In 17 years as New Albany High School's swimming and diving coach, Dave Wharton has followed a simple scheduling philosophy.
Enjoy the holiday break, but be ready to show considerable improvement in January and February.
Having not competed since a dual-meet loss to Thomas Worthington on Dec. 11, the Eagles' season resumed Jan. 8 with a home tri-meet against Hilliard Darby and Hilliard Davidson.
"We understand a lot of the swimmers have commitments out of town with their families and we don't want them to not have the opportunity to unwind a little bit," Wharton said. "When they come back, they're usually pretty productive. We have things we want to focus on getting into an important part of the season."
That starts quickly. New Albany will travel to northeast Ohio this weekend for the two-day Northeast Classic Invitational. It takes place at the University of Akron on Friday, Jan. 11, and Branin Natatorium in Canton on Saturday, Jan. 12.
Then, after home dual meets against Westerville Central on Jan. 17 and Gahanna on Jan. 22, the Eagles play host to the OCC-Capital Division meet on Jan. 26.
"Right now we're working on details with starts and turns," Wharton said. "We've seen we have some work to do there, and we're spending more time on that than we have in the past. We're just not nailing those like I'd like to see, and that's going to be a big thing for us the next few weeks."
Wharton cited several individual efforts from December, including the increasingly strong sprinting of senior Max Yudovich, senior Elly Gleason's third-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle (24.81 seconds) in the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 8 at Ohio State and sophomore Taylor Berend's sixth-place finish in the 100 free (54.69) and eighth-place effort in the 200 individual medley (2:15.47) in the Ned Reeb.
"That was a great thing to see them step up like that at a meet with a lot of teams and swimmers we're going to see again," Wharton said. "We've had some relays do well, but we're still looking for a consistent four there. Sometimes, we've had two consistent swimmers and been unsure of the other two spots. We still have some time left to figure things out."
Boys basketball team embraces physical play
Part of the reason the boys basketball team is approaching last season's win total of 12 is the Eagles are holding their own more this season during physical play in the post.
While New Albany has a few taller players than in recent years, including 6-foot-8 senior Jack Serbin and 6-7 sophomore John Miller, coach Sam Davis gave much of the credit to strength and conditioning coach Jeff Sydes.
"That comes back to coach Sydes in the weight room and how hard our kids have worked. They've all bought into the system. They hit the weight room hard and have spent the time in the gym," Davis said. "That and we've been blessed with good health other than Jonathan (Tolber, a senior expected back within the next few weeks from a torn right meniscus). I feel like you have to have some luck. We haven't had the flu bug. The second thing is the kids are taking care of their bodies. We are getting stronger."
After a 47-39 loss to Olentangy Liberty in their opener Dec. 1, the Eagles took an eight-game winning streak into a Jan. 8 game at Watkins Memorial. New Albany was 5-0 in the OCC-Capital before that game.
"For one, we're taller. It's a good thing to have," Davis said. "We're more physical, we're boxing out a lot better and we're tougher mentally. Going up for rebounds, we're playing stronger."
Girls basketball squad rebounds
Cheyenne Hartley-Carr's 12 points led the girls basketball team to a 45-27 win over Big Walnut in an OCC-Capital game Jan. 4, keeping New Albany within reach of first-place Olentangy Orange and second-place Olentangy entering this week.
The win helped erase the bad taste of an up-and-down performance in the Gahanna Cage Classic on Dec. 27 and 28. New Albany defeated Eastmoor Academy 50-37 on the first day before falling behind Gahanna 20-0 the next night and losing 56-27.
Hartley-Carr, a 5-7 senior guard, was averaging 6.5 points for the Eagles, who entered a Jan. 8 home game against Watkins Memorial at 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the league, behind 6-0 Orange and 5-1 Olentangy. New Albany begins the second half of league play Friday, Jan. 11, at Mount Vernon, which it defeated 39-34 in the league opener Nov. 30.