The Centennial High School boys swimming and diving team has only 13 athletes on its roster after having at least 18 the previous two seasons.
The low numbers have prevented the Stars from being able to fill every event in some of their meets, but eighth-year coach Maria Stead is choosing to focus on the positive aspects of having a smaller squad.
"Our boys team is a lot smaller than we've had here lately, as we typically have 18 to 20 boys on our team," she said. "We can't fill all of the events in some of the bigger meets and a lot of our boys are swimming four events per meet, which can be pretty exhausting.
"But the nice thing is it's giving our younger boys a chance to get a lot more experience than they would normally get, and it's brought our entire team a lot closer together because they realize that everything they do in practices and meets matters, and they're working hard to improve."
Back to lead the Stars is senior Aaron Maharry. Last season, he finished fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke in the Division II district meet at Ohio State in a personal-record 1 minute, 1.56 seconds before placing 20th (1:02) in the state meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Maharry finished 23rd (1:03.51) in the 100 breast at state as a sophomore.
Also competing for the Stars are seniors Cory Kountz and Danny Schlosser, juniors Carl Schuette, Matt Scherer and Gabe Witt, sophomores John Beyer, Mark Brownfield, Noah Davis, Jimmy Matney and Chris Perdue and freshmen Mark Beyer and Callan Reese.
The Stars have been competitive during the first half of the regular season. They scored 283 points to finish second behind Grandview (319) in the five-team Wellington Jaguars Invitational held Dec. 14 and 15 at Columbus Aquatics Center.
"Our boys team still has some strong seniors, but this is more of a building year," Stead said. "Aaron's a very strong swimmer and he wants to make it back to state for the third time. He was close to reaching the state finals last year and that's his goal this year."
Last year, Centennial scored 150 points to win the five-team City League meet for a second consecutive season ahead of runner-up Northland (139).
The Stars finished second (168) in a five-team sectional at Upper Arlington behind champion Grandview (383.5) and placed eighth (102) at district behind champion Granville (325.5) as 39 teams scored. They didn't score at state.
"Our main goal as a team is to win the City League meet once again," Maharry said.
Girls swimming squad starts strong
The girls swimming and diving team has fared well through the first half of the regular season.
The Stars finished second (336) in the five-team Jaguars Invitational behind Wellington (359).
Centennial also scored 160 points to win the six-team Whetstone Braves Invitational on Dec. 10 at Columbus Aquatics Center, finishing ahead of Marysville (130), Grove City (83), Whetstone (78), Northland (55) and Marion Harding (14).
Junior Lexie Herron won both the 100 freestyle (59.95) and 50 free (team-record 26.36) in the Braves Invitational. She also joined junior Julia Brooks and sophomores Abbi Linville and Sam Meanor to win the 200 free relay (1:53.56) and combined with Brooks, Meanor and sophomore Glorianna Flemming to win the 200 medley relay (2:05.65).
Sophomore Emilija Erenpreiss won diving with 152.65 points.
Meanor won the 100 breast (1:19.51), Brooks won the 100 backstroke (1:14.38) and Erenpreiss, Brooks, Linville and junior Kaylyn Aebie won the 400 free relay (4:26.36).
Also competing for the Stars are senior Kaitlin Hedges, juniors Carmen Godel, Magdalena Schricker and Briana Smith, sophomores Emily Carpenter, Claire Curran, Kelly McCallum and Sarah Schoultz and freshmen Nardos Haile, Caitlin Lewis, Margarita Mendieta, Samantha O'Leary and Kira Watkins.
"This is definitely the strongest girls team we've ever had because we have a lot of depth," Stead said. "Lexie's our top sprinter and best all-around swimmer. Kaitlin is our top distance swimmer, and our whole team has performed well this season."
Last year, the Stars scored 179 points to win the five-team City meet for a third consecutive year ahead of runner-up Whetstone (147).
Centennial finished second (318.5) in the five-team Division II sectional at Upper Arlington behind champion Grandview (349) and placed 13th (61) at district behind champion Granville (475) as 36 teams scored.
"Our girls are favored to win the City again because of our depth," Stead said. "Our team is both young and powerful this year. The 200 medley relay will be a force to be reckoned with. Lexie Herron's 50 and 100 freestyle are also quite impressive. She broke her own school record in the 50 (on Dec. 10). To be able to do that this early in the season is very exciting and gives us high hopes for the district meet."
Girls basketball team continues league play
The girls basketball team will play host to Whetstone on Friday, Jan. 11, and Beechcroft on Tuesday, Jan. 15, in City League-North Division games.
The Stars, who were 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the City-North before playing Mifflin on Jan. 8, beat Whetstone 60-42 on Dec. 11 and Beechcroft 62-27 on Dec. 21.
Against Beechcroft, DeAuja Thompson scored 21 points, Alyssa Dean scored 11 and Aubri Caslin and Brianne Stephenson each scored eight.
Against Whetstone, Caslin scored 19 points, Thompson scored 16 and Stephenson scored eight.
Through 11 games, the Stars were 7-0 when giving up fewer than 53 points and 0-4 when they gave up 53 or more.
Centennial had four players averaging double figures in points through 11 contests in Thompson (13.4), Dean (12.4), Caslin (12.0) and Stephenson (10.7).
During that span, Thompson averaged 7.3 rebounds. 3.1 steals and 1.7 assists, Caslin averaged 7.1 rebounds, Aryn Brnusak averaged 4.8 rebounds, Stephenson averaged 4.4 rebounds and two steals and Dean averaged four steals and 2.9 assists.