The Centennial High School girls swimming and diving team put together one of its best seasons a year ago, winning a fourth consecutive City League championship and its first Division II sectional title.
With all but one member back from that squad, coach Maria Stead is confident the Stars can equal or top what they accomplished last season.
The Stars opened Nov. 30 by scoring 70 points to defeat Beechcroft (12) and Eastmoor Academy (11). On Dec. 9, they scored 156 points to win the Whetstone Braves Invitational ahead of Marysville (143), Whetstone (134), Grove City (107), Northland (57) and Marion Harding (29).
"This (team) is even more talented than past years' (teams)," Stead said. "We have so much depth on the girls team, and I get the honor of playing with our lineup to see what best suits each swimmer and the team, as opposed to only swimming athletes in events they are capable of competing in. This group is also very close-knit. They are friends and really support each other both in the pool and in the classroom.
"The (girls) are off to a great start this year. Winning the Braves Invitational was a huge victory for us. We are excited to see what the rest of the season holds."
Returning to lead the Stars are seniors Kaylyn Aebie, Julia Brooks and Lexie Herron and juniors Erin Erenpreiss, Glorianna Fleming, Sophia Maharry and Sam Meanor.
Brooks set two team records while helping the Stars finish ninth at district last season, as she placed 21st in the 100-yard backstroke (1 minute, 8.42 seconds) and 13th in the 100 freestyle (58.42).
Herron placed 12th in the 50 free at district (team-record 26.34) and combined with Meanor, Maharry and Brooks to finish fifth in the 200 free relay (team-record 1:47.45).
Herron placed first in four events in the City League meet, helping Centennial score 132 points to win ahead of runner-up Whetstone (99). In addition to winning the 50 free (27.08) and 100 free (1:00.46), she combined with Brooks, Meanor and Fleming to win the 200 medley relay (2:04.11) and teamed with Brooks, Meanor and Maharry to win the 200 free relay (1:51.05).
Brooks also won four events in the City meet, as she was part of the first-place 400 free relay (4:21.83) and placed first in the 100 back (1:09.32).
"We would love a repeat City League championship." Stead said. "Last year, our girls took first place in the Division II Upper Arlington sectional meet and we would love to repeat that performance as well. Finally, I'd like to see as many athletes qualify for districts as possible.
"Our strength is definitely our depth. We have strong swimmers for every event that are capable of competing across the board."
Young boys swimming team quickly improving
The boys swimming and diving team opened Nov. 30 by scoring 57 points to beat Beechcroft (11) and Eastmoor (6).
The Stars then scored 68 points to place fifth in the six-team Braves Invitational behind champion Grove City (165).
"This team is especially young," Stead said. "We have a lot of athletes who are new to the sport and therefore the learning curve is different than it has been in past years.
"Even though they are less experienced than other teams, these young men are eager to learn the sport and compete against the best local athletes. They do not give up, even when practices and meets are especially difficult."
Returning to lead the Stars are seniors Kevin Adams and Gabe Witt and juniors John Beyer, Mark Brownfield and Christopher Perdue.
Beyer won diving (107) and Brownfield won the 500 free (6:10.22) in last season's City meet to help Centennial finish second (91) behind Northland (103).
Lost to graduation was Aaron Maharry, who finished fourth in the 50 free (team-record 22.33) at district to qualify for state for the third consecutive season. At state, he placed 22nd in 22.41.
"With Aaron gone, we've had to reorganize our team and fill in some big gaps," Witt said. "Our biggest goal is to take back the City League championship. Whetstone and Northland will give us great competition, but we're working really hard in practice to prepare ourselves to beat them.
"Kevin Adams has come back after taking a year off from swimming and he's doing really well. John Beyer devoted himself to swimming club in the offseason and Mark Brownfield is practicing harder than ever."
Boys basketball squad struggled last week
The boys basketball team went 0-4 last week to drop to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the City-North Division before playing Linden-McKinley on Dec. 17.
In a 63-48 loss to Dublin Coffman on Dec. 14, Octavius Luke scored 21 points, Joe Thomas scored 14 and Gyai Gyamerah scored eight.
The Stars will try to get back on track when they play host to Whetstone on Friday, Dec. 20, in a league game.
Last season, Centennial swept the Braves, winning 84-51 at home and 72-55 at Whetstone.