Hilliard Davidson High School seniors Jake Miller and Connor Richards reached the Division I state championships as juniors. Miller placed 22nd in the 50-yard freestyle in 21.97 seconds. Richards finished 24th in diving with 134.80 points.

Hilliard Davidson High School seniors Jake Miller and Connor Richards reached the Division I state championships as juniors. Miller placed 22nd in the 50-yard freestyle in 21.97 seconds. Richards finished 24th in diving with 134.80 points.

The drawback to such an accomplishment, according to coach Joe Cahill, is everyone expects them to do it again.

"Jake and Connor did something that no one had done (since 2004)," said Cahill, whose team opens Monday in the Whetstone Invitational at Hunter Aquatic Center. "It puts a lot of pressure on them."

Miller is part of that crowd. He said his first state meet experience was over before he knew it.

"I just remember being on the starting block and having all of those eyes staring down at you," Miller said. "The 50 free is the fastest race and I kept thinking if I could've been a little more focused, I could've done better."

Miller and Richards are the first state qualifiers for the Wildcats since Andrew Duff finished 24th in diving in 2004. Having them both back, as well as seniors Jeff Savage and Joe Stewart and junior Stephen Gill, might make the Wildcats a team to watch this season. Other key swimmers include seniors Nathan Dornburgh and Steve Nystrom, juniors Terrence Barr, Gustavo Daher, and Brendan Page and freshman David Westling.

Davidson finished 12th with 69 points behind champion St. Charles (496) at the district meet. Miller set program records in the 50 free -- placing sixth in 21.74 seconds to grab at-large berth -- and 100 free (ninth, 48.37) and joined Gill, graduate Andy Savage and Jeff Savage in the 200 free relay (10th, 1:33.13).

The girls team lost a handful of top swimmers, including senior Emily Thomas, who set a school record in the 100 backstroke (1:03.88) while placing 22nd at the district meet. The girls team didn't score and Upper Arlington (604 points) won the district title.

Key returnees for the Wildcats include senior Jennifer Fink, juniors Ashley Morgan, Sarah Wilt and sophomores Sara Byrd, Katie Steitz and Alisa Wungsirivesh. Cahill is also expecting big things from seniors Alina Wungsirvesh, Morgan Gates and Niki Gillette, juniors Jessica Nystrom and Colleen Onders, sophomore Caroline Hildebrand and freshmen Sarah Barr, Stephanie Ditillio, Saana Huhtanen, Makenzie Adkins, Kaitlyn Omara and Nicki Tornick.

"Our numbers have really grown from last year," Cahill said. "We've gotten a lot of new swimmers from the cross country team. I think cross country coaches (Pat Schlecht and Emily Holliday) pushed a lot of the kids to try swimming because the runners came in herds."

Cahill is hoping the increased depth helps the Wildcats stand out more in the OCC-Central Division. Last year, the boys placed fourth (147), behind champion UA (443.5). The girls were sixth (121), behind the Golden Bears (538) at the OCC-Central meet.

The UA girls team went on to win their fifth consecutive state championship and the Bears boys team placed fourth overall.

"Our kids are aware they're swimming in one of the toughest divisions and they've done an excellent job of rising to the occasion," Cahill said. "I'm not going to put my finger on a number, but I think we're going to be a lot more competitive this year."

At a glance

•Coach: Joe Cahill, fifth season

•Opener: Monday at the Whetstone Invitational

•Key players: Boys -- Max Dawes, Stephen Gill, Jake Miller, Connor Richards, and Joe Stewart; Girls -- Sara Byrd, Jennifer Fink, Ashley Morgan, Brianna Rambadt, Katie Steitz, Sarah Wilt and Alisa Wungsirivesh

Schedule

Nov. 30 at Whetstone Invitational (Hunter Aquatic Center)

Dec. 5 at Dublin Coffman (Dublin Recreation Center)

Dec. 14 at Braves Invitational (Hunter Aquatic Center)

Dec. 28 at Watterson Holiday Relays (Thomas Worthington)

Jan. 2 at Delaware Invitational (Ohio Wesleyan University)

Jan. 8 at Ned Reeb Invitational (Ohio State)

Jan. 11 at Newark

Jan. 21 at Marysville (Marysville YMCA)

Jan. 23 at Perry Local Invitational (TBA)

Jan. 30 at OCC-Central Championships (Thomas Worthington)

Feb. 6 vs. Hilliard Invitational (Hilliard Ray Patch YMCA)