The Whetstone High School swimming and diving program is developing the kind of depth that gets coach John DeRing excited.
"For the first time in several years, I'm able to put all six relays (the 200-yard medley, 200 freestyle and 400 free relays for the boys and girls teams) in a meet," said DeRing, who has been with the program since 2001 and is in his fifth season as head coach. "I've finally got the kids who are capable of doing all of the strokes."
The girls team is led by seniors Audrey Bollas, Alana Bruzzese, Miranda Metz and Kaylina Ruth. The boys team has three seniors in Ben Alexander, Nick Nottage and Michael Yokusuk and junior Bert Pajor to lead the way.
Also on the girls team are juniors Kelli Chin and Ellie Downey, sophomores Katie Haughey, Rita Knasel, Alice Leach, Claire O'Grady, Nina Seiter and Karina Spulgis and freshmen Sydney Carroll, Natalie Hunt, Toby Neerveld and Alice Pajor.
Rounding out the boys team are sophomores Avery Ashbaugh, Ray Celiadt, Evan Myers and Jean Pleitez and freshmen Nicolas Azuad, Luke Green, Sam Green, Nathan Smith and Luke Woodward.
On Dec. 10 in the Braves Invitational at Columbus Aquatics Center, the boys team placed fourth (89) behind Grove City (130), Marysville (90) and Northland (90) and ahead of Centennial (59) and Marion Harding (42). The girls team also was fourth (78), finishing behind Centennial (160), Marysville (130) and Grove City (83) and ahead of Northland (55) and Harding (14).
The Braves will compete against Northland on Saturday, Dec. 22, in a dual at the North YMCA. The coaches are calling the meet the "Dual at Daybreak" given that it starts at 7 a.m.
"I'm feeling really, really good about the season," DeRing said. "We've got four seniors on the girls team and three seniors on the boys, so it's not a real old group, but the seniors are experienced and are working so well together."
Last season, the boys team finished third (115) in the five-team City League meet behind Centennial (150) and Northland (139) and the girls placed second (147) of five teams behind Centennial (179).
The boys team finished 11th (18) in the 12-team Division I sectional at Upper Arlington behind champion UA (397.5) and the girls team tied Central Crossing for 11th (16) of 12 teams behind champion UA (446).
Competing in the district meet at Ohio State a year ago were the 200 free relay (1:49.47, 28th), 400 free relay (4:24.39, 28th) and 200 medley relay (2:05.12, 28th) for the boys and the 200 free relay (1:56.88, 30th) and 200 medley relay (2:05.35, 26th) and 2012 graduate Olivia Degitz in the 100 free (57.56, 27th) and 100 backstroke (1:03.5, 21st) for the girls.
The Braves didn't have any state qualifiers last season.
Wrestlers hoping to contend for title
The wrestling team has its eye on contending for the City League championship this season.
Among the key returnees is senior Tony Lehnen, who will compete at 106 or 113 pounds after winning his second consecutive league title and advancing to the Division I district tournament a year ago at 106. Lehnen went 31-8 last season and needed 28 wins at the start of this season to reach 100 for his prep career.
The league tournament is Feb. 9 at Centennial. Last season, the Braves finished fourth (135) in the 16-team City tournament behind Marion-Franklin (227), Centennial (198.5) and Columbus West (195), marking their best finish since they were City runners-up in 2007.
Marion-Franklin has won five consecutive league titles.
"Things are going pretty well so far," Lehnen said. "I think we've got six or seven seniors, so that's good. It's by far one of the best lineups we've had."
Seniors Daylon Smothers (132), Nate Armstrong (138), Cameron Au (160), Alex Arnold (182) and Kevin Ellison (220) are other key returnees.
Sixth-year coach Tom Jones also is looking for senior N.D. Matson (195) to be a key contributor. Matson was a district qualifier a year ago but did not compete in the first three events this season.
Also looking to contribute are seniors Culver McWhitter (126), Michael Gillespie (138), Ethan Johnson (195), Tyrik Zigler (195) and Gabe Rife (heavyweight), juniors Ricky Bowman (145), Chris North (152) and Christian Bobo (160/170/182), sophomores Zach Arnold (145) and David Lipscomb (heavyweight) and freshmen Evan McCullough (120), Nate Perry (106/113), Ferris Clark (170), Jacob Kincaid (182) and Noah Rife (195).
The Braves went 3-2 and beat Briggs 48-12 in the fifth-place match of the Joe Stora Duals on Dec. 8 at Westland. On Dec. 11, they lost to St. Charles 48-27 and beat Bexley 52-9.
Whetstone will compete Saturday, Dec. 22, in the East Knox 10-team Pool Tournament.
"The kids are having fun with it," Jones said. "I think we have a legitimate shot at winning the City if we can get our light weights shored up and eligible."