The Watkins Memorial High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams impressed coach Heidi Williams during the Division I sectional meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington.
The girls team set a pair of program records and both teams produced numerous season- and career-best times.
"The girls team surpassed my expectations, not because of their scores or because they advanced to district, but in their times," Williams said. "They were geared up for the day and they dropped so much time in both the individual events and relays. They were very energized and positive and they just did better than any of us anticipated."
Four girls combined to qualify for the district meet held Feb. 16 at Ohio State in seven events.
The winner of each swimming event at sectional qualified for district. In addition, 27 at-large district berths were awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers did not compete until district.
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event qualified for the state meet, which begins Thursday, Feb. 21, and concludes Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 24 at-large district berths are awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast district sites.
Junior Miranda Gessner and sophomore Kayla Fenimore both qualified for district in their two individual events. Gessner placed fourth in both the 50-yard freestyle (25.65 seconds) and 100 free (56.66).
"I was really excited to be fourth in both of them," she said. "Both times were my personal bests. We all did great. I think wearing our new performance suits gave us a confidence boost."
Fenimore set the program record in the 100 butterfly by finishing fourth in 1:03.13. She placed sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:23.43).
"For two years, I've been chasing that record and to finally get it felt great," Fenimore said. "I was so happy about that. We celebrated that and the 200 medley relay record. We were all crying and jumping around hugging one another."
The 200 medley relay of Fenimore, sophomore Shelby Seas, junior Rachel Baughn and Gessner finished fifth (2:01.8). The same four girls combined to place fourth in the 200 free relay (1:49.65), and Seas finished seventh in the 100 breaststroke (1:13.04).
"We're still checking to find out if the 200 free relay was a record," Williams said. "If it's not, it's close. The same with Miranda's 50 and 100 free times. She's close to the records."
The girls team finished seventh (103) of 12 teams in the sectional, behind Thomas (311), New Albany (239), Delaware (187), Gahanna (163), Worthington Kilbourne (120) and Westerville South (107) and ahead of Big Walnut (76), Mount Vernon (37), Teays Valley (26), Northland (14) and Newark (8).
The boys team finished last (4) of 11 teams at sectional, behind Westerville South (216), Thomas (208.5), New Albany (201.5), Delaware (181), Kilbourne (150), Mount Vernon (97), Gahanna (88), Northland (81), Teays Valley (43) and Newark (12).
The Warriors did not have any district qualifiers, but Williams was pleased by the performances turned in by the eight boys on the team.
"We had some stellar (personal records)," she said. "We thought we'd have a chance to get a relay or two out, but it didn't happen. I thought Skylar Chapman and Trenton Lucas did wonderful."
Chapman finished 17th in the 500 free (6:09.74) and 18th in the 100 fly (1:12.87) and Lucas finished 15th in the 200 IM (2:48.59). Luke Michel placed 15th in the 100 breast (1:19.52) and Charlie Grady finished 17th in the 100 backstroke (1:14.68).
The Warriors were disqualified in two of their three relays.
Boys basketball team preparing for tourney
The boys basketball team is seeded 35th of 42 teams and will open the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 23, at 13th-seeded Newark.
The winner will play 17th-seeded St. Charles or 19th-seeded Hilliard Darby in the second round Feb. 27 at the home of the higher seed.
Watkins Memorial, which was 5-16 overall and 2-11 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Olentangy Orange on Feb. 15, has not played Newark, St. Charles or Darby this season.
Newark was 13-8 before playing Lancaster on Feb. 15 but entered the contest having won 10 of its previous 12 games. The Wildcats received a recent boost from the return of senior guard Jalen Dartis, who had been sidelined three weeks with an ankle injury.
Sophomore guard Jordan Dartis stepped up his play in his brother's absence. The Wildcats also have gotten key contributions from 6-foot-6 junior center Teddy Metzen and 6-3 junior forward Grant Russell.
Watkins Memorial had lost five consecutive games before playing Orange. The Warriors fell to Lakewood 71-65 on Feb. 12 in their home finale after losing to New Albany 54-33 in a league game Feb. 8.
Against Lakewood, the Warriors had trouble stopping guard Reese Dupler, who scored 39 points. Guards Thomas O'Sickey and Aarmanni Garnett both scored 22 for Watkins Memorial and post player Kevin Crawford scored 11.
Girls basketball team set for tourney opener
The girls basketball team had a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament and will play at second-seeded Gahanna or 40th-seeded Groveport in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 20.
The second-round winner will face 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto, 15th-seeded Dublin Jerome, 18th-seeded Central Crossing or 19th-seeded Lancaster in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at Jonathan Alder.
Seeded 41st of 43 teams in the district, Watkins Memorial has not played Gahanna or Groveport this season. The Lions were 18-4 entering their Feb. 16 game against Groveport and the Cruisers were 4-18.
The Warriors closed the regular season Feb. 12 with a 49-47 win over host Mount Vernon to improve to 5-17.
Post player Vicki Smith led the way with 17 points. Guard Kiki Welker scored 10 points and guards Brittany Bronder and Lou Nickel had nine and eight points, respectively.
Watkins Memorial lost to New Albany 69-26 on Feb. 8 to finish 3-11 in the OCC-Capital.
The Warriors placed seventh in the league, behind Orange (14-0), Olentangy (12-2), New Albany (10-4), Delaware (7-7), Big Walnut (6-8) and Mount Vernon (4-10) and ahead of Franklin Heights (0-14).
Wrestlers finish fourth in OCC-Capital
The wrestling team finished fourth in the OCC-Capital at 2-5, behind Mount Vernon (7-0), Delaware (6-1) and Orange (5-2) and ahead of Olentangy (3-4), Big Walnut (2-5), New Albany (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
The Warriors competed in a Division I sectional tournament Feb. 16 at home.
The top four placers in each weight class advanced to the district tournament Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each weight class at district will advance to the state tournament Feb. 28-March 2 at Ohio State.
The Warriors qualified four district qualifiers last season.