Josie Bunstine made a choice over the summer, and it has turned out to be the correct one.
The freshman for the Northridge High School girls swimming and diving team had played basketball for several years, and loved the sport. But it also was the same season as swimming, which has been her passion since age 10.
Bunstine decided to swim for the Vikings, and she has set four program records in just more than two months. She holds records in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 14.36 seconds), 100 butterfly (1:05.49), 500 freestyle (6:11.89) and 200 individual medley (2:30.95).
She has broken the 100 breast and 100 fly records three times, with the latest coming Jan. 26 in the Southeast Ohio Swim League meet at Ohio University. Bunstine was first in both events, becoming the first Northridge swimmer to win an event in the league meet.
"I actually played basketball since I was in the first grade and I had to choose whether to do swimming or basketball," said Bunstine, a 14-year-old with a 4.0 GPA. "My brother (Wyatt) was on the swim team at (the YMCA in Newark) during the summer and I saw how much fun he was having, so I started swimming. Now he plays seventh-grade basketball.
"I love both sports a lot and I definitely miss basketball. I love the game of basketball, but not necessarily the practice. But my favorite part of the day is swim practice. I absolutely love it."
Northridge assistant coach Jeff Lindsay said Bunstine, already a team captain, has a calculated approach to the sport.
"Josie looked at the times for our (program) records and knew what she could do and when she would be able to break them," he said. "She really just looked at the times as goals and dates (to reach those goals).
"She is a very goal-oriented, focused person. You look at her at a meet and she plans out her whole meet. She wants to know when the break is, so she can plan her approach to every event. She is constantly preparing her mind for the competition and really has brought a different attitude to the team. She has taught a lot of less-experienced swimmers what they need to do to prepare."
In the 10-team SEOSL meet, Bunstine was the lone competitor for the girls because of illness and injuries, and the Vikings finished eighth (32) behind champion Coshocton (279). The boys team finished fifth (107) behind champion Coshocton (239).
The next goal for Bunstine is reaching the Division II district meet. That begins with a sectional Saturday, Feb. 9, at Columbus Academy. The winner of each event qualifies for district Feb. 15 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
"I know there will be a lot of good girls (at sectional) and I know a lot of them from competing in club (swim meets)," said Bunstine, who has competed with the Licking County Family YMCA's Sharks. "My goal is to keep up with them and to be in the fastest heat.
"I expect the competition will push me and make me go faster. I just want to get in my zone, swim my own race and do the best I can."
Lindsay said Bunstine has the potential to advance to the state meet, which will be held Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. The top two placers in each district swimming event advance to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each event based on times statewide.
"It's tough to predict, but we pulled last year's district times, and from that she lines up pretty well," Lindsay said. "(Based on her time and the district times from last season) in the 100 fly, she would be in the fast heat (at district), but would have to drop her time three or four seconds to have a chance (at state).
"The breaststroke will be tougher for her. She would be in the second heat and would have to really drop her time. But she is always working hard and spending extra time in the pool to get better."
The practice that Bunstine enjoys so much and her determination may be keys to her postseason success.
"I like to work really hard in practice, and I hate losing," said Bunstine, the daughter of David and Jennifer Bunstine. "I do not like to lose. I go out and race as hard as I can and see what happens from there."