Despite having only five swimmers competing, the Thomas Worthington High School girls swimming and diving team finished among the top teams in the Division I state meet.
The Cardinals placed eighth (96 points) behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (281) as 52 teams scored in the meet, which concluded Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. They had finished 11th (91) at state last year.
"The team score is very, very impressive considering the amount of qualifiers the teams above us had competing," coach Jim Callahan said. "It's an impressive feat. All five of our girls earned at least one all-state certificate (by finishing in the top 16).
"We are ecstatic about the (200-yard) medley relay because a few of these girls gave up individual events to compete in relays. That says a lot about the mentality of these girls."
The 200 medley relay of junior Kaylee Witkiewicz, senior Julia Valentine, junior Abby Wiet and sophomore Rina Laios placed second in a program-record 1 minute, 44.67 seconds behind Ursuline (1:43.53).
The Cardinals also were state runners-up in the 200 medley relay last year, finishing in 1:44.99, but the only returnees from that foursome were Witkiewicz and Valentine.
"I could not be more proud of finishing second in the 200 medley relay," Witkiewicz said. "We all swam well in every event that we competed. It's just a wonderful feeling."
Senior Cassandra Laios, Wiet, Rina Laios and Witkiewicz combined to finish ninth in the 200 free relay (1:38.86) and 10th in the 400 free relay (3:35.53).
"We thought we had a chance (to reach the championship final in both relays), but came up just a bit short," Wiet said. "We struggled a little bit because we only have five girls on three relays.
"Definitely our last leg, Kaylee, is really good. She got third in the 50 free and we really rely on her a lot. I guess the highlight is just being here. Yeah, we were hoping to (do) better, but we're pleased."
Witkiewicz placed third in the 50 free (23.77) behind Mason's Ashley Volpenhein (23.34) and Ursuline's Temarie Tomley (23.49).
"I'll take it. There are only eight spots on the podium," said Witkiewicz, who placed fifth in the event last season and finished sixth in the 100 backstroke a year ago. "I was fifth last year, now third. ... Next year, first?"
Valentine finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.73).
"Julia did a great job of getting on the podium," Callahan said. "She wasn't even seeded in the top five in our district most of the season, but really had a great taper. Toward the end of the year, when it matters most, Julia, Kaylee and the medley relay came on like gangbusters. I think I said this before, but this is a team that was built for the postseason."
Wiet, competing in an individual event for the first time at state, finished 23rd in the 200 individual medley (2:13.21).
The Kilbourne girls team was represented at state by junior Jackie Wachtel, who finished 17th in the 100 breast (1:07.1) and 24th in the 100 butterfly (1:00.33).
"This was an investment for her senior season," said Callahan, who coaches the boys and girls teams for Kilbourne and Thomas. "This was her first state experience and she was one spot from being all-state (in the 100 breast). She had a terrific season."
The boys teams for Kilbourne and Thomas did not have any state qualifiers.