The New Albany High School swimming and diving teams will be leaving their comfort zone for the Division I sectional meet Feb. 11 at Thomas Worthington.

The New Albany High School swimming and diving teams will be leaving their comfort zone for the Division I sectional meet Feb. 11 at Thomas Worthington.

"We've only had two meets outside New Albany," junior Haley McLellan said after the boys and girls teams captured OCC-Capital Division titles Jan. 28 in their home pool. "Luckily, the Ned Reeb (Invitational on Dec. 10) was at (Ohio State) and (the) Northeast (Classic Invitational on Jan. 14) was (at Branin Natatorium) in Canton, and that's where the district and state meets are held, (respectively). But it's definitely good to get out and get a feel for other pools."

Even better is the fact that many of the Eagles enjoy competing at Thomas, which has upgraded its facility in recent years.

"I love the new (starting) blocks they put in there. They're engineered very nicely, and I think they rival what they have at OSU or Canton," senior Frederick Jenny said. "I definitely like that pool. They have a lot more space there in the back now, so it's not as cramped. They have a nicer seating area, too. It fits a lot of people and it's easy to see the pool."

The 12-team girls sectional will include several OCC-Capital members, including runner-up Delaware. The others are Big Walnut, Mount Vernon and Watkins Memorial. Also competing along with the host Cardinals will be Gahanna, Newark, Northland, Teays Valley, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne.

The 11-team boys sectional also will feature league runner-up Delaware in addition to all of the schools that are in the girls meet with the exception of Big Walnut, which now is Division II.

"We've swam against a lot of the teams there, and we had a dual against Thomas (on Dec. 13)," Jenny said. "We understand what to expect."

New Albany's boys team finished first (238.5) in last year's sectional at Thomas ahead of Big Walnut (221) and the Cardinals (195.5). The girls team finished third (148) behind Thomas (194) and Olentangy Liberty (173).

The winner of each sectional swimming event qualifies for the district meet Feb. 17 and 18 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.

"Now we're getting ready for the big stuff; the next three meets (including state) are what it's all about," Jenny said. "It's time to decrease (practice) yardage and focus more on speed training. Coach (Dave Wharton) always says, 'Go for it. Challenge the guy beside you.' We did that at OCCs and that's what we're planning to do (at sectionals)."

Jenny won the 100-yard freestyle (49.43 seconds) in the OCC-Capital meet as the Eagles (389) finished ahead of Delaware (221), Mount Vernon (201), Olentangy Orange (143), Watkins Memorial (103), Big Walnut (98) and Hilliard Bradley (25). Franklin Heights does not have a swimming program.

Chase Honeycutt finished first in the 50 free (22.78) and 100 butterfly (55.56), and both joined Philip Smoyer and John Angell on the winning 200 (1:34.51) and 400 (3:25.71) free relays. Corey Ziegler won the 100 backstroke (58.47).

Depth helped the girls team finish first (326) and hold off Delaware (282) as Watkins Memorial (170), Mount Vernon (155), Orange (155), Big Walnut (110) and Bradley (92) followed. Delaware won six events while the Eagles took four, which included McLellan's victory in the 200 free (2:03.91).

McLellan also finished second in the 100 back (1:05.23) and with the 400 free relay (3:52.59). She teamed with Stephanie Jones, Abigail Tuller and Taylor Berend to win the 200 free relay (1:46.06). Jones won the 50 free (26.49) and 100 free (56.4).

"I think it was a lot of second and thirds that really helped us and put us ahead," McLellan said. "Our relays, they got us a lot of points, too.

"Being at New Albany, you definitely want to win OCCs, but it's really just a starting point to what we want to do at sectionals."