Knowing what it takes to earn all-state, Amanda Jenny of the New Albany High School girls swimming and diving team wasted no time doubling as teammate and coach during a season-opening meet against Delaware on Dec. 3.
The 200-yard freestyle relay, which Jenny anchored behind sophomore Olivia Neff, freshman Jessica Zaper and senior Sydney Smith, won in 1 minute, 47.49 seconds. That was 8.82 seconds shy of the time Jenny, junior Taylor Berend and 2013 graduates Elly Gleason and Haley McLellan recorded to earn eighth place in the Division I state meet last February, and Jenny said it's never too early to start working on a return trip.
"We talked about the race and I gave the other girls advice on what I saw," said Jenny, who earned all-state honors for the eighth-place finish. Berend has been all-state each of the past two years in that relay.
"Things can change during the year, but right now, there's a good chance those younger swimmers will be on the relay this year," said Jenny, a senior who expects to swim the 200 and 500 free, but also is able to swim the 50 and 100 free if needed. "As a senior, part of my job is to listen to our coaches, coach up our younger swimmers and really spend time trying to build on what we already have."
Other seniors on the girls team are Abby Manning, Sydney Brown, Paige Cackovic, Riley Gundlach and Vickie Wang. They and the boys team, which is paced by seniors Max Glick, Brendan Murphy, Nick Noe, Griffin Spychalski and David Torres, are seeking to sweep the OCC-Capital Division championships for the sixth consecutive year.
The boys team has won seven league titles in a row.
"We like to build on that," said Noe, who plans to swim the 100 and 200 free as well as the 100 and 200 free relays. "We don't necessarily think about winning those titles, but we want to perform the best we can and our names will get up on the wall that way."
New Albany swept Delaware in the opener, with the boys winning 132-46 and the girls winning 97-86.
On Dec. 7 in the Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State, the boys tied for 22nd (38) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (485) as 44 teams scored and the girls were 29th (25) behind champion Upper Arlington (488) as 46 teams scored.
"At the beginning of the year, it's all about finding who has matured and gotten stronger and worked at it since last season," 18th-year coach Dave Wharton said. "It's finding their strengths and where they can contribute overall. We have six dual meets and a few invitationals to sort that all out. We take the relays, we take the individuals and put the puzzle together by the end of the year."
A small junior class consists of Berend, Blake Bergere, Jordan Gundlach, Sarah Kieslich and Alexandra Stark. They are followed by sophomores Victor Alfonso, Parker Edman, Harrison Jenny, Nikhil Malakalapalli, Olivia Neff and Grace Taylor.
Wharton expects several of the 14 combined freshmen on the boys and girls teams to make an impact early in the season. They are Jonathan Anders, Carson Barnes, Bella Brown, Grace Fruth, Grace Gower, Carolyn Gurd, Tre Johnson, Corey Khan, Steven Kish, Abbie Linek, Sydney Remeis, Samantha Stewart, Jessica Von Zastrow and Sarah Wang.
"A lot of kids are coming up from the middle school team, which generates a lot of interest," Wharton said. "They often times can sustain that level we need from them to be on the varsity team."
Dinsmore, Pryor seek return to state
Coming off a year of high-caliber performances, juniors David Dinsmore and Estee Pryor return to lead a 14-athlete diving squad.
Dinsmore was fourth at state last year after finishing eighth as a freshman, and Pryor was second in her first state appearance.
Pryor was second in platform and fourth in 1-meter at the USA Diving Junior National Championships last summer, while Dinsmore was second in platform at both the Junior National Championships and the AT&T National Diving Championships.
Because Dinsmore and Pryor are participating in the USA Diving Winter National Championships from Tuesday, Dec. 17, to Dec. 22 in Austin, Texas, they are not eligible to take part in high school events until that meet concludes.
"They are getting ready for some big meets at the national level, and after that, they will start competing with us," 15th-year coach Selene Kelley said. "Overall, we have a really fun group. All of them are easy to work with and very coachable. I've seen a lot of these kids since they were little at New Albany Country Club (where Kelley coaches), and now those skills are translating here."
Manning and Torres lead the rest of the roster, which also includes freshmen Matthew Dinsmore, Presley Klinger, Georgina Milne, Gabe Robbertz and Nikki Watters. Robbertz (288.45) and Watters (262.65) won the boys and girls competitions, respectively, against Delaware.