With the number of participants continuing to grow, Big Walnut High School swimming and diving coach Andy Chatterton is excited about the possibilities in his fifth season leading the program.
"This will probably be the best team we've ever had," he said.
The Golden Eagles had only nine swimmers during the 2008-09 season, Chatterton's first as coach. The roster increased to 14 in 2009-10 and grew to 22 in 2010-11. Last season, the roster consisted of 31 athletes.
"We requested of all the kids who were coming back to bring two friends," Chatterton said. "It worked."
The boys team has five returnees in seniors Carson Chatterton and Ben Stefaniak, juniors Carter Marsch and Joel Windle and sophomore Jens Paglialunga.
In the Division II district meet last season at Ohio State, Marsch placed 22nd in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 12.5 seconds), Chatterton finished 25th in the 100 butterfly (1:00.94), the 200 freestyle relay of Marsch, Parker Marsch, Windle and Chatterton (1:40.39) and the 400 free relay of Windle, Paglialunga, Stefaniak and Chatterton (3:54.2) both finished 14th and the 200 medley relay of Carter Marsch, 2012 graduate Connor Moran, Chatterton and Windle placed 15th (1:54.98).
Parker Marsch did not return for his senior season.
Also on the team are Sam Beckett, Sean Conley, Matt Heiden, Spencer Jeffers, Andrew Klamforth, Caleb McDonald, Andrew Nussbaum, Anthony Roberto, Bret Stacy, Michael Stanwick, Gabe Swim, Jacob Watson, Brant Weiss, Austin Wiggers, Trevor Williams and Troy Young.
The girls team has four returnees in juniors Jessica Osburn and Michelle Stefaniak and sophomores Claire Chatterton and Ashley White (diver).
In the Division I district meet last season at Ohio State, White placed ninth in diving (353.45 points), Osburn finished 27th in the 100 breast (1:15.47), Stefaniak placed 26th in the 500 free (5:49.95) and Natalie Chatterton, Claire Chatterton, Osburn and Stefaniak finished 19th in the 400 free relay (4:02.23), tied for 19th in the 200 free relay (1:48.83) and finished 28th in the 200 medley relay (2:05.87).
Rounding out the roster are Aria Dockham, Lauren Felser, Alison Hager, Jennifer Hupp, Erin Lescinksy, Haley Lescinscky, Meghan Maynard, Mary Beth Medley, Alexis Newman, Bethany Rannebarger, Amber Shaheen, Alayna Small, Josie Sweeney-Rogers, Kylie Stickrath, Katie Von Hollen and Julieann Wheeler.
Natalie Chatterton did not return for her senior season.
Big Walnut opened Dec. 8 in the six-team Northridge Viking Splash Invitational at New Albany, with the boys and girls teams both finishing first. The boys scored 120 points with Marion Pleasant (67) placing second and the girls scored 87 points with Pleasant (61) finishing second.
"It was wonderful," coach Chatterton said. "We've never won that particular meet and have always dreamed about winning it. They did especially well."
The Golden Eagles also swept the 12.12.12 Invitational on Dec. 12 at the Marion YMCA. The boys scored 367 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Mansfield Madison (244) and the girls scored 308 points, with Bucyrus Wynford (261) placing second.
Last season in the OCC-Capital Division meet, the boys team finished sixth (98), behind New Albany (389), Delaware Hayes (221), Mount Vernon (201), Olentangy Orange (143) and Watkins Memorial (103) and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (25).
Franklin Heights does not have a swimming program.
The girls team also placed sixth (110) in the league, behind New Albany (326), Delaware (282), Watkins Memorial (170), Mount Vernon (155) and Orange (155) and ahead of Bradley (92), with White winning the diving title.
As part of OCC realignment, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy.
The boys team scored 353 points in the three-team Division II sectional meet last season at Thomas Worthington, finishing ahead of Beechcroft (144) and Buckeye Valley (27), but did not score at district.
The girls team finished ninth (53) in the 11-team Division I sectional meet, behind host and champion Thomas Worthington (262), and scored nine points at district to tie Worthington Kilbourne for 22nd behind champion Upper Arlington (522) as 27 teams scored.
Wrestling coach hoping team can stay healthy
With his team struggling with injuries and low numbers last season, sixth-year wrestling coach Luke Moore was hoping to avoid the same problems this season.
That might be wishful thinking, however, as junior Alec Eisnnicher (170 pounds) underwent an emergency appendectomy Dec. 11.
"He's doing fine now," Moore said. "I think he's going to have a great year. Obviously, this little setback is not what we wanted for him, but it's better to happen now than in February."
Eisnnicher was a Division II district qualifier as a freshman. Last season, he won his opening match in the 13-team sectional at Big Walnut before a head injury in the second round forced him out of the tournament and ended his year.
Also back are senior C.J. Harness (160), juniors Austin Carr (152), Jhordan Lang (182) and Logan Lucas (145) and sophomores Donny Didion (113), Michael Nash (160) and Tyler Satterfield (138).
Didion is the only returnee who competed at district last season. He went 0-2 at 106.
Big Walnut's roster has grown from 15 members last season to 20 this year, but the growth is balanced by inexperience.
"It's definitely a different team," Moore said. "The season's going to have some growing pains. We're going to have to learn how to wrestle a tough match and deal with those long days where we're wrestling three or four matches."
Also on the team are Drew Cochran (126), Austin Crow (220), Jacob Hadden (120), Tyler Hogg (195), Wesley Landrum (132), R.J. Martin (138), Anthony Pisano (145), Jack Schnurr (145), Michael Takatch (152), Evan Watkins (170), Bradley Whitesed (160) and Daniel Zitello (160).
Martin is a transfer from DeSales.
The Golden Eagles, who are unable to fill the 106 and heavyweight spots in their lineup, opened Dec. 8 when they played host to the six-team Big Walnut Duals. They went 3-2 and placed third, defeating Galion 40-33 in the third-place match. Delaware (5-0) was first, with Galion Northmor (4-1) placing second.
Eisnnicher and Martin both went 5-0 and Carr, Crow, Didion and Harness each finished 4-1.
"I thought we wrestled really well," Moore said. "They were real aggressive and worked on the things we asked them to. It gave the boys some confidence."
Last season, Big Walnut went 3-4 in the OCC-Capital to place fifth, behind Bradley (7-0), Mount Vernon (6-1), Orange (5-2) and Delaware (4-3) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (2-5), New Albany (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
The Golden Eagles opened their league schedule with a 63-12 loss to Olentangy on Dec. 13. The Braves are in their first season in the OCC-Capital, having moved from the OCC-Cardinal to replace Bradley.
"It makes the league tougher," Moore said of the addition of Olentangy. "They're not just one of the best programs in central Ohio, they're one of the best programs in the state."
Last season, Big Walnut finished eighth (93.5) at sectional behind champion Sparta Highland (172.5) and 26th in the district (20.5) tournament at Uhrichsville Claymont behind champion Steubenville (202.5) as 44 teams scored.