Freshman Morgan Belli of the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls swimming and diving team has admired the accomplishments of 2005 graduate Courtney Shearer for several years.

Freshman Morgan Belli of the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls swimming and diving team has admired the accomplishments of 2005 graduate Courtney Shearer for several years.

Shearer qualified for the Division I state meet in two events in each of her four seasons with the Lions, placing second in the 200-yard individual medley in 2 minutes, 5.47 seconds and fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.09) as a junior before finishing third in the 200 IM (2:06.89) as a senior.

Thus, Belli said it would be an honor to become the first member of her squad to reach the state podium since Shearer last did it six years ago.

Belli will have that opportunity when she competes in the state meet, which will be held Thursday, Feb. 24, through Saturday, Feb. 26, at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton. Belli is seeded fifth in the 200 IM and seventh in the 100 back.

"Courtney has coached at Greater Columbus Swim Team of Ohio, where I've been training since I was 8 years old, and I've always looked up to her," Belli said. "It would mean a lot to me if I can follow in her footsteps and do well at state. I've always dreamed of standing on a podium in front of all those fans and that's something I've never done before, so that's my goal."

At the district meet Feb. 19 at Ohio State, Belli finished second in the 200 IM in 2:04.99 behind Upper Arlington's Lauren Comer (2:04.27) and third in the 100 back in 57.27 behind Thomas Worthington's Claudia Doyle (56.03) and Watterson's Camey Rabold (56.32) to help her squad finish 14th with 53 points behind champion Upper Arlington (505).

The top three in each swimming event and top four in diving at district automatically qualified for state. In addition, 11 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

"I practice with my club team 16 to 17 hours per week year-round, and this makes me feel like all of my hard work is worth it," Belli said. "When I was younger, I always watched the older kids talk about making it to state and it's exciting to get the chance to do it myself. Hopefully, the competition at state will push me to go faster and drop my times even more."

Junior Dillon Wagoner scored 361.4 points to place fourth in diving at district to qualify for state for the first time.

Wagoner finished behind Dublin Jerome's Jacob Kasper (431.1), Worthington Kilbourne's Hunter Atha (406.3) and Pickerington North's Clay White (383.2) to become the boys team's lone state qualifier.

Junior Zach Koors placed fifth in diving (355.55), just one spot away from qualifying for state for the first time.

Wagoner is seeded 24th for state.

The boys team finished 12th (69) at district behind champion Upper Arlington (432).

The Lions' top finisher at district in a swimming event was the 200 medley relay of Erwin Letellier, Chris Chang, Beau Snoad and Justin Henderson. The relay finished ninth in 1:44.62.

Henderson placed 10th in the 50 freestyle in 22.25, falling short in reaching his goal of breaking Brent Shearer's program record of 21.5 seconds.

"I swam my best times and all of our relays swam their best times, too," Henderson said. "I didn't swim what I wanted to, though. It would have been nice to get on the podium or break a team record, but it didn't happen. This is my senior year, so I was looking for something more substantial than this."


Below are the state qualifiers with district result and state seed for the Gahanna Lincoln boys and girls swimming and diving teams:

Boys - Dillon Wagoner: diving (361.4, 24th); Girls - Morgan Belli: 200 IM (2:04.99, fifth), 100 back (57.27, seventh)

Others who competed at district: Boys - Chris Chang: 100 breast (1:05.41, 22nd), 200 IM (2:09.65, 24th); Jon Chang: 100 back (1:02.68, 28th); Zach Koors: diving (355.55, fifth); Justin Henderson: 50 free (22.25, 10th), 100 breast (1:03.44, 18th); Dan Mefford: 50 free (23.55, 28th), 100 breast (1:06.65, 27th); A.J. Salls: diving (238.45, 16th); Beau Snoad: 100 back (1:02.02, 28th), 100 fly (56.9, 21st); 200 free relay (1:33.27, 10th); 400 free relay (3:29.72, 17th); 200 medley relay (1:44.62, ninth); Girls - Heather Scott: 200 IM (2:26.58, 26th); Kirstyn Thomas: 100 breast (1:14.0, 27th); 200 free relay (1:45.43, 11th); 400 free relay (4:05.42, 20th); 200 medley relay (1:56.59, 13th)