Whetstone High School swimming and diving coach John DeRing knows the odds aren't favorable for his teams to be represented in the Division I state meet next month at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
He sets the Braves' goals accordingly.
"We push ourselves to be our best and, if that gets us to state, that would be amazing," DeRing said. "But with the year-round competitors and club swimmers in the Central District, and really around the state, it's not a very realistic goal for us.
"Our goal is to get as many people to district as possible and allow them an opportunity to swim at Ohio State. That's a memory that should last forever because of the level (of competition) and because of the (district) site. That's just like competing at Branin Natatorium in Canton, where that state (meet) is held. That's why we go to the Northeast Classic whenever we can, like (we did Jan. 11)."
The Northeast Classic is a non-scoring meet in which swimmers must have met required qualifying times. The Braves sent four boys to the meet in senior Bert Pajor, junior David Basye and freshmen Connor Flanagan and Mitchell Nottage. They competed in a total of six events.
"I love events like this because it gives our swimmers a chance to compete against and watch some of the best swimmers in the state," DeRing said. "We know we're not going to place high (in that meet), but the goal is to see what it takes to get to the next level, be pushed to compete harder and have a fun trip. I think we accomplished those things."
The Braves set personal records in four of the six events, including three of four individual events in which they competed.
All four boys competed in an individual event: Nottage in the 50-yard freestyle (24.56 seconds), Flanagan in the 100 backstroke (1:02.9), Basye in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.14) and Pajor in the 100 butterfly (1:02). None finished in the top 24.
"Nottage had his PR by .3 of a second, which is a lot in the 50 free," DeRing said. "Flanagan had his PR by .9 and has erased two seconds in the past couple of weeks alone. Basye's time was .85 better."
The four boys also lowered the program's record in the 200 free relay to 1:41.82, breaking the previous mark by two seconds. They finished the medley relay in 1:53.84, just missing their season-best time, DeRing said.
"I'm real happy with the way this team is developing and progressing," DeRing said. "Not just the ones who went to Canton, but the entire team. The boys and girls had very good practices over the holiday break and it's going to pay dividends (in the postseason). We haven't had many meets, but we competed very well against Northland, Bexley and Dublin Scioto (on Jan. 4) before our Arrowhead meet was postponed (because of bad weather Jan. 6)."
Wrestlers have yet to reach potential
While his team hasn't fared as well as he would have liked thus far, wrestling coach Tom Jones sees a lot of untapped potential on his roster.
"We haven't reached our potential yet, but I'm excited because we still have a lot of talent," he said. "We've had some injuries, illness and grade issues, so we haven't put everything together yet."
Seniors Christian Bobo (170 pounds), Ricky Bowman (152) and Chris North (160) have led the way for Whetstone. Bobo is 22-2 on the season, while North and Bowman are 15-3 and 16-6, respectively.
"We expected those guys to have big seasons after being solid last year," said Jones, whose team lost to Bexley (51-29) and Hilliard Darby B (48-33) on Jan. 8. "Our roster is full of seniors and freshmen and not much in between. The older guys are starting to look at their postseason goals. The younger guys are beginning to understand the learning curve, figure out what the sport is about and what it takes to compete on the varsity level."
Other top performers include freshman Justin Rodriguez, who is 11-5 at 106, and junior Zach Arnold, who is 10-7 at 195/220.
The Braves have a dual Thursday, Jan. 16, at Columbus Academy before competing in the Jonathan Alder Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 18. The invitational will be their first since competing in the Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament on Nov. 30 at DeSales.
Girls basketball team rebounds from loss
The girls basketball team bounced back from a 39-37 loss to Brookhaven in a City League-North Division game Jan. 8 by holding off Beechcroft 53-47 in a league contest Jan. 10 for its third win in four games.
The Braves were 9-5 overall and 4-4 in the City-North before playing Linden-McKinley on Jan. 14.
Elizabeth Khoury had a team-high 13 points against Beechcroft. Cecilia Bulgrin and Kalie Mascarello both added 11 points, as Whetstone outscored the Cougars 29-21 in the second half, including 12-6 in the fourth quarter.
Lily Morris had 11 points and Bulgrin and Khoury both scored 10 against Brookhaven, which outscored the Braves 11-6 in the fourth quarter.