The Thomas Worthington High School girls swimming and diving team not only expects to be represented in the Division I state meet again this season, it plans to finish higher in the standings.
Last season at state at Branin Natatorium in Canton, the Cardinals scored 47 points to tie Massillon Jackson for 13th behind champion Upper Arlington (300.5) as 55 teams scored. In 2011, they finished 13th (59) behind champion UA (286).
The Cardinals lost only one of seven swimmers who competed at state last year to graduation.
"We're going to be really good this year," senior Abby Jank said. "We have some fast new swimmers and we're going to have more depth. I think we're going to get a lot of people to state."
Last season, the Cardinals scored 213 points in the district meet at Ohio State to tie Watterson for second behind champion UA (522) after winning their second consecutive sectional title. Thomas scored 262 points in the 13-team sectional at home ahead of runner-up Delaware (213).
In the OCC-Central Division meet last season, the Cardinals placed second (245) behind UA (467) and ahead of Dublin Coffman (201), Hilliard Davidson (150), Kilbourne (96), Hilliard Darby (79) and Central Crossing (52). Westland does not have a swimming program.
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy LIberty.
"The Thomas girls have a really solid squad and nice chemistry and they're very excited about this season," said 30th-year coach Jim Callahan, who oversees the Thomas and Kilbourne programs. "Finishing second in the district was a surprise. We have a lot of strong individuals and most of our relay members are back."
The 200-yard medley relay of sophomore Kaylee Witkiewicz, senior Maren Reeder, junior Julia Valentine and 2012 graduate Katie Allison placed fourth at state last season in 1 minute, 46.25 seconds.
The 400 freestyle relay of junior Cassandra Laios, Jank, Reeder and Witkiewicz was 16th (3:38.23) and the 200 free relay of Jank, Valentine, sophomore Abby Wiet and Allison was 20th (1:40.42).
Individually, Witkiewicz placed eighth (56.53) in the 100 backstroke and 20th in the 50 free (24.64), Reeder finished 14th in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.83) and Valentine finished 16th in the 100 breast (1:07.35).
"Our relays are pretty set," said Reeder, who won the 100 breast at district last year in a program-record 1:05.54 and teamed with Witkiewicz, Valentine and Allison to set a program record in the 200 medley relay (1:46.11) at district. "We have more swimmers who can compete and score in a variety of strokes than we had last year. It's a great atmosphere, we're having fun and working hard and we're extremely excited about the season."
Also expected to contribute are seniors Maria Amaya, Stephanie Cesario and Samantha Williams, junior Abby Shell, sophomores Gia Eastman, Aidan Hartsell, Sara Swart, Gaby Valverde and Sarah Williams and freshman Rina Laios.
"We should be able to open meets strong with our 200 medley relay back intact and then we can close very strong with Cassandra Laios and Witkiewicz in the 100 back, Valentine and Reeder in the 100 breast and our 400 free relay back intact," Callahan said. "We're just strong throughout."
The Cardinals opened Nov. 29 in the Worthington-Dublin Invitational. They defeated Dublin Scioto 118-52, Jerome 94-76 and Coffman 105-65.
Boys team returns two state qualifiers
Senior Trenton Harper and junior Matt Reed are the top returnees for the boys team after competing in the Division I state meet last season.
The Cardinals' only state qualifiers a year ago, neither scored at state as Cincinnati St. Xavier (297.5) won the title and 47 teams scored. Both competed in the 100 breast, with Harper placing 21st (1:00.0) and Reed finishing 24th (1:00.38).
"Those two were just steady all year last year," Callahan said. "They'll give us a solid one-two punch. We lost six of our 12 relays spots, so we're looking to fill those spots."
Harper was a district champion in the 100 breast last season, winning in a program-record 58.36 as the Cardinals finished 10th (110) behind champion UA (435) as 26 teams scored.
Thomas placed fourth (183) in the 13-team sectional at home behind Big Walnut (353), New Albany (254) and Kilbourne (195) and placed second (209) in the OCC-Central meet behind UA (463) and ahead Kilbourne (192), Coffman (169), Darby (127), Central Crossing (65) and Davidson (0).
Others expected to be key contributors this season are seniors Anton Teufel and Mason Zurovchak, juniors James Miller and Michael Wolf and sophomore Tyler Girard.
Zurovchak, who is sharing the captain duties with Harper and Teufel, was a district qualifier last year in the 100 back.
The Cardinals opened Nov. 29 in the Worthington-Dublin Invitational, defeating Scioto 88-75 and losing to Jerome 103-66 and Coffman 88-77.