Olentangy High School girls swimming and diving coach Axel Birnbrich isn't concerned about how many points his team scores in the Division I sectional meet Feb. 9 at Union County YMCA.
The first-year coach's top priority is for the Braves to have as many district qualifiers as possible.
The winner of each sectional event qualifies for district Feb. 16 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 the district meet.
Last year, Olentangy scored 227 points to place fourth in the sectional at Union County YMCA behind champion Dublin Coffman (333) and had all three relays and five individuals qualify for district.
"We hope to improve on what we did at sectional last year in terms of getting more girls through to district," Birnbrich said. "If we can get all three relays and at least 12 girls to district, that would be good, regardless of how well our team scores.
"I think many of our girls have the ability to place well at sectional, so it's a matter of making sure they perform well that day and stay healthy, because the flu has been taking a lot of kids down this season."
Olentangy placed second (274) in the OCC-Capital Division meet that concluded Jan. 26, behind host New Albany (312) and ahead of Delaware (259), Orange (167), Watkins Memorial (114), Big Walnut (101) and Mount Vernon (63).
Ellie Nebraska won the 100-yard freestyle (54.95 seconds) and the 200 free (2:01.46) and teamed with Mara Nebraska, Erika Poling and Abbey Newman to win the 400 free relay (3:44.33).
Placing second were the Nebraska sisters, Poling and Maura Parker in the 200 medley relay (1:56.18), Newman in the 50 free (25.81), Poling in both the 100 butterfly (1:04.21) and 100 backstroke (1:05.01) and Mara Nebraska in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.26).
"We were hoping to win the OCC, but the biggest part was to make sure we were a team here and not a bunch of divided athletes, and we did accomplish that," Mara Nebraska said. "My sister had a great day and everyone on our team swam well."
Mara Nebraska, who also finished third in the 200 individual medley (2:20.01), said she and her teammates got an emotional lift from Nicole Chase's seventh-place finish in the 50 free (27.38).
"We're all really proud of Nicole because she injured her shoulder and went through two surgeries, but she made it back to do well in the 50 free," she said. "That was inspiring for all of us to see."
The boys team also will compete in the Division I sectional Feb. 9 at Union County YMCA.
Last year, the Braves placed fourth (244) in the sectional at Union County YMCA behind champion Dublin Jerome (343) and had all three relays and five individuals qualify for district.
"We have a young group of boys who are motivated to prove themselves as good athletes and show some people what they can do," coach Steve Gipe said. "Our sectional should be pretty fast, so if our guys can finish in the top 25 percent of this sectional, I think they will have a good chance of moving on to district. I'd also like to see us finish in the top three or four of the team standings."
The Braves placed second (274) in the OCC-Capital meet behind New Albany (335) and ahead of Delaware (254), Orange (166), Mount Vernon (96), Watkins Memorial (77) and Big Walnut (74).
Tyler Norris placed second in both the 200 free (1:49.44) and 500 free (5:07.6) and teamed with Keanan Fomich, Colby Brothers and Will Paull to win the 200 free relay (1:35.05) and Fomich, Winston Kuriger and Andrew Davis to finish second in the 400 free relay (3:27.18).
Fomich won the 100 back (56.13) and Paull finished second in the 100 breast (1:08.94).
"We didn't think we would win this meet, so our goal was to at least make a mark on it," Paull said. "Getting second is kind of a surprise because a lot of us are still tired from our training and we aren't at our best right now. Our relays did real well here."
Orange boys, girls place fourth in OCC
The Orange boys and girls teams also will compete in the Division I sectional Feb. 9 at Union County YMCA.
Last year, the girls team placed eighth (118) in the sectional at Union County YMCA and had all three relays and two individuals qualify for district. The boys squad also placed eighth (120) in the sectional, as all three of its relays and one individual qualified for district.
"Our sectional will be very competitive with the same teams lined up as last year," coach Dan Harris said. "Across the board, there are really no runaway events, so it's anybody's game.
"As hard as (our) teams have been training and the success we've already seen, I feel like we are ready to take that next step. We aren't as good as we want to be yet, but we've learned how to put in the work to get there."
The girls team finished fourth in the OCC-Capital meet, with Kara Miller placing second in the 500 free (5:31.32) and fourth in the 200 free (2:04.76).
Also placing fourth were Jasmine Wright, Joy Wharton, Haley Johnson and Eily Cogan in the 200 medley relay (2:06.06), Cogan, Wright, Miller and Brooke Pulkrabek in the 200 free relay (1:50.29), Johnson in the 100 breast (1:15.67), and Pulkrabek, Julia Pinciotti, Wharton and Miller in the 400 free relay (4:06.62).
"We wanted to place high in this meet and we swam well, so we're happy," Miller said. "I swam my lifetime-best times in the 500 and 200 free, so I'm really happy because I hadn't been swimming too well lately."
The boys team also finished fourth in the OCC-Capital meet, as Ric Reynolds placed second in the 100 back (1:03.11) and fourth in the 50 free (23.28) and teamed with Andrew Haidet, Alex Chugh and Carson Miller to finish fourth in the 200 free relay (1:37.27).
The 400 free relay of Miller, Chugh, Skyler Siles and Haidet also placed fourth (3:45.13).
"As a team, we did great here and scored quite a few points," Reynolds said. "Most of us are pleased with how we swam. I'm really pleased with both of my individual races because I was finally able to drop about a second off my time in each of them."
Liberty gearing up for start of postseason
The Liberty boys and girls teams also will compete in the Division I sectional Feb. 9 at Union County YMCA.
Last year, the girls team finished second (316) in the sectional at Union County YMCA and had all three relays and 10 individuals qualify for district. The boys team placed fifth (226) at sectional as all three relays and six individuals qualified for district.
The girls team placed third (185) in the OCC-Central meet that concluded Jan. 26, behind host Upper Arlington (452) and Thomas Worthington (240) and ahead of Dublin Coffman (182), Hilliard Davidson (115), Central Crossing (52) and Marysville (48).
Brittany Menninger won diving with 476.2 points and Justine Kenny, Olivia Bently, Reilly Hass and Caroline Racke finished third in the 200 medley relay (1:56.93).
The boys team finished second (229) in the OCC-Central meet, behind UA (428) and ahead of Thomas (214), Coffman (200), Davidson (96), Marysville (72) and Central Crossing (51).
Cameron Thatcher (503.9) and Alex Kowall (437.15) placed first and second in diving.
Placing third were Tom Dawson in the 100 breast (1:04.26), Jack Seczawa in the 100 fly (56.79) and Seczawa, Dawson, Matthew Lennon and Nicholas Tracewell in the 200 free relay (1:45.63).