New Albany High School swimming coach Dave Wharton admits it's "exciting" to have eight returning Division I state qualifiers, but simultaneously deems it unimportant to the Eagles' ultimate goals.
"It's exciting that we have that much returning from last year, but it's a clean slate," said Wharton, who is in his 22nd season. "I tell them we're now looking to this year. What can we (coaches) do for the team or you? You have to go through the cycle, the steps of sectional, district and state (meets) and not take anything for granted.
"I want to see what we can do as a group and individually to make an impact at the district meet, and then whatever happens from there happens."
Sophomore Noah Duperre, last year's state runner-up in boys diving, leads a group of returning state qualifiers that also includes senior Gage Ford and junior Pearson Spychalski of the boys team and girls swimmers Mia Lachey, McKayla Moffat, Lauren Sadler, Kelly Shur and Emili Toppari.
Sadler and Toppari are seniors, Moffat and Shur are juniors and Lachey is a sophomore.
Lachey, Moffat and Sadler were on the sixth-place 200-yard freestyle relay, and Lachey and Moffat helped the 400 free relay to eighth place as the girls amassed 99 points and finished eighth behind champion Upper Arlington (246) as 53 teams scored.
"We're ready to (medal) again. It was very exciting for us," said Sadler, who added she wants to regain the team's 50 free record. She and 2017 graduate Jessica Zaper both broke Sadler's previous mark of 24.24 seconds at last year's district meet, with Zaper setting the new record of 23.94.
"I've improved my strokes, tempo and speed," Sadler said. "I want to get my record back."
Spychalski, who was 10th in the 200 free and 13th in the 100 free at state last year, said an influx of younger swimmers should help the boys team. He mentioned freshmen Patrick Daly, Andrew Levine and Tommy Morris as probable immediate contributors.
"I've never seen the team this strong, this competitive. Our relays will be strong, I know that," Spychalski said. "I've fixed my stroke a lot and really tried to focus in on the little details that my coaches point out to me, trying to better myself. I have noticed improvement and I am going times that I normally go at the end of the season."
Rounding out the boys swimming roster are seniors Hunter Conn, Jack Garner and Brennan Walsh, juniors Nick Carlson, Diarmuid Hutchinson, Jack Woo and Ethan Yudovich, sophomores Alex Arlin, Dreyson Keels, James Lapsley, Robert Parsons and Sam Sarkisian and freshmen Alexander Apple, Cade Helms and Caleb Schimming.
The rest of the girls roster consists of seniors Claire Gordon, Julia Grandinetti, Isabel Jenny, Midori Kisanuki, Lauren Lapsley and Jane Taylor, juniors Madison Brandon, Jada Johnson, Jasmine Kelley and Sydney Nowak, sophomores Isabelle Campbell, Alexis Elkovitch, Livia Meeting, Shraddha Pingali and Evie Samanich and freshmen Kiara Crumbly, Emma Hogan, Abigail Leatherman, Stacy Saribalas and Rebecca Zhang.
New Albany is seeking its third consecutive sweep of the OCC-Capital Division championships.
Duperre and boys freshman Jordan Rzepka are the Eagles' only divers. Rzepka is a three-time junior national champion, most recently winning the platform title in the USA Diving National Championships in August at Ohio State.
"Noah is heavier, bigger and more muscular so I know he has his sights set higher," fourth-year diving coach John Coffman said. "(With Jordan, goals) are something we'll touch more as we get through the season, into January and once he gets an idea of the differences between high school and club diving. There are similarities but also some differences.
"As a freshman, it's good to go in with a clean slate -- have the idea that you want to make the state meet and then do the best that you can once you get there."
District qualifiers back to lead wrestlers
With three Division I district qualifiers back, fourth-year wrestling coach Larry Reichard's biggest hope is the Eagles can build on the momentum they gained at the end of last season.
Senior heavyweight David Rodriguez and juniors Peter Ackley (182 pounds) and Billy Lee (220) return to lead New Albany, which began its season Dec. 2 by finishing third (191) in the 12-team Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales behind champion Grove City (310).
Rodriguez was one of three Eagles to win a match at district, capping a 26-8 season and marking the first time in six years that the team earned multiple wins in that tournament.
"We finally have the culture (to the point) where we're a team. When I first started, guys were in different places. Now, we're closer-knit," Reichard said. "They push themselves in the room. Hopefully we'll see the results of that early and often."
Rodriguez is one of three seniors, along with Mike Ho (120/126) and Hunter Thurman (145/152).
Ackley was 27-18 last year, and Lee went 22-11.
Other expected contributors are junior Jack Wilson (195), sophomores Brandon Thompson (106) and Michael Zusman (138/145) and freshmen Nico Candido (152), Brady Conley (120/126), Jaden Fudge (120/126), Gianni Nocera (145/152), Storm Smitherman (132) and Colin Swincicki (113).
In the Tony Pizzurro tournament, Swincicki won the 113 title and Ho, Smitherman and Zusman were second at 126, 132 and 145, respectively, as the Eagles earned eight top-four finishes.
New Albany begins OCC-Capital competition Jan. 11 at Franklin Heights. The Eagles were 4-1 in the league last year to finish second behind Groveport (5-0).
"I feel good about what we have," Reichard said. "We have a lot of guys returning and a lot of freshmen. It's a nice group. We should look good this year."
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 28 -- vs. Delaware
Dec. 5 -- vs. Marysville and Thomas Worthington
Dec. 9 -- at Upper Arlington
Dec. 16 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 21 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
Jan. 5 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Jan. 9 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Jan. 13 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 18 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 23 -- vs. Olentangy
Jan. 25 -- Diving: OCC-Capital at home
Jan. 27 -- Swimming: OCC-Capital at home
Dec. 2 -- Tony Pizzurro Memorial Tournament at DeSales
Dec. 7 -- Eastside Duals at Watkins Memorial
Dec. 9 -- Teays Valley Viking Duals
Dec. 13 -- vs. Galion and Marion Pleasant
Dec. 20 -- vs. Westerville North, Whetstone and Whitehall
Jan. 6 -- Licking Valley Invitational
*Jan. 11 -- at Franklin Heights
Jan. 13 -- Big Dawg Invitational at Dresden Tri-Valley
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Newark
Jan. 20 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
*Jan. 25 -- at Canal Winchester
Jan. 27 -- New Albany Invitational
*Feb. 8 -- vs. Groveport
Feb. 10 -- vs. Buckeye Valley, DeSales and Sparta Highland
Feb. 13 -- at Thomas Worthington with Columbus Academy and Whetstone
*Feb. 15 -- at Big Walnut
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and hockey teams:
*Dec. 15 -- At Big Walnut
Dec. 19 -- At Westerville North
*Dec. 15 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
Dec. 19 -- Home vs. Westerville North
*Dec. 15 -- Westerville North at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 20 -- Big Walnut at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 16 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Northland Ice Center
*Dec. 17 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller Dublin