With three of its top scorers returning from last season, the Hilliard Davidson High School girls swimming and diving team is eyeing a more productive showing in the Division I state meet.
The Wildcats competed in two events last season at Branin Natatorium in Canton but failed to score as Upper Arlington (300.5 points) won its eighth consecutive state title.
However, three record-setting performers are back in hopes of getting another chance. They are senior Megan Wittman, junior Megan Schmalenberger and sophomore Felicia Fantin.
"That's a great place to start with those three, then you have (senior) Jenny Waldron, who has a lot of talent and experience back, (sophomore) Danielle Eastham and a large and talented group of freshmen who will have to step up immediately," said coach Brian Dickmann, who also coaches Hilliard Darby and Hilliard Bradley. "We've got a solid group and high expectations, especially as the freshmen start to gain some varsity experience."
In last year's district meet at Ohio State, Wittman set school records in the 500-yard freestyle (10th, 5 minutes, 24.79 seconds) and the 200 free (14th, 2:00.15). The previous mark in the 500 free (5:26.14) was set in 1996 and the previous record in the 200 free (2:01.7) was set in 1998.
Fantin set the school record in the 100 breaststroke (19th, 1:12.8), topping the previous best of 1:13.84 set in 1998, and Schmalenberger reset her school record in the 100 free (13th, 54.08).
Davidson (51) finished 15th at district behind champion Upper Arlington (522) and fifth (207) behind champion Dublin Coffman (333) in the sectional at the Union County YMCA.
"My goal is to be a district qualifier in all four of my events," said Wittman, who competes in both free relays in addition to her individual events. "We're excited about this season because we should be able to score better with more girls and some real good young ones like (freshmen) Lauren Erdman and Alexis Zody. With the experience we have with Megan Schmalenberger, Felicia Fantin, Jenny Waldron and me, plus the new girls, we just feel good about the season."
Last season at state, 2012 graduate Sarah Behrent placed 23rd (59.34) in the 100 butterfly and joined Schmalenberger, Fantin and senior Erin Brooks to finish 21st (1:52.54) in the 200 medley relay. Brooks is not with the team this season.
"We have to fill some holes in the 200 medley relay, so that could be a tall order," Dickmann said. "But I think Schmalenberger has a good chance to earn her way there as an individual in the fly and sprint freestyles. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but we want those expectations every year. We don't want to be a one-year deal."
The rest of the roster includes senior Kylie Hardin, sophomore Allison Haas and freshmen Emily Byrd, Molly Carrier, Emma Gavlik, Yasmin Goulding, Marleah Heyman, Jessie Lewis, Rachel McConnell, Lauren Rosier and Lauren Weber.
"Lewis has the most swimming experience of the freshmen, but I've been impressed by the times turned in by Weber, Rosier, Erdman, Zody and Gavlik, too," Dickmann said.
In last year's OCC-Central Division meet at Thomas Worthington, the Wildcats finished fourth (150) behind UA (467), Thomas (245) and Coffman (201) and ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (96), Darby (79) and Central Crossing (52). As part of OCC realignment this school year, Marysville and Olentangy Liberty have replaced Darby and Kilbourne in the OCC-Central.
Davidson tied for 41st (7) in the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 8 at Ohio State as Upper Arlington (439) won. The Wildcats lost to Coffman 104-62 and to Dublin Jerome 110-60 in the Dublin-Hilliard Invitational on Dec. 1. On Dec. 15, Davidson defeated Gahanna 68-38.
Panthers' roster lacking experience
Darby has increased its roster size, but not its level of experience.
"We have good numbers, but we really just lack experience," Dickmann said. "It's going to take awhile for some of our freshmen and sophomores to get adjusted, but you can see there's some talent on this team."
The Panthers scored 36 points to finish 26th in the Ned Reeb Invitational. They lost to Coffman 106-58 and Jerome 110-58 in the Dublin-Hilliard Invitational.
On Dec. 15, Darby defeated Gahanna 60-46.
Senior Robyn Gauder is being asked to lead as classmates Gabrille Manente and Giselle Zuniga have little experience. Junior Claire Craddick was a district qualifier in relays last season.
Sophomores Sarah Hassan and Maddie McDonald and freshmen Claire Bergeford, Mackenzie Caruthers and Kathryn Cover have impressed Dickmann.
"McDonald was a district qualifier in the 200 free last season, Hassan has looked very good and Caruthers will be leaned on heavily," he said. "Bergeford and Cover are club swimmers. Then there's (freshman) Olivia Wile, who set a school record in the 100 fly in her first varsity swim. There's definitely a strong nucleus there."
Rounding out the roster for the Panthers, who finished 21st (11) at district after placing eighth (102) in the Union County YMCA sectional last season, are sophomores Erica Custer, Denise Dye, Kaitlyn Gruetter and Aaraina Sheets and freshmen Rebeka Harricharran and Mackenzie Mobley.
Darby will compete in the OCC-Cardinal this season.
Jaguars coping with injuries
Nearly half of Bradley's roster was eliminated before practices even began.
Injuries to juniors Delaney Banda (soccer) and Rebecca Woodson (volleyball) and to freshman Lauren Valdez (club swimming) left the Jaguars with four athletes on the roster.
"We've got three managers for the season and four healthy bodies," Dickmann said.
"All four of them are basically freestylers. So we're just going to do what we can do and look for individual improvement."
Senior Kaitlyn Windham, junior Kyra Sommer and sophomores Hannah Giese and Hannah Zeis comprise the squad.
"Windham will be asked to lead and keep the girls working hard," Dickmann said. "Sommer will be our distance freestyler."
Bradley lost to Jerome 126-22 and Coffman 118-24 in the Dublin-Hilliard Invitational.
The Jaguars also lost to Gahanna 82-5 on Dec. 15.
The Jaguars (7) were 24th at district and ninth (77) in the Union County YMCA sectional last season.
They finished seventh (92) behind New Albany (326), Delaware (282), Watkins Memorial (170), Mount Vernon (155), Olentangy Orange (155) and Big Walnut (110) in the OCC-Capital meet.
Bradley will compete in the OCC-Cardinal this season.