During the fall, seniors Annie Miller and Jenna Tugaoen combed the hallways at the Wellington School in search of more athletes to join the girls swimming and diving team.
Their recruiting efforts paid dividends, as a program-record 22 girls showed up for the first day of tryouts.
With a larger roster at its disposal, Wellington scored 359 points to win its five-team Jaguar Invitational held Dec. 14 and 15 at Columbus Aquatics Center. Centennial (336) placed second, followed by Grandview (294), Northland (133) and Village Academy (95).
"Annie and I decided to go up and down our hallways to recruit as many freshmen as we could, because we wanted a bigger team to help make us more competition in bigger meets," Tugaoen said.
"We have a very athletic freshman class and a lot of them said they were going to play basketball, so I'm glad we were able to convince them to come swim with us because they're making our team stronger. Having a bigger team really helps, because it allows us to fill every event and it gives us a variety of people to swim on our relays."
The Jaguars return their only Division II state qualifier from a year ago in junior Brittany Anderson, who scored 415.25 points in diving to finish second at Branin Natatorium in Canton, behind Wauseon's Kendall Weber (432.5). Anderson won the district meet at Ohio State with 435.2 points.
Wellington also returns four district qualifiers in Miller, Tugaoen, senior Gabrielle Regusa and junior Abby Fleeter.
At district last year, Miller placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 9.76 seconds) and seventh in the 200 individual medley (2:17.43), Tugaoen placed ninth in the 100 freestyle (55.54) and seventh in the 200 free (2:00.9), Fleeter finished 15th in the 100 backstroke (1:06.32) and 16th in the 200 IM (2:31.76) and Ragusa finished 30th in the 200 IM (2:44.94).
Rounding out the team are senior Lesh Buckingham, juniors Jordan Ashby, Gabrielle Barry, Elizabeth Dvorkin, Amelia Palmer, Annie Postle, Emma Steele and Sarah Wakeman, sophomores Charlotte Brewer, Alyssa Cook, Sophie Hess, Caroline McGuire, Kate Miller and Charis Nandor, freshmen Sara Brubaker, Quinn Coleman and Julia Doran.
"We built our middle school program around Annie and Jenna and they have helped raise our team's level of competitiveness," said 13th-year coach Bill Miller, who is not related to Annie Miller. "Our girls team looks very strong this year."
Last season, Wellington finished third (287) in the four-team sectional at UA behind Grandview (349) and Centennial (318) and fifth (137) at district behind champion Granville (475) as 36 teams scored.
The Jaguars then finished 26th at state with 17 points behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (360.5) as 45 teams scored.
"Our goals are to get as many girls as we can to district, and we'd like to get some girls to state again, too," Tugaoen said.
Boys swim team small but talented
The boys swimming and diving team has only seven athletes in senior Alex Winkle, juniors Taff Anderson, Joe Campbell and Josh Roseler, sophomore Michael Haring and freshmen Akia Kamian and Matthew Xin.
Last season, Haring won the Division II district diving title with 325.15 points and finished 17th in diving at state with 234.45 points behind champion Logan Bauer of Botkins (474.05).
Campbell, who placed 25th in the 500 free (5:52.5) at district a year ago, is Wellington's only returning district qualifier.
"We have a small group of boys, but we have a really nice group of juniors, a returning state-qualifying diver and an outstanding freshman swimmer," coach Miller said.
Last season, Wellington placed fourth (125) in the five-team sectional meet at UA. The team finished behind champion Grandview (383) and placed 23rd (24) at district behind champion Granville (325) as 39 teams scored.
The Jaguars didn't score at state as Hunting Valley University School (237.5) won the title with 57 teams scoring.
"Our overall goals for both teams are always to qualify as many as we can to the district meet and to qualify a handful of individuals to the state meet," coach Miller said.
"We're training hard to try to make it there."