Hunter Cook of the Hilliard Darby High School boys swimming and diving team expects to return to the Division I state meet this season.
And the junior is hoping that some of his teammates will join him at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Last season at state, Cook placed 19th in the 500-yard freestyle in 4 minutes, 45.09 seconds and finished 22nd in the 200 individual medley (1:59.86). The Panthers' only state qualifier a year ago, he did not score as Cincinnati St. Xavier (297.5) won the state title.
Cook is competing in the 500 free again this season but has opted to focus on the 200 free instead of the 200 IM.
"My goal is to make the podium in both events at state," he said. "I also think we'll have a chance to get to state in the 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay, which I anchor. Plus, I think Cory McLaughlin, Ross McDonald and Blake Dickmann may also get to state in some of their events."
McLaughlin is a junior and Dickmann and McDonald are sophomores.
Last season in the district meet at Ohio State, Cook placed third in the 500 free (program-record 4:42.36) and the 200 medley relay of McLaughlin, Cook, sophomore Tyler Long and Dickmann (program-record 1:41.97) and the 400 free relay of Cook, McDonald, McLaughlin and Dickmann (program-record 3:20.16) both placed eighth.
"There's no reason to think that Hunter won't get back (to state) because he was motivated by the experience last year and he has had very good workouts," said Brian Dickmann, who coaches Darby, Davidson and Bradley. "I think one of his goals is to become an automatic qualifier and not have to wait for an at-large berth.
"And it's not just him. We've got some major goals this year. We want to get more individual qualifiers to state and at least two relays. We've got more depth and more experience this season, with three veteran seniors and a strong corps of sophomores."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Hayden Biedenharn, Ben Greers, Joe Greers, Keaton Larimore, Steven Prosser, Jonathan Rapp and Mitchell Schuster, juniors David Black and Josh Courtney, sophomore Jhon Avendano and freshmen Noah Branham, Zack Gbur, Nathan Knueppel and Ethan Snider.
Darby defeated Dublin Coffman 87-73 and lost to Dublin Jerome 87-85 in the Dublin-Hilliard Invitational on Dec. 1 and finished eighth (141) in the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 8 at Ohio State behind champion Upper Arlington (370) as 48 teams scored.
Cook was runner-up in both the 200 free (1:45.08) and 500 free (4:54.78) in the Ned Reeb Invitational.
On Dec. 15, the Panthers defeated Gahanna 80-26.
Last season, Darby finished fifth (127) in the OCC-Central Division meet, UA (463), Thomas Worthington (209), Worthington Kilbourne (192) and Coffman (169) and ahead of Central Crossing (65) and Davidson (0).
As part of OCC realignment, Darby and Kilbourne have moved to the OCC-Cardinal with Bradley, Dublin Scioto, Jerome, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South. Bradley was in the OCC-Capital last season.
All three Hilliard teams competed in the 10-team sectional last season at the Union County YMCA. Darby finished sixth (219) behind champion Jerome (343). Bradley finished ninth (16) and Davidson did not score and was 10th.
At district, Darby placed 11th (85) behind champion UA (435) and Bradley finished 21st (15). Davidson did not have any district qualifiers.
Davidson lacking much experience
Davidson returns just four swimmers with significant experience in sophomores Bradley Bowers and Eric Gill and freshmen Brian Long and Alex Waldron. All four have competed at the club level.
"Eric's specialty is freestyle and we're going to move Brad around some," coach Dickmann said. "Alex and Brian are going to give us some spark. Alex qualified in two events to the Ned Reeb Invitational."
Also on the team are seniors Brandon Moore and Lou Takahasi, junior Spencer Cline and Spencer Schlect, sophomore Drew Zickafoose and freshmen Chris Haritos, Ricky Hildebrand and Kalen Sipl.
"Waldron, Long, Lou Takahasi and Spencer Schlect look as though they will comprise the 400 free relay and medley relay and I'm thinking Bowers, Long, Takahasi and Schlect will likely be our 200 free relay," coach Dickmann said.
Davidson lost to Coffman 94-54 and Jerome 117-43 in the Dublin-Hilliard Invitational and finished 40th (9) in the Ned Reeb Invitational. On Dec. 15, the Wildcats defeated Gahanna 68-38.
Davidson is joined in the OCC-Central this season by Central Crossing, Coffman, Marysville, Olentangy Liberty, Thomas Worthington and UA.
Bradley is low on numbers, experience
Bradley has only three swimmers in junior John Satre, sophomore Chester Bonnell and freshman Noah Kauffman.
Satre was a district qualifier last season, finishing 11th in the 200 free (1:48.37) and ninth in the 500 free (4:55.2).
"I've been impressed with John's workouts and I think he's going to have a good season," coach Dickmann said. "The goal for me as coach is to get at least one representative from all three schools to the state meet. That's what I want to see."
Bradley lost to Coffman 96-24 and Jerome 118-26 in the Dublin-Hilliard Invitational and finished 27th (29) in the Ned Reeb Invitational. On Dec. 15, the Jaguars lost to Gahanna 82-5.
Last season, Bradley finished seventh (25) in the OCC-Capital meet, behind New Albany (389), Delaware (221), Mount Vernon (201), Olentangy Orange (130), Watkins Memorial (103) and Big Walnut (98).
Franklin Heights does not have a swimming program.
Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal this season.