum 1 once said, ‘We ain't come here to play school.' ”
Flashback: 1997, Celebrity advocate
Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the city his stamp of approval by keeping his fitness expo here after rejecting big-money offers from Moscow and Paris. “I love the stability of the community, and I think the people make it good.” Nice to have a tough guy on your side.