The Columbus Academy boys and girls bowling teams entered the season looking to send competitors to state for the first time.
Fourth-year coach Dan Olexio believes the split this season into two divisions at the state level will help the cause.
The Vikings will compete in Division II during the postseason, and Olexio is hoping both the boys and girls will qualify for district for the first time as teams and then reach state.
"My goal would be for us to get a team to districts and, of course, we'd love to have a team make it to states," Olexio said.
Last season, junior Max Smith and sophomore Aaron Brown reached the district tournament for the boys, with Smith finishing eighth (613) and Brown 67th (477) of 117 competitors as the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
The boys team has started strong. It was 5-0 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division before facing Centennial on Jan. 8.
"I was optimistic, but you don't want to be overconfident in some respect," Olexio said. "These guys have already exceeded some expectations. Once you get to that point, you reset your expectations and start thinking, 'What can we do with this now?'"
The Vikings rolled a program-record score in a 2,160-2,101 win over St. Charles on Dec. 9 at HP Lanes.
Brown had a 200 average through 10 games and Smith had a 190.1 average through nine games. They are captains.
Other regular starters have been sophomores Andrew Kennedy and Sean Reagan and freshman Nick Smith. Juniors Mario Bosca, Ryan Cologgi and Vijay Kaza also have contributed, Olexio said.
"Our top five varsity bowlers, four of five bowled last year and Max's brother, Nick, is our fifth primary starter," Olexio said. "Those guys are solid. Andrew, Max and Aaron Kennedy worked hard over the summer and they practiced a bunch. They're quiet but focused, and they've done a great job."
Olexio expects matches against DeSales on Jan. 22 and Ready on Jan. 23 to help determine the league champion. Last season, the Vikings tied DeSales for second (12-3) behind Ready (14-1).
The girls team was 3-1 overall and in the league before facing Centennial.
Through six games, junior Emma Farrenkopf had a 135.8 average and sophomore Yasmine Kashubeck had a 129.3 average.
Other key bowlers are juniors Leya Mohsin, Sydnie Boykins and Allie Wallace and sophomore Samantha Hunker.
Farrenkopf and Wallace are captains.
"Emma, Allie and Leya are definitely the leaders," Olexio said. "We're not quite as deep on the girls side, but they're improving every day."
Last season, Academy finished fifth (6-4) in the COBHSC-Central behind champion Ready (10-0).
Swimming teams eye return to state
The swimming and diving teams are hoping for a return trip to the Division II state meet.
Junior Abby Wilson is one of seven returning state qualifiers for the girls team. She was sixth in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 54.65 seconds) and 10th in the 100 backstroke (58.29) last season.
Wilson and seniors Anya Kone' and India Sherman competed on the fourth-place 200 medley relay (program-record 1:47.04) and fifth-place 200 free relay (program-record 1:38.05).
Other returning state qualifiers are senior Lauren Cullen (butterfly, backstroke), junior Emma Watson (diver) and sophomores Sydney Brault (distance, free) and Sarah Campbell (back, free).
Other returnees are seniors SueSan Chen (fly, free), Annie Mampieri (individual medley, back), Maria Mullin (free, breaststroke) and Kyle O'Hara (free, breast) and juniors Ana Clavijo (breast, free), Blair Eagleson (free, IM), Alex Keith (distance, free), Sydney Lawrence (free) and Taylor True (back, free).
Cullen, Mampieri, O'Hara and Sherman are captains.
Last season at state, the Vikings finished seventh (113) behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (321) as 47 teams scored.
The boys team returns senior captains and state qualifiers Mitchell Dreisbach and Gavin Koerner. The boys didn't score at state last season, as Dreisbach and Koerner were members of the 20th-place 200 free relay (season-best 1:32.25).
"I'm expecting both teams to do a little bit better than we did last year," ninth-year coach Craig Yakscoe said.
Other returnees for the boys are juniors Brian Burke (distance, free) and Dimitri Vasilkov (IM, breast) and sophomores Andrew Heermann (distance, free, fly), Jacob Jeffers (sprint, free, breast) and Oliver Kornberg (IM, distance, free).
In the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 7 at Ohio State, freshman Nate Goldfarb was third in the 100 breast (1:00.53).
"It's a really good group (with) some solid returnees and some good new ones coming up, so I'm pretty excited," Yakscoe said.
Wrestling team 'improving every day'
Wrestling coach Paul Bukky believes several members of his team have a chance to advance far in the postseason.
Junior 220-pounder Dan Jones qualified for the Division III state tournament last season at 195, but lost his first-round match by default after injuring his right shoulder in the second period against Carlisle's Marcus Smith.
Jones then lost by default to Archbold's Travis Jaramillo to finish the season 31-9.
Others who Bukky believes have a chance to advance in the postseason are senior Cory Bartholomew (170), juniors Luke Albers (195), Tim Leathery (152), Taylor Smallridge (138) and Sam Wittman (126) and sophomore Calvin Wuorinen (160).
Jones is 8-0, Wittman is 10-2 and Albers and Wuorinen both are 9-2.
Other wrestlers are senior Alden Campo (145), junior Josh Levy (120) and freshmen Will Belford (182), Anthony Sugar (120) and Tyler Whitt (160).
"The biggest thing that I can say about these kids is they remember what I taught them last year and they're working hard and they're improving every day," said Bukky, who is in his eighth season.
Academy placed sixth (115 points) in the 11-team Bobcat Invitational on Jan. 4 at Grandview behind champion Delaware (212). Wittman (126), Leathery (152) and Jones (220) won titles, while Levy (120) and Bartholomew (170) placed fourth, Smallridge (138) finished fifth and Whitt (170) was sixth.
"If we had 20 kids we could compete with just about anybody, but we give away those extra weight classes so we always have to make up between 24 and 30 points," Bukky said.