The Olentangy Liberty High School girls swimming and diving team earned bragging rights in multiple communities on Jan. 12.
The Patriots scored 447 points to win the Olentangy/Hilliard Challenge at the Hilliard YMCA ahead of Olentangy (405), Hilliard Darby (354), Hilliard Davidson (345), Olentangy Orange (286), Hilliard Bradley (28) and Jonathan Alder (11).
More importantly, at least from coach Laurie Karr's perspective, the Patriots continued to improve in preparation for the Division I postseason meets.
"Swimming against the other teams from our community is a lot of fun for our kids and Olentangy has a great girls team, so this is a nice, competitive meet," Karr said. "But really, we're using this meet as a steppingstone to evaluate where everyone best fits into our lineup so that we can be at our best when we compete in the sectional, district and state meets."
Olivia Bently won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 10.76 seconds, and Liberty's 200 freestyle relay also placed first in 1:48.15.
The Patriots also defeated their community rivals on Dec. 22, when they scored 499 points to win the Delaware County Classic at Ohio Wesleyan ahead of Olentangy (391), Delaware (350), Westerville Central (316), Orange (237), Big Walnut (145) and Village Academy (62).
On Dec. 8 in the Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State, Liberty finished sixth (161) behind champion Upper Arlington (439) as 48 teams scored.
In the Ned Reeb, Brittany Menninger was second in diving (436.5 points), Olivia Ball was third in diving (435.15), Bently finished fifth in the 100 breast (1:08.34) and ninth in the 200 individual medley (2:16.45), and Cameron Hiltner placed eighth in the 200 free (1:59.75) and 10th in the 100 butterfly (1:01.36).
"Our girls have improved their speed at each meet, and there's been a lot of competition for our relay spots," Karr said. "Our divers are doing great as well."
Braves girls finding success
Olentangy girls coach Axel Birnbrich said he was satisfied with how his team performed in the Olentangy/Hilliard Challenge, especially considering the Braves were coming off their most intense training of the season.
Placing first in the meet for Olentangy were Abbey Newman in both the 50 free (26.1) and 100 free (58.17) and Mara Nebraska in the 200 IM (2:18.13).
Newman, Erica Poling, Carly Wolfe and Maura Parker won the 400 free relay (3:54.02) and Poling, Nebraska, Newman and Parker won the 200 medley relay (1:57.5).
"This meet was more of a fun thing for the kids," Birnbrich said. "We swam a lot of extra yards during the holidays and they're all tired and a bit off their best times right now, but they performed well."
According to Birnbrich, Poling, Ellie Nebraska, Mara Nebraska and Newman set a team record while winning the 400 free relay (3:44.81) in the Delaware County Classic.
"It's nice to break a team record this early, and with the way our girls are swimming, our goal is to break every team record on our board," Birnbrich said.
The Braves compete against Orange again Friday, Jan. 18, at the Liberty Township/Powell YMCA.
"I play around with our lineup to try to figure out where to put everyone because I don't care if we win every dual meet," Birnbrich said. "The next phase for us is getting more into our sprint training."
Patriots boys faring well
The Liberty boys team finished third (357) in the Olentangy/Hilliard Challenge behind Darby (443) and Olentangy (420) and ahead of Orange (333), Davidson (195) and Bradley (53).
The Patriots' Joe McCon-aghy won the 100 breast (1:08.39). Other local champions were Orange's 200 free relay (1:38.4) and Olentangy's Colby Brothers in the 50 free (24.2).
"We have five boys who are out sick for this meet, including our top sprinter Matt Lennon, so I (wasn't) expecting to win it," Karr said.
The Patriots scored 429 points to win the Delaware County Classic ahead of Westerville Central (399), Olentangy (349), Delaware (287), Orange (199), Big Walnut (174) and Village Academy (125).
And Liberty finished 16th (84) of the 48 squads that scored in the Ned Reeb Invitational, which was won by UA (370), as Cameron Thatcher placed second in diving with a team-record 478.6 points.
"We won the Delaware County Classic ahead of Olentangy and Delaware, which both have really strong teams, so that was a highlight," Karr said. "Cameron's having a great freshman season and we're excited to see where he'll go from here."
The Patriots' boys and girls teams will compete in dual meets against Dublin Jerome on Friday, Jan. 18, at the Dublin Recreation Center and on Saturday, Jan. 19, at Upper Arlington.
"We'd like to beat Dublin Jerome," Karr said. "Upper Arlington's at a whole different level and our teams want to try to step it up and get closer to their level so that we won't be shocked when we face them at the OCC-Central meet (Jan. 26 at Thomas Worthington)."