Despite having just 14 athletes on its roster, the Worthington Kilbourne High School boys swimming and diving team could have one of its best seasons, according to 23rd-year coach Jim Callahan.
"This could be one of the strongest teams Kilbourne has had," Callahan said. "There are no glaring weaknesses."
Kilbourne did not have any Division I state qualifiers last season, but it returns eight letterwinners, including five who competed at district in seniors Tanner Atha and Riku Kaida, juniors Grayton Giesman and Justin Jiang and sophomore Nick Ramos.
The Wolves finished 15th (61) at district a year ago behind champion Upper Arlington (380) as 24 teams scored, with Atha placing sixth in diving (378.25), Kaida, Jiang, Ramos and 2013 graduate Mitchell Guist placing ninth in the 200-yard medley relay (1 minute, 41.07 seconds), Giesman finishing 13th in the 200 freestyle (1:48.74) and 23rd in the 100 free (50.15), Kaida finishing 13th in the 100 backstroke (program-record 55.41) and 14th in the 200 individual medley (2:01.9) and Ramos finishing 22nd in the 100 butterfly (56.4).
Guist was the Wolves' lone senior last season.
"Guist did a real nice job for four years and he will be sorely missed," Callahan said. "There is a good corps of swimmers coming back who were swimming their best at the end of year. They are a small team, but they've got some building blocks."
The other returning letterwinners are senior Jonathan Haddad and sophomores Connor Jordan and Ryu Kaida.
Completing the roster are sophomore Mack Hetterscheidt and freshmen Logan Indest, Jordan Kahng, Michael Mouson, Michael Weirick and Kenny Zhang.
"This is a solid group and they've worked and trained hard," Callahan said. "This might be the best medley relay team Kilbourne has had. It's exciting to see what this group can do."
The Wolves placed fifth (153) in the OCC-Cardinal meet last season behind champion Dublin Jerome (226) but have moved to the OCC-Capital this season.
New Albany won its seventh consecutive OCC-Capital championship last season, scoring 335 points to finish well ahead of Olentangy (274), Delaware (264), Olentangy Orange (166), Mount Vernon (96), Watkins Memorial (77) and Big Walnut (74).
Watkins Memorial has moved to the Licking County League.
Kilbourne opened the season Nov. 29 in the Worthington-Dublin Invitational, going 2-2. The Wolves defeated host Thomas 91-83 and Dublin Scioto 87-81 but lost to Jerome 100-71 and Dublin Coffman 108-66.
Coach sees potential in young girls squad
Callahan is excited about the potential of the girls team, whose roster consists of 21 athletes.
"This is one of the biggest girls teams at Kilbourne and could be one of the stronger ones, too," he said. "They only have a few upperclassmen, but they have a big and strong freshman class."
The Wolves return eight letterwinners in senior Lindsey Fisher, juniors Courtney Fisher and Jackie Wachtel, sophomores Amelia Johnson, Elissa Manchester, Amanda Morgan, Jamie Stegmayer and Katie Wood.
Last season in individual events at district, Wachtel placed eighth in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.47) and 12th in the 100 fly (59.99), Manchester finished 25th in the 200 free (2:05.74) and 28th in the 100 free (57.95) and Courtney Fisher finished 28th in the 200 free (2:08.71).
Wachtel narrowly missed advancing to state in the 100 breast, as she finished .47 of a second behind the final state qualifier.
The Wolves' only state qualifier last season was Rachel Rubadue, who placed fourth in diving. She did not return for her junior season.
Rounding out the roster are senior Martina Cuneo, juniors Emily Bowen and Mari Smith, sophomore Elise Katz and freshmen Anna Chen, Beth Findell, Betsey Fisher, Sadie Giesman, Hannah Gu, Marija Jovanic, Emily Kowalewsky, Mady Lauderman and Audrey Wachtel.
Katz, Giesman and Lauderman are divers.
"We're going to be able to cover all the events and I believe the freshman class will be strong," Callahan said. "Audrey Wachtel and Betsey Fisher should be two of the freshmen who make an immediate impact."
Last season, the Wolves finished 17th (42) at district behind UA (491) as 24 teams scored and finished fifth (141) in the OCC-Cardinal behind champion Jerome (341), with Jackie Wachtel winning the league title in the 100 breast (1:09.29).
Kilbourne is now in the OCC-Capital. New Albany (312) won its fifth consecutive OCC-Capital title last year, finishing ahead of Olentangy (274), Delaware (259), Orange (167), Watkins Memorial (114), Big Walnut (101) and Mount Vernon (63).
The Wolves opened in the Worthington-Dublin Invitational, going 1-3. They defeated Scioto 120-29 but lost to Jerome 132-48, Coffman 117-59 and Thomas 131-42.