The Wellington School swimming and diving program is optimistic that the talent it possesses on its boys and girls teams will help it overcome its youth.

There are 20 athletes in the program, which is lower than 18th-year coach Bill Miller was hoping, but he believes the potential is there for a strong showing this winter.

Among the returnees for the boys team is senior Eric Jacques, who finished 15th (315 points) in diving in the Division II state meet in 2016 and then won district (362.45) and placed 18th (224.3) at state last season.

He also swam on the 200-yard medley relay that placed seventh (1 minute, 50.63 seconds) at district a year ago. He was joined on the relay by his twin brother, senior David Jacques, as well as 2017 graduates Lucas Palmer and Shashank Singh.

Both the boys and girls teams have strong freshman classes as well.

Wellington is host to the Jaguar Invitational on Friday, Dec. 22, and Saturday, Dec. 23, at Columbus Aquatics Center, which recently had a new timing system put in place.

"We've gotten off to a good start," Miller said. "We've got a small team in numbers, so we won't be able to compete points-wise in some meets. It's probably the smallest team I've had. Individually, we've had a lot of good swims. They're right where we need them to be."

Another key returnee is senior Spencer Povoski, who joined Palmer, Singh and 2017 graduate John Haynes on the 400 freestyle relay that placed eighth (3:39.93) at district last season.

Miller also is excited by what he's seen from freshman Heath Thomas.

Thomas won the 100 butterfly (59.83) and David Jacques won the 100 backstroke (1:04.4) and diving (211) on Dec. 11 as the Jaguars placed fifth (84) in the six-team Whetstone Invitational behind champion Grove City (139) at Columbus Aquatics Center.

On Dec. 16 in the Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State, Thomas swam a program-record 5:09.24 in the 500 free.

"I think (Thomas') goal is to clear the records board at the school in every event," Miller said.

Diver Taso Callanan and swimmer Will Miller, who is the coach's son, are other impact freshmen.

Other key swimmers include senior R.J. Maryala and juniors Evan Albers and Andrew Davis.

Sophomore Sarah Anderson is the top returnee for the girls team.

At district last season, she placed 10th in the 200 individual medley (2:20.11) and 12th in the 100 fly (1:02.61) and joined juniors Erin Anderson and Camille Simpson as well as 2017 graduate Taylor Adams on the 200 free relay that was 13th (1:54.3).

Juniors Ana Dorenbusch, Megan Johnson, Soleil Tibbets-Barnes and Katelyn True and sophomores Serene Abdelbaki and Kath Olson also are key returnees and freshmen Paige Bennett and Taylor Vargo are other contributors.

On Dec. 11, Wellington was fifth (61) at the six-team Whetstone Invitational behind champion Marysville (145) as Sarah Anderson won the 50 free (27.44) and 100 back (1:04.4) and Vargo was first in diving (123).

Girls basketball team enjoying solid start

The season's first two weeks featured more positives than not for the girls basketball team.

The Jaguars were 5-2 overall before playing Amanda-Clearcreek on Dec. 19 and are 4-0 in the MSL-Cardinal Division after beating Fisher Catholic 41-36 on Dec. 16.

They could face their toughest task to date Thursday, Dec. 21, when they play host to Zanesville Rosecrans, which was 4-0 overall and in the league after beating Harvest Prep 71-28 on Dec. 16.

"These girls as a whole are some of the sweetest teenagers I've ever met," first-year coach Danielle Fleming said. "My team has been responding to me and my coaching staff very well. I bring a different type of energy level to practice and each game, and it's really hard for some girls to match or respond to that. I'm really happy with how my girls are responding, especially when I'm in their face or pushing them to be their best."

Junior guard Savannah Childress was averaging a team-high 14 points through seven games.

Senior guard Jakaysha Williams led the Jaguars with 13 points in a 46-25 victory over Grove City Christian on Dec. 7.

Senior guard/forward Jacquie Sierzputowski and senior center Annie Taylor also have had games where they've scored in double figures.

"We're always finding ways to improve our defense," Fleming said. "As a team, we're still learning (about) each other, but we're committed to building one another up and making this season one that no one will ever forget."

Boys team looking to grow from losses

Although the boys basketball team lost three of its first four games, all three of the teams that beat the Jaguars figure to have strong seasons.

Wellington lost to Upper Arlington, which was a Division I district champion last season, 51-32 on Dec. 5 and lost to Harvest Prep, which was the No. 1 seed for the Division IV district tournament and was a district runner-up last season, 69-56 on Dec. 9.

Then on Dec. 11, the Jaguars lost 72-64 in overtime to Hartley, which won 16 games a year ago and is expected to be one of the stronger Division II teams.

Wellington was 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the MSL-Cardinal after beating Grove City Christian 82-50 on Dec. 15 and before playing Millersport on Dec. 19. Grove City Christian was a Division IV regional semifinalist last season.

The Jaguars play Thursday, Dec. 21, at Whitehall and then play Dec. 30 at Westerville North, a Division I program that finished 15-8 a year ago.

Against Hartley, senior guard Solomon Pierre-Louis made three 3-pointers and scored 15 points and freshman guard Marcus Stewart hit three 3s and had 14 points.

Through five games, senior guard Bob Faller was averaging 16 points and Pierre-Louis was averaging 12.2. Faller made three 3s and finished with 28 points against Grove City Christian.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 2 -- Bloom-Carroll at Columbus Aquatics Center

Dec. 5 -- Grove City at Grove City YMCA

Dec. 9 -- Columbus Academy Relays

Dec. 11 -- Braves Invitational at Columbus Aquatics Center

Dec. 16 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State

Dec. 22-23 -- Jaguar Invitational at Columbus Aquatics Center

Dec. 29 -- Whetstone at Columbus Aquatics Center

Jan. 6 -- Teays Valley at Columbus Aquatics Center

Jan. 11 -- at Columbus Academy

Jan. 13 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton

Jan. 17 -- Marion Harding at Marion YMCA

Jan. 20 -- Stars Invitational at Columbus Aquatics Center

Jan. 24 -- Mount Gilead at Mount Gilead YMCA

Feb. 3 -- Marion Pleasant at Columbus Aquatics Center

Below are the coming schedules for the Wellington boys basketball and girls basketball teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 21 -- At Whitehall

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 21 -- At Zanesville Rosecrans

*League contest