The Columbus School for Girls swimming and diving team began practicing in its new eight-lane pool in early November, and first-year coach Stephanie Donley said it already has increased interest in her program.
"Our old pool had five lanes and it wasn't nearly as nice as the new one," she said. "The rest of the (high school) pools across this city have six or fewer lanes and this one has eight lanes and it's an infinity pool, which makes it faster. It's a beautiful facility with natural light and a weight room that overlooks it.
"Last year, we had 12 girls on our team and now we're up to 21. We've had a lot of interest from families across the state and we've even had a few from outside the state inquire about it. As word gets out about the facility and the success our girls have, I think our program will only continue to get stronger."
Donley, a 1987 Pickerington graduate, won state titles in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1985 and 1987. She also was a seven-time NCAA champion and 20-time All-American while competing for the University of Florida from 1987-91.
Five state qualifiers have returned for the Unicorns in senior captains Keiko Wilkins and Erin Smith, junior Erin Balasky and sophomores Kirby Boes and Rachel Politi.
Last season, Politi finished third in the 100 butterfly (56.26 seconds) and eighth in the 100 backstroke (58.24) in the Division II state meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
She also joined 2012 graduate Ranndi Grubbs, Balasky and Boes to finish ninth in the 200 medley relay (1:50.86) and competed with Grubbs, Smith and junior Meredith Swartz on the 10th-place 200 freestyle relay (1:39.36). Swartz didn't return to the team.
Swartz, Smith, Balasky and Wilkins finished 23rd in the 400 free relay (3:49.02).
Rounding out the roster are junior Maya Saar, sophomores Valerie Du, Megan Gumina, Jemma Maynard, Jackie O'Donnell, Katherine Tierney and Alexandra Verzella and freshmen Kathryn Belfance, Gabrielle Eismann, Charlotte Lennox, Annie Moosavian, Nicole Narcross, Eleanor Smith, Adelaide Standley, Eleanor Wade and Madeline Woda.
"Our girls are doing amazingly well in practices, and our senior captains motivate and energize our team every day," Donley said. "They all work hard and are very adaptable. When we ask them to change a stroke, they do so quickly. They are all very positive and they encourage each other."
And diving for the Unicorns are junior Caroline Pompili, sophomores Emily Dach, Noa Levi and Sam Ziegler and freshmen Eliya Smith, Alyssa Sugar and Maria Sugar.
Last season, CSG placed third in the CCL meet at St. Charles, scoring 268 points to finish behind Watterson (363) and Hartley (274) and ahead of DeSales (146) and Ready (42).
The Unicorns were third (202) in the Columbus Academy sectional behind champion Granville (336) and second (291) at district at Ohio State behind the Blue Aces (475).
Politi was district champion in the 100 fly (56.65) and district runner-up in the 100 back (58.31).
The Unicorns tied Lexington for 14th (64) at state behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (360.5) as 45 teams scored.
"The girls want to win the CCL this year, and they want to win district and state in the next couple of years, and I truly think it will happen because our athletes have great potential," Donley said.