Led by a small group of returnees, the Thomas Worthington High School girls swimming and diving team is looking to match its success from a year ago.
The Cardinals scored 91 points in the Division I state meet last season at Branin Natatorium in Canton to place 11th behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (234). Their highest finish was turned in by the 200-yard medley relay, which placed second in a program-record 1 minute, 44.99 seconds.
Two members of that relay have returned in senior Julia Valentine and junior Kaylee Witkiewicz. The other two, Abby Jank and Maren Reeder, graduated.
Reeder also competed at state last year on the 400 freestyle relay with senior Cassandra Laios, junior Abby Wiet and Witkiewicz (10th, 3:35.06) and Jank teamed with Wiet, Valentine and sophomore Rina Laios on the 200 free relay (15th, 1:39.87).
"We lost some talented seniors (in Jank and Reeder) and we have to fill those two spots," said coach Jim Callahan, who oversees the girls and boys teams for both Thomas and Worthington Kilbourne. "We have two good relays, but having a good medley relay is an indication of how successful you are as a team.
"(The 200 medley relay was) fourth (at state) two years ago and second last year, so that is something the girls would love to continue this year."
Also placing in the top six at state a year ago were Witkiewicz in the 50 free (fifth, 23.76) and 100 backstroke (sixth, 56.28) and Valentine in the 100 breaststroke (sixth, program-record 1:05.5).
"I think we're going to have another super season," Witkiewicz said. "I was disappointed at the (end of last season) because we were losing so many great seniors, but we've got a lot of young girls stepping up and doing well. We changed our program and there's a lot more competition now and everyone is positive in practice."
Witkiewicz was part of three of the Cardinals' four first-place finishes at district last season, including the 200 medley relay (1:45.06). She also won the 50 free (23.56) and 100 back (55.65), setting program records in both.
Valentine won the 100 breast (1:05.81) at district, edging runner-up Reeder (1:05.87), to help the Cardinals finish second (250) behind Upper Arlington (491) at Ohio State as 24 teams scored.
Other returning letterwinners are juniors Gia Eastman, Aidan Hartsell, Sara Swart and Devon Zurovchak and sophomore Olivia Love.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Gaby Valverde and Sarah Williams, juniors Erin Lavender, Myah McClure and Katy Nash, sophomore Taylor Whittaker and freshmen Lillian Geier, Abby Hartsell, Elena Herren, Callie Jones and Daisy Short.
The Cardinals, who finished second (241) behind UA (452) in the OCC-Central Division meet last season, have no divers this season.
Thomas opened Nov. 29 at home in the Worthington-Dublin Invitational, beating three of its four opponents. The Cardinals defeated Kilbourne 131-42, Dublin Scioto 120-29 and Dublin Coffman 110-70 but lost to Dublin Jerome 98-85.
Boys dealing with youth, low numbers
The boys team is small and young this season.
The Cardinals have only 13 athletes in their program, including two divers in sophomore Jaxon Stiver and freshman Andrew Spain, and their only senior is James Miller (distance free/butterfly).
Miller and Stiver are returning letterwinners, as are juniors Tyler Girard and Alex Wheat and sophomores Cameron Harper, Evan Miller and Stuart Mueller.
Rounding out the roster are junior Alex Brown, sophomore Quinn McKahan and freshmen Ryan Burghart, Gabe Finch and Joe Quigley.
"This is the smallest team I've ever had at Thomas, so there is plenty of opportunities for everyone to step forward and fill holes," Callahan said. "Our freestyle relays look good, but we could be in trouble with our medley relay."
Thomas lost four of its five swimmers who competed at state last season, including 2013 graduates Trenton Harper, Anton Teufel and Mason Zurovchak.
Trenton Harper placed seventh in the 100 breast (57.29) and eighth in the 200 individual medley (1:54.87), as the Cardinals finished 30th (22) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (270) as 57 teams scored.
The 200 free relay of Trenton Harper, Cameron Harper, Teufel and Zurovchak finished 19th (1:29.33) and the 200 medley relay of Trent Harper, Matt Reed, Zurovchak and Teufel was disqualified in the consolation finals.
Reed did not return for his senior season.
The Cardinals went 0-4 in the Worthington-Dublin Invitational, losing to Kilbourne 91-83, Jerome 115-60, Scioto 87-84 and Coffman 115-64.