The Worthington Kilbourne High School boys swimming and diving team might have a difficult time extending its streak of Division I state qualifiers to four seasons.
The Wolves lost a pair of three-time state qualifiers to graduation after Hunter Atha finished fifth in diving (468.15 points) and Keeler Callahan was 12th in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 42.97 seconds) and 15th in the 100 free (47.33) last season.
But coach Jim Callahan said the Wolves should not be underestimated.
"I really do think we have a good, solid lineup," said Callahan, who coaches both the boys and girls at Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington. "We're not as small. We've got more numbers. I think we'll have two solid swimmers in every event and we've got three strong relays."
Among the top returnees are senior Mitchell Guist, juniors Tanner Atha, Jonathan Haddad and Riku Kaida and sophomores Grayton Giesman and Justin Jiang.
Last season, the Wolves scored 21 points to tie St. Charles for 27th in the state meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Cincinnati St. Xavier (297) won.
Kilbourne was eighth (114) at district at Ohio State behind champion Upper Arlington (435) and third (195) in the Worthington sectional behind champion Big Walnut (353).
Kilbourne also was third (192) in the OCC-Central meet behind champion UA (463) and Thomas (209) and ahead of Dublin Coffman (169), Hilliard Darby (127), Central Crossing (65) and Hilliard Davidson (0).
The Wolves have moved to the OCC-Cardinal, which also includes Darby, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.
Tanner Atha, a diver, shares captain duties with Guist.
"Mitchell Guist is strong in the backstroke and individual medley," Callahan said. "Justin Jiang is strong in the breaststroke and butterfly, Jonathan Haddad will lead us in distance freestyle and Grayton Giesman will be there in the middle-distance freestyles."
In the opening Worthington-Dublin Invitational on Nov. 29, Kilbourne defeated Scioto 90-73 but lost to Jerome 101-68 and Coffman 89-78.
Girls team lacks depth
The numbers are down for the girls team, but the Wolves have some strong individual talent, according to Callahan.
"It's going to be a constant battle for the girls to score in the team phase because of our depth," he said. "We've got a number of first-year swimmers and we're trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together."
The Wolves did not have a state qualifier last season.
They scored nine points at district to tie Big Walnut for 22nd behind champion Upper Arlington (522), a week after scoring 42 points to place 10th behind champion Thomas (262) in the 11-team Worthington sectional.
In the OCC-Central meet, Kilbourne was fifth (96) behind champion UA (467), Thomas (245), Coffman (201) and Davidson (150) and ahead of Darby (79) and Central Crossing (52).
"We may be small in numbers, but we have a family atmosphere, great support and we have a variety of good swimmers," said senior Emily Wallin, one of the team's captains.
"We need to keep everyone focused and positive and keep them working hard."
Wallin is a freestyle sprinter who will compete in the 50 free, 200 free relay and 200 medley relay.
Other key returnees include seniors Hannah Goldenburg (back) and Katherine Watkins (diving), junior Lindsey Fisher (middle-distance free) and sophomores Courtney Fisher (distance free), Jackie Wachtel (breast) and Rachel Rubadue (diving).
"We've got some strong individual swimmers and two solid relays and we're trying to develop that third relay," Callahan said.
"But I think one of our strengths will be diving. We've got a sophomore, Rachel Rubadue, who is very accomplished and competed in club last season.
"With the addition of her to Katherine Watkins, we're going to score some points there for sure."
In the opening Worthington-Dublin Invitational, Kilbourne lost to Scioto (107-51), Jerome (139-23) and Coffman (121-41).