Senior Libby Brown was taken aback when she arrived at the initial practice for the Bexley High School swimming and diving program this season.
The Lions had more than twice as many participants as last year, making for a tight fit in the lobby next to the Columbus School for Girls pool.
After having 28 competitors last season, the program has grown to 72 under fourth-year coach Sandy Sliwowski. There are 45 girls and 27 boys.
"When we first showed up to the first practice at CSG, I walked into the front lobby and it was packed," Brown said. "In years past, there was always a seat on one of the sofas, but this time we had to sit on the floor because there were so many of us.
"It was really exciting and a little overwhelming because we didn't realize how many people would be joining the swim team, especially people that had never swam (competitively) before. We had like two or three full lanes of people learning the stroke mechanics."
Sliwowski said it was a good problem to have.
"The kids have done an awesome job of promoting the swim team," Sliwowski said. "We have fun swimming, but we have other activities like team lunches and team dinners and the kids get really close. We also change things up by going to the cycle bar and other dry-land workouts that they seem enjoy."
The Lions feature several returning Division II district qualifiers. The boys have juniors John Niermeyer and Jack Zwick, who joined 2017 graduates Wade Randle and Aaron Rothchild on the 14th-place 200-yard medley relay (1 minute, 56.81 seconds).
For the girls, Brown and juniors Ailbhe McCann, Lili Harding and Annie Politi were on the 10th-place 200 medley relay (2:06.17), and McCann, Politi and juniors Margaux Harding and Frieda Liu were on the 12th-place 200 freestyle relay (1:53.26). Politi did not return to the team.
Also at district, McCann competed in the 100 breaststroke (1:17.07, 28th) and 200 individual medley (2:32.53, 29th), and Brown was 29th in the 100 backstroke (1:11.1).
"We have the new kids, but we also have a slew of kids back who can help us a lot," Sliwowski said. "They have been very supportive of the new kids and I like the camaraderie of the team."
The Lions also have a state qualifier in sophomore Leah Stamm, who moved in from Grandview. She reached the awards podium last season as part of the Bobcats' seventh-place 200 free relay (1:40.06).
In the St. Charles Showdown on Dec. 2, Stamm was third in the 200 IM (1:03.75) and fourth in the 100 butterfly (1:02.85) as the girls finished sixth (164.5) of nine teams behind champion Toledo St. Ursula (514). The boys were 10th (11) behind champion Toledo St. Francis (574.5).
Senior David Tugend said the teams were working to get up to speed, especially the beginners.
"The first thing a new swimmer needs is to be eager," he said. "We don't ask much of them, only a willing participation and they are giving that, so you have to be patient with them.
"You have to teach them what's right and what's wrong. The most you can give them is the experience of the journey ... and as the year goes on you will see progress that will be off the charts."
Senior Lily Rosenthal is coming off an injury-plagued season, but that doesn't curb her expectations. She was a district qualifier in the 100 breast and 200 IM as a sophomore.
"This will be my fourth year on varsity and coach Sliwowski's fourth season as well," Rosenthal said. "We have made the journey together. We have so many new kids this season that I'm excited to see how well we can do this season."
Senior wrestler takes oath for Coast Guard
Senior Reece Wilson, a 170-pounder for the wrestling team, took his oath to become a member of the U.S. Coast Guard on Dec. 7 before winning a pair of matches against Canal Winchester and Mount Gilead in a home tri-meet.
Wilson took his oath immediately after the national anthem. He was given his oath by Juan Zavala, HSC. Zavala said Wilson would report to boot camp in Camp May, New Jersey, after high school graduation in the spring.
Wilson said taking his oath was an emotional experience.
"It was a little frightening because I was afraid I was going to mess it up," said Wilson, who then won his matches by pin and technical fall. "It was much more stressful than wrestling."
The Lions lost to Mount Gilead 40-29 and Canal Winchester 60-18 with a lineup missing five weight classes because of injuries and illness.
They are the host team for the Bexley Duals on Saturday, Dec. 16. Competing will be Dresden Tri-Valley, Groveport, Newark Catholic and Whetstone as well as Marysville's j.v. team.
Vincent leading girls team in scoring
Maddy Vincent led the girls basketball team through four games, averaging 16.0 points.
Vincent scored 30 points Dec. 2 as the Lions defeated Whitehall 56-20 to open MSL-Ohio play.
Maddy Young was averaging 8.5 points for Bexley, which was 3-1 overall before playing CSG on Dec. 12. Amanda Frey was averaging 7.8 points.
Vincent had 11 points as Bexley beat Grandview 36-28 on Dec. 8 to improve to 2-0 in the MSL-Ohio.
Stanley setting pace for boys team
Shannon Stanley averaged 14.5 points through four games to lead the boys basketball team.
The Lions were 2-2 overall after opening MSL-Ohio play Dec. 9 with a 68-53 loss to Whitehall.
Ryan Callahan was averaging 10.3 points and Damian Davis was averaging 9.5 points.
Davis had 17 points with three 3-pointers and Stanley scored 14 as the Lions defeated Hamilton Township 57-51 on Dec. 8. Anthony Welsh added 12 points with three 3s.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- Teays Valley at Pickaway County YMCA
Dec. 2 -- St. Charles Showdown and Wellington at Columbus Aquatics Center
Dec. 9 -- Columbus Academy Relays
Dec. 16 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 22 -- Pickerington Central and Pickerington North at Columbus School for Girls
Dec. 23 -- Wellington Jaguar Invitational at Columbus Aquatics Center
Jan. 6 -- Mount Gilead Invitational at Marion YMCA
Jan. 13 -- Northridge Viking Classic at New Albany
Jan. 17 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Thomas Worthington
Jan. 19 -- at Columbus Academy with Grandview
Jan. 20 -- Columbus Academy Invitational
Jan. 27 -- MSL-Ohio meet at Columbus Academy
Feb. 2 -- at St. Charles with Columbus School for Girls
Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley boys basketball, girls basketball, boys bowling and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 15 -- Home vs. Grandview
Dec. 16 -- At Columbus East
Dec. 14 -- At Liberty Union
*Dec. 16 -- At Columbus Academy
*Dec. 15 -- Teays Valley at Holiday Lanes
Dec. 20 -- Haugland Learning Center at Capri Lanes
Dec. 16 -- Bexley Duals