About an hour before the finals of the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 7 at Ohio State, Anne Marie Cummins of the DeSales High School girls swimming and diving team discussed the importance of her junior season.
"It's a big year for a lot of swimmers. It's when you start to make your decisions about college. I don't have any yet, but it's a big year in terms of your times and if you're really going to do well, this is the year that happens," said Cummins, a Division II state qualifier as both a freshman and sophomore. "I'm hoping to see some solid results this year. I don't know what's going to happen tonight, but finals here is one of my favorite things to do."
Even if it meant a loss to her younger sister.
Freshman Maureen Cummins made a memorable debut, placing sixth in the 100-yard backstroke (59.33 seconds), just .37 of a second ahead of her older sister, who finished eighth (59.7).
Anne Marie Cummins placed sixth in the 100 butterfly (58.18), as the Stallions scored 49 points to place 21st behind champion Upper Arlington (488) as 46 teams scored.
Cummins finished 14th in the 100 fly (59.35) and 19th in the 100 back (59.95) in the state meet last season at Branin Natatorium in Canton. She finished 23rd in the 100 fly and 20th in the 100 back at state as a freshman.
The girls team has moved up to Division I this season, but the boys team remains in Division II.
"She has become one of the girls' leaders for big invitationals like this," third-year coach Mallory Hoffman said of Cummins. "She's been a huge help for her sister, and she's able to show all the girls the ropes and help them to feel more comfortable in the bigger meets. Right now, she's much faster than where she was last year."
DeSales has 23 swimmers in its entire program, including 13 freshmen and sophomores. The boys team has no seniors and is expected to be led by juniors Coleman McKinney, Stephan Douglas and Puzhen Yin and freshman Connor McGovern, and the girls team is expected to get key contributions from Maureen Cummins, sophomores Eliza Cargin, Kaelin Kelly and Kaylee Spahr and freshman Chelsea Johnson.
McKinney was a state qualifier last season, finishing 23rd in the 100 freestyle (49.43). The only other state qualifier for the boys team a year ago was 2013 graduate Eddy Cordek, who placed 14th in the 100 back (55.03) and 23rd in the 50 free (22.53).
The Stallions scored two points at state to finish 54th behind champion Dayton Oakwood (288) as 58 teams scored.
McKinney and Douglas were district qualifiers last season in the 100 back and 100 fly, respectively. Kelly (100 fly) and Spahr (100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley) were district qualifiers for the girls team a year ago.
Also on the boys team, which did not score in the Ned Reeb Invitational, are freshmen Connor Cavanaugh, John Harrington, Isaac Juarez and Tim Pham. Rounding out the girls roster are seniors Claire Alexander, Lisa Deakin, Amanda Ginikos and Annie Kobermann, juniors Carly McGuire and Jordan Stoll, sophomore Cameelah Gayle and freshmen Caitlyn Clark and Hannah Wilkes.
"For some of them, this is their first turn at varsity, but they put in a lot of work in the summer," Hoffman said.
DeSales does not have any divers this season. Last year, 2013 graduate Andrea Acquista won the Division II girls diving championship.
Bowling program continues to grow
This season marks the start of a new era for the bowling program, which earned varsity status for the first time and now has a girls team.
"I was pretty excited when our athletic director (Tom Neubert) told me, and the kids are very proud to have a chance to earn a varsity letter," 10th-year coach Connie Emlich said. "It's a great thing for our program."
Previously, DeSales had only a boys team that included some girls. One of the girls was 2013 graduate Miranda Singer, who placed eighth (589) of 103 competitors in the state tournament last year after finishing second (614) at district.
Last season, DeSales finished 14-3 overall and 12-3 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division to tie Columbus Academy for second behind Ready (14-1).
The boys team opened Dec. 4 with a 2,080-1,822 win over St. Charles in a COHSBC-Central match. Senior Anthony Hayes rolled a 375 series with games of 184 and 191, closely followed by a 369 series from senior Yusef Walton-Bridges.
Junior Tony LaTorre had the team's best game against St. Charles with a 198 and finished with a 346 series. Junior Tyler LaTorre rolled a 322 series and senior Patrick Nie contributed a 142 game.
"It's Yusef's first year, but he is doing very well," Emlich said. "Tony, Tyler and Anthony all bowled last year. They know what it takes, and they're going to put up some high numbers."
Also on the boys roster are freshmen Luke Gillan, Nick Limbert and Collin Sedebra.
The girls team opened Dec. 10 against Columbus International in an COHSBC-Central match.
Senior Amber Strohacker and sophomore Haley Strohacker are the only girls with varsity experience. Both competed on the boys team last season.
Rounding out the girls team are freshmen Elizabeth Anderson, Jenni Ciacura, Cynthia Groves, Dena Studer and Josey Waltman.
"Most of the younger girls will probably shoot in the 90s and 80s while they get acclimated to the game and try to learn what I've been teaching," Emlich said. "I don't know how well we'll do this year, but next year I think we'll be much more competitive."