Jim Callahan anticipated that the Thomas Worthington High School girls swimming and diving team would be at a disadvantage in the OCC-Central Division meet given that it has no divers this season.
That proved to be the case, as the Cardinals scored 205 points and had to settle for third place in the meet, which concluded Jan. 25 at Thomas, behind Upper Arlington (470) and Olentangy Liberty (229).
Dublin Coffman (131.5) was fourth, followed by Hilliard Davidson (119), Marysville (64.5) and Central Crossing (48). The league's other member, Westland, does not have a swimming program.
UA, which won its 18th consecutive league title, scored 39 points in diving and Liberty scored 16. The diving competition was held Jan. 24 at New Albany.
"Considering that Upper Arlington and Olentangy Liberty scored lots of points in diving, I'm pretty pleased with the way the Thomas girls competed," said Callahan, who coaches the boys and girls teams at both Thomas and Worthington Kilbourne. "They did a great job in the pool and scored well in swimming."
Leading the way for the Cardinals was Kaylee Witkiewicz, who won the 100-yard backstroke in 58.29 seconds and was runner-up in the 50 freestyle (24.51). She also teamed with Olivia Love, Cassandra Laios and Abby Wiet to win the 400 free relay (3:45.74).
Also finishing in the top three were Laios in the 100 back (third, 1:03.51), Julia Valentine in the 100 breaststroke (third, 1:10.94), the 200 medley relay (second, 1:50.73) and the 200 free relay (third, 1:44.74).
"We've got three really good relays and we have lots of girls excited to compete in relays," Witkiewicz said. "We're on pace because we did well in a really competitive OCC. Once you reach this point, everyone gets excited and swims better. The taper helps your time and you push to lower your time. It's a cycle because the times are lower and you get hungry to push them even lower."
The boys team finished sixth (126) in the OCC-Central meet, behind UA (372), Liberty (260), Coffman (206), Davidson (151) and Marysville (145) and ahead of Central Crossing (28).
The Cardinals did not finish in the top two in any events. Finishing third were the 200 free relay of Stuart Mueller, Cameron Harper, Evan Miller and Tyler Girard (1:38.6) and Jaxon Stivers in diving (372.8 points).
Both the boys and girls teams have shifted their focus to the Division I sectional meet Feb. 8 at home.
The winner of each sectional swimming event automatically qualifies for the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until the district meet.
Last season, Witkiewicz competed at state in two individual events, placing fifth (23.76) in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 back (56.28). She also was a member of the 200-yard medley relay that placed second (1:44.99) at state and was on the 400 free relay, which placed 10th (3:35.06).
Witkiewicz said she is ahead of her pace from last season.
"It's been a little difficult because I have a nagging shoulder injury, so I am a little surprised by my times being where they are at this point," she said. "I am so excited to get started with the sectionals. We all are."
Valentine also competed in an individual event at state last year, placing sixth in the 100 breast (1:05.5).
Kaida, Wachtel lead Wolves in OCC meet
Riku Kaida led the Kilbourne boys team to a third-place finish in the OCC-Capital meet that concluded Jan. 25 at Thomas.
Kaida won the 200 individual medley (2:06.81), was runner-up in the 100 back (56.71) and teamed with Justin Jiang, Nick Ramos and Grayton Giesman to win the 200 medley relay (1:42.57).
The Wolves scored 229 points to finish behind champion Olentangy (263) and New Albany (246) and ahead of Delaware (200), Mount Vernon (144), Olentangy Orange (116) and Big Walnut (69).
Franklin Heights does not have a swimming program.
"I'm happiest about the medley relay because it's a team thing," Kaida said. "It's the first time (the program won) a (league) relay championship. We're happy, but we know we can do better. Our goal is to (break) the team record (1:38.87) and get to state. I think we can do that."
Also placing in the top three were Giesman in the 100 free (second, 49.61) and 200 free (third, 1:48.99), Jiang in the 100 breast (second, 1:05.29), Logan Indest in the 100 breast (third, 1:06.8) and Tanner Atha in diving (third, 380.15).
Jackie Wachtel led the girls team in the OCC-Capital meet, winning both the 100 butterfly (1:01.52) and 100 breast (1:09.24).
"It's exciting because I'm about half-a-second ahead of last year at this point in the breaststroke," Wachtel said. "I missed going to state by one place (.47 of a second) last year and that got to me a lot. I've switched club teams and have a new approach. I've gotten a lot more practice in and I just really want to qualify for state."
The Wolves, who did not have any other top-three placers, finished fifth (142) behind Olentangy (298), New Albany (282), Delaware (254) and Orange (181) and ahead of Big Walnut (82) and Mount Vernon (49).
Both the boys and girls teams will compete in the Division I sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas.
"I was very happy with all the teams," Callahan said. "There were tons of season-best times and they're ready for the final push to begin. It's all about getting as many athletes as possible to the district meet now."