Rocky Fork Enterprise

Swimming & Diving

Meet is Wharton family affair

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PAUL VERNON/THISWEEKSPORTS
Gahanna Lincoln freshman Ally Wharton won the 100-yard breaststroke, placed second in the 50 freestyle and was a member of the winning 400 free relay during a dual meet Jan. 21 at New Albany. The Eagles are coached by Ally's father, Dave Wharton.
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During the 100-yard breaststroke final Jan. 21, Tammy Wharton could be heard yelling "Go" from the other side of the pool.

The reason for her cheers might seem obvious considering her daughter, freshman Ally Wharton, was trying to win her first event that night for the Gahanna Lincoln High School girls swimming and diving team in a dual meet at New Albany.

At other moments that evening, though, Tammy felt a strong sense of excitement when New Albany did well because of her husband's connection to that program.

Although the Wharton family has lived in the Gahanna school district for about 10 years, Dave Wharton is New Albany's coach.

"We have friends in New Albany and friends in Gahanna," Tammy said. "We just root for everybody."

Gahanna senior Morgan Belli, a three-time state qualifier who has signed with Kentucky, wasn't able to compete because of illness. Although it's unlikely her presence would have been the difference between which team won, the score likely would have been closer than New Albany's 113-70 victory.

The Eagles won all but three events.

Ally led the Lions by winning the 100 breast in 1 minute, 8.84 seconds, helping the 400 freestyle relay to a title in 4:02.96, swimming on the runner-up 200 medley relay (2:03.53) and taking second in the 50 free (26.44).

While Ally practices regularly with Gahanna, she also trains five to six days per week in the New Albany pool.

In the 100 breast, New Albany's Taylor Berend -- who drives Ally to practice one day a week -- finished second (1:12.76).

Ally has competed on the same club team with many of New Albany's swimmers in past offseasons and trains with the New Albany Aquatic Club.

Last July, she won the 50 breast in the 13- to 14-year-old age group for Plain Township in the Greater Columbus Swim League meet.

"We train together, so it's like one big, happy family," Ally said. "You just see them as a family. I haven't really competed (in a high school meet at New Albany), so it was a little different than what I'm used to."

Dave is in his 18th season at New Albany. He also is director of New Albany Parks and Recreation.

Before settling in central Ohio, he represented the United States in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and earned a silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley.

He attended the University of Southern California from 1988-91 and was named Pac-10 Male Swimmer of the Year four consecutive years. In the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, he placed fourth in the 400 IM.

He later served as an assistant at Ohio State, where he earned a master's degree in sports management.

In 2012, members of the 1992 Olympic team met for a 20-year reunion at the Olympic team trials in Omaha, Neb., and Ally went along with her father.

In addition, Ally got a chance to train last summer at her father's high school alma mater, Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa.

"I went on a training trip over the summer and it was really neat," Ally said. "We went to the Olympic trials in '12 in Nebraska, and it was like, 'Ooh, I want to be one of them.'"

"About two years ago she really started to have some goals like state and getting to different levels of meets in her age group," Dave said. "She's doing great.

"I'm very proud of her. She's very committed and very focused. I want her to enjoy the sport."

Despite his background, Dave has done little direct coaching of his daughter.

"I've been (coaching) for several years, and I support her team at Gahanna and have no problem being supportive of both," he said. "I was an assistant at the country club when she swam there, but she's had some great age-group coaches. I always ask what her coach said and ask her if she wants any other opinions. I want to help her as best as I can without being a nag."

On Jan. 21, other than a couple of short interactions, both stayed with their teams. They had a laugh a few months ago about the potential meeting between the programs, but both said there was nothing more than friendly teasing exchanged in the days leading up to the meet.

Tammy elected to wear a Gahanna shirt during the meet.

"I love my husband, but my daughter takes precedence," she said, jokingly.

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