The Grove City High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams are loaded with novice swimmers, so the Greyhounds are encountering new situations almost daily.
"We have some veterans returning and young kids coming in, then a significant portion of the team just picked up swimming this year," assistant coach Matt Long said. "We've been working on developing that young talent and it's starting to pay off. We've seen some of them starting to drop tremendous amounts of time. Things are starting to get through to them."
Senior Jack Bailey and sophomore Margo Leist, both Division I district qualifiers, will be counted on to help lead teams that feature a combined 10 freshmen and eight sophomores.
Last season in the district meet at Ohio State, Bailey was 11th in the 100-yard freestyle (personal-best 48.8 seconds), 17th in the 50 free (22.77) and helped the 200 medley relay (1:49.83) and 400 free relay (3:32.65) to 20th-place finishes.
Leist qualified for district in the 200 and 500 free but did not advance to the final in either event.
"Her opportunities are wide open," Long said of Leist. "Same for Jack. Last week, we were seeing times comparable to their times last year already. They both have a lot of potential."
Long is an assistant to Amy Miller, who returned this year as the Greyhounds' coach. She coached for two seasons before serving as an assistant to Alex Drake last year.
Grove City opened the season with a dual-meet loss to Marysville on Dec. 1. The boys lost 86-78 and the girls lost 105-47.
In the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 8 at Ohio State, the boys team placed 26th (32) behind champion Upper Arlington (370) as 48 teams scored and the girls did not score as UA won (439).
Other expected varsity swimmers are seniors Chase Hartman and Chase Stock, juniors Ashley Artrip, William Best and Kayla Heacock, sophomores Jennifer Ford, Colin Nicholas, Allyson Payne, Timothy Routh, Brian Souksavath and Madison Weaver and freshmen Brian Baker, Jacob Fought, Killian Hartman, Kalvin Koethke, Brandon Moren, Justin Napier, Benjamin Routh, Adam Stretch, Isaac Stretch and Alexandria Thomas.
Both teams were fourth in the OCC-Ohio Division meet last year. The boys (151) finished behind Pickerington North (365), Gahanna (227) and Lancaster (211) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (116), Pickerington Central (80) and Newark (5). The girls (198) placed behind Gahanna (241), North (238.5) and Central (220) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (174.5), Lancaster (126) and Newark (1).
In the UA sectional, the boys scored 51 points to finish seventh of 12 teams, behind champion UA (397.5). The girls were eighth (61) behind champion UA (446).
At district, the boys scored six points to finish 23rd behind first-place UA (435) and the girls had 15 points to place 20th behind the champion Golden Bears (522), who went on to win their eighth consecutive state championship.
The Greyhounds lost Noah Colburn, Ashley Miller and Joe Nowjack to graduation. Miller, the coach's daughter, now is swimming at Wright State.
Comets have holes to fill
Sixth-year Central Crossing coach Robert Boggs will rely on experience and versatility from his veterans, as the Comets' program has 21 swimmers -- 11 girls and 10 boys.
"It's a rebuilding phase and our numbers are down," said Boggs, whose program lost 17 athletes from last year to graduation. "It's going to be a challenge at meets as far as having the numbers to score points."
The Comets opened Nov. 30 at Ohio Wesleyan. The boys lost to Delaware 87-49 and New Albany 141-34, and the girls lost to Delaware 137-27 and New Albany 152-24.
Central Crossing was swept by Reynoldsburg in its home opener Dec. 4 at the Urbancrest YMCA. The boys lost 48-34 and the girls lost 64-27. But the Comets rebounded to win the co-ed championship in the Dresden Tri-Valley Holiday Relays on Dec. 8, scoring 118 points to finish ahead of the host Scotties (88).
Back to lead the Comets are seniors Jessy Holmes, Laura Kruczynski, Sami Peterson, Tyler Smith, Canyon Wilder, Anna Wilhelm and Curtis Yohman. Holmes and Peterson are the girls captains, and Smith and Yohman are the boys captains.
Also expected to contribute are juniors Zach Aleman, Nicole Brewer, Ben Campbell, Troy Lare and Brianna Neff and sophomore Emily Donovan.
The Comets lost five swimmers from a year ago to graduation in Kyle Dyer, Jordan Hager, Hannah Hildebrand, Morgan Lalonde and Jessica Reckner.
Donovan qualified for district in two events as a freshman. She finished 30th in both the 50 free (26.82) and 100 backstroke (1:04.7).
Also at district, the boys 200 medley relay (1:52.26) and 400 free relay (3:42.1) both placed 23rd. The 29th-place 400 free relay (4:50.84) led the girls. Neither team scored.
In the OCC-Central meet, the boys placed sixth (65) behind UA (463), Thomas Worthington (209), Worthington Kilbourne (192), Dublin Coffman (169) and Hilliard Darby (127) and ahead of Hilliard Davidson (0). The girls were seventh (52) behind UA (467), Thomas (245), Coffman (201), Davidson (150), Kilbourne (96) and Darby (79).
In the UA sectional, the boys finished eighth (42) and the girls scored 16 points to tie for 11th with Whetstone.