Gahanna Lincoln High School junior Morgan Belli will make her third appearance in the Division I state swimming and diving meet Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Unlike a year ago, Belli is entering with confidence in the way she's performing.
After placing fourth in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 4.65 seconds) and fourth in the 100 backstroke (56.21) at state as a freshman, Belli made it to state last winter despite finding out later that she had been competing with mononucleosis.
The illness kept her from performing as well as she hoped, as she finished 10th in the 200 IM (2:06.06) and 11th in the 100 back (57.21).
With better health on her side, Belli is looking for strong finishes in the 200 IM and 100 back after again qualifying in both.
"I feel like I'm in a lot better of a position this year," she said. "I already know I'm going fast, so (at state) I can just try to go even faster."
Belli settled for district runner-up finishes in both the 100 back (56.63) and 200 IM (2:04.79) on Feb. 16 at Ohio State as she helped the Lions girls team place 12th (70) behind champion Upper Arlington (491) as 24 teams scored.
She is seeded fifth in the 200 IM at state behind Cincinnati Ursuline's Alisabeth Marsteller (2:01.24), Akron Firestone's Katie Miller (2:03.11), UA's Jenny Smith (2:03.53) and Troy's Michelle Zelnick (2:04.34).
In the 100 back, she is the sixth seed behind Springboro's Hannah Whiteley (53.74) and Marianne Kahmann (55.42), Thomas Worthington's Kaylee Witkiewiez (55.65), Firestone's Miller (56.31) and Copley's Madison Myers (56.43).
"I was a little disappointed that I didn't win and that it wasn't my best time (in the 200 IM), but I'm pretty pleased with the way I felt," Belli said. "There are a lot of big contenders outside our district who will be (at state) and hopefully I will get my best times."
Although Belli was the Lions' only state qualifier, coach Erin Darrah was pleased with some of her program's other performances as well.
Senior Kyle Clark dropped .38 off his time from the sectional meet in the 100 butterfly and finished 28th in 59.31. The boys team's 200 freestyle relay of seniors Mitch Courtney and Joe Scott, sophomore Owen Mair and freshman Peter Reventlow finished 30th but recorded a time of 1:43.66, which was an improvement of more than two seconds from sectional.
The boys team didn't score at district as UA (380) was first.
The girls 400 free relay of Belli, juniors Annie Devaney and Kirstyn Thomas and freshman Regan Nolan improved on its sectional time by nearly six seconds while finishing 10th (3:44.21).
Thomas also placed 17th in the 50 free (25.72) and 19th in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.91).
"Kyle Clark came into the meet seeded 30th but he got 28th in the 100 fly, so that was good," Darrah said. "Kirstyn Thomas did well in the 50 free, and we (were hoping) the 400 free relay (would do well)."