For the first time in at least five years, the New Albany High School swimming and diving program has more motivation entering the postseason than the simple fact that it's the postseason.
The boys and girls teams both finished second in the OCC-Capital Division meet Jan. 25 in their home pool. The boys, who were seeking their eighth consecutive league championship, had 246 points to finish 17 behind Olentangy.
Olentangy also bested New Albany on the girls side, scoring 298 points to the Eagles' 282. The girls had won the OCC-Capital five years in a row.
Coach Dave Wharton lauded his teams' efforts and agreed that those setbacks could serve as some motivation for a Division I sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 8, at Thomas Worthington.
"I think we raced as well as we could, considering we weren't rested," Wharton said. "The guys and girls needed to get experience being in a close race and swimming for a championship. Some of them have it, and others didn't until (the league meet). This time of year, team scores do and don't matter. They will go hard. Nobody likes to lose."
The boys and girls teams combined to win four events but displayed impressive depth in a handful of other events, giving Wharton something of a quandary as he devised postseason lineups.
Carson Barnes was first in the 100-yard butterfly (54.77 seconds), ahead of teammate Brendan Murphy in second (54.98) and Blake Bergere in third (56.72).
In the 100 freestyle, Nick Noe was third (50.08) and Griffin Spychalski was sixth (52.13). Grace Taylor was second in the girls 100 backstroke (1:04.87), ahead of Bella Brown in fifth (1:08.8) and Sydney Brown in seventh (1:10.05). In the boys 100 back, Barnes was third (58.06), Bergere was fifth (1:00.72) and Harrison Jenny was seventh (1:02.84).
New Albany also had three in the top nine of the boys 100 breaststroke -- Jordan Gundlach was fourth (1:08.37), Victor Alfonso eighth (1:12.2) and Parker Edman ninth (1:12.43).
"The thing with the postseason is you don't want to work too much against each other," Wharton said. "We have to be careful where swimmers will go. In the 100 fly, we knew Carson and Brendan were strong. Blake is strong in the fly but with swimming a few other events, we'll see where he lands (at sectional)."
The rest of the sectional field consists of Delaware, Gahanna, Mount Vernon, Newark, Northland, Teays Valley, Thomas, Watkins Memorial, Westerville Central and Worthington Kilbourne, and the girls teams from Big Walnut and DeSales.
The winner of each sectional 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. Divers do not compete until district.
The other Division I sectionals are at Upper Arlington and the Union County YMCA.
"I do think we'll have one of the stronger teams (at Thomas)," Wharton said. "We're strong in several different events, and I am hopeful we will do well. I think the kids are hungry to do well. The thing that's so difficult to project is who will get out. Everybody has to remember that not only are they racing against the person in the next lane, but also people at other pools. What (others) do is beyond their control."
Home stretch awaits girls basketball team
The girls basketball team could play as many as four consecutive games at home the next two weeks if it takes care of business.
The Eagles, who were 11-8 overall and 6-5 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Feb. 4, will end the regular season with home league games against Worthington Kilbourne on Friday, Feb. 7, and Delaware on Monday, Feb. 10, in a makeup of a game postponed from Jan. 28 because of bad weather.
New Albany also could have home games in the first two rounds of the Division I district tournament. The 18th-seeded Eagles play host to 27th-seeded Marysville on Feb. 15, and the winner plays host to 19th-seeded Westland on Feb. 19.
Club hockey team wrapping up season
The club hockey team took a 3-6-2 record in the Capital Hockey Conference's junior varsity division into its final two games of the regular season.
New Albany plays Olentangy Orange on Friday, Feb. 7, at Chiller Easton, and its regular-season finale is Saturday, Feb. 8, at Chiller Ice Works against Westerville. The Eagles begin the Blue Jackets Cup on Feb. 13 against an opponent to be determined.
Fourteen of the 15 CHC teams play a first-round game in the Cup, with the top-seeded team receiving a bye and playing its first game Feb. 14. Before Feb. 2, the Eagles had eight points in league play and were tied for ninth with Cincinnati Moeller and Upper Arlington.