By Kyle Shaner
DARKE COUNTY – Two athletes who have proven they’re among the best in the entire state are The Daily Advocate’s winter sports athletes of the year.
The Daily Advocate’s winter sports athletes of the year are Versailles boys basketball player Justin Ahrens and Greenville girls swimmer Isabella Gable.
Ahrens is just a junior, but he’s already verbally committed to play college basketball at The Ohio State University. He gets a lot of attention from opposing teams, players and fans, Versailles boys basketball coach Travis Swank said, but he’s handled the attention very well.
“Everybody knew coming into the season that he could score and everything, but I think he showed his complete game this season,” Swank said.
This year Ahrens scored his 1,000th career point. He averaged 22.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a junior for Versailles, which won the Midwest Athletic Conference championship.
“We were pleased with what we did, what we accomplished,” Swank said. “We got a MAC title, sectional title, district title.”
Ahrens was named the MAC boys basketball player of the year by the league and the Division III Southwest Ohio boys basketball player of the year by the Associated Press. He also was named the Division III boys basketball player of the year by the AP and earned one vote for Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award.
“He became a complete player this year,” Swank said. “He bought in, and we reaped the rewards as a team all together.”
The Versailles junior has a ton of God-given ability, but he’s also a hard worker, Swank said.
“He’s constantly working at it,” the Versailles coach said. “He never takes any time off it seems like. He’s not satisfied with where he’s at right now. He wants to get better.”
Gable was the lone Darke County swimmer to qualify for the Ohio High School Athletic Association state swim meet this season. In the Division II state meet she placed in both of her events, finishing third in the girls 200 yard freestyle with a personal-best time of 1:51.34 and finishing seventh in the girls 500 yard freestyle with a time of 5:05.40.
“She had a great season,” Greenville swim coach Mollie Mendoza said. “She had improved from last year’s performance at state. Last year I think she went into state competition not sure what was going to happen. It was all new to her. This year she kind of knew what was expected, and I think that helped alleviate some of her nerves.”
Gable had a successful performance at state even though she was battling bronchitis and an ear infection at the time.
“She’s definitely a hard worker, and she proved that in the pool,” Mendoza said.
Gable led all Darke County girls this season in the 100 freestyle (52.32), 200 freestyle (1:51.34), 500 freestyle (5:01.53), 100 backstroke (1:03.90), 100 butterfly (1:03.34) and 200 individual medley (2:07.79). She was second in the county in the 50 freestyle (26.50) and 100 breaststroke (1:16.11).
“She has been such an asset to the team because of her versatility,” Mendoza said. “She’s able to jump into any event and be able to perform well no matter what it is.”
Mendoza credits Gable’s success to years of swimming experience and a strong work ethic.
“This year she has really buckled down,” the Greenville coach said. “She has made it a goal to improve all her swimming times. She’s been more focused this year than ever before.”
Being just a sophomore, Gable still has opportunities ahead of her to become even better.
“I know that whatever she decides to swim next year and the year after she’ll do quite well,” Mendoza said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.