Ron Staab has played a major role in the Westerville Central High School swimming and diving program since the school opened in 2003.
Staab coached the program for its first seven seasons then served as an assistant for his son, Austin, for three years before returning as head coach in 2015. He shares coaching duties with his wife, Linda.
Fourteen years later, Staab still has the same passion for the program that he had in its infancy.
"I still love this (so) I come back every year," he said. "Linda and I have been doing this for 14 years. We opened this school and I've been coaching since the day it opened. Every year we get tired about the end of the year, but then all of a sudden we get fired back up again when the season comes."
Staab again has high hopes for his swimmers, with the ultimate goal of earning Division I state berths.
The girls team features three returning state qualifiers, including sophomore Macey Swearingen (backstroke/freestyle), who was 20th in the 100-yard back (58.46 seconds) last season.
Swearingen missed the Warhawks' first two meets this year because of a swimming club commitment, but she will compete in the Ned Reeb Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 16, at Ohio State. Last season in the meet, Swearingen set the program record in the 100 back (57.51).
Junior Kaila Aaron (free) and sophomore D'Nisa Oocumma (distance/breaststroke) joined Swearingen and 2017 graduate Maddy Kramer on the 19th-place 200 free relay (1:39.34) at state.
Also back is sophomore Rachel Kaufman (free/distance), who gained valuable experience last season.
"I have more motivation and I feel like I'm ready to come back and improve on last year," Kaufman said. "We definitely want to do really well in the OCC and we want to continue to have people go to state."
Other returnees are seniors Annie McNenny (butterfly/distance), Chloe Minton (diving) and Emma Pierce (breast), juniors Olivia Loesch (distance), Ella Pyke (back/free) and Mia Rivera (individual medley/free) and sophomores Sophie Antonetz (free/fly), Anna Huddle (free) and Makayla Sampson (free).
Also looking to contribute are sophomore Samantha Jones (free) and freshmen Lauryn Chapman (breast), Ashley Hockstok (free) and Chloe Stefan-Adams (free).
Central defeated Hilliard Davidson 89-85 and lost to Watterson 108-68 on Dec. 8 at Westerville Community Center. Aaron won the 100 free (55.71) and teamed with Antonetz, McNenny and Stefan-Adams to win the 400 free relay (3:58.18).
Last season, Central finished second (234) in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet behind Olentangy Liberty (344).
"We're going to place high in the OCC," Staab said. "I don't think we have a chance of winning it, but I'd like to get (athletes on the) podium in three or four individual events, and I'd like to get a couple relays on (the) podium."
Boys swimming team features young talent
Staab is looking for his boys swimming team to gain valuable experience this season.
"We only had eight boys last season. We have 15 this season, so we're feeling good about that," Staab said. "Eight of them are new to swimming, so you have your challenges."
Freshman Grant Radecki (fly/distance) is expected to be a key contributor.
"This is fantastic," he said. "Everyone here is giving me great pointers. After each one of our events, coach will always tell us how we can improve and what a great job we did. It's really good."
The returnees are juniors Adam Aziz (fly/breast), Brandon Gifford (breast/distance), Matthew Kolberg (fly/free) and Alex Ross and sophomores Aidan Fay (free/breast) and Noah Palozzi (breast/free).
Seniors Sam Reyes (free) and Austin Smith (free) are in their first season on the team.
Other competitors are freshmen Luke Burky (free), Kaden Jacob (diving), Riley Jacob (diving), Brenden Leonard (free), Evan Radecki (free) and Luke Radecki (fly/free).
Evan, Grant and Luke Radecki are triplets.
The Warhawks defeated Watterson 97-76 and lost to Davidson 107-73 on Dec. 8 as Kaden Jacob finished first in diving (160.15).
Central is looking to replace 2017 graduate Kevin Loushin, who had the team's top performance last season at district, finishing 15th in the 500 free (5:01.13).
Brooks to lead gymnastics team
Junior gymnast Gianna Brooks is looking for a third trip to the individual state meet.
Last season, she tied for 18th in the all-around with a score of 35.325, which included a 13th-place finish on vault (9.225).
"I would expect her to continue to do well as long as she stays healthy," fifth-year coach Shea Stammen said. "We're trying to work in a couple skill upgrades this year and trying to get her back to the state meet. Her ultimate goal before she graduates is all-Ohio (top 10)."
In its opener Dec. 6 at Thomas Worthington, Central finished second (113.85) behind Thomas (121.45) and ahead of DeSales (94.05).
"We were just trying to see what we could do," Stammen said. "A lot of them it's their first year doing gymnastics and even just trying the sport, so they had to get through those first-meet jitters and it went better than they expected."
Senior Torie Cochran returns after missing part of last season with a back injury.
"Gianna and Torie are team leaders," Stammen said. "They really help with the younger kids with support."
Also back are sophomores Katlyn Alexander and Sam Muller. Sophomore Kylie Nelson is new to the team, which also includes freshman Abigail Ring.
"I love this team," Brooks said. "We have a lot of talent this year. We have a lot of people who have never done gymnastics, but they're athletes, so they're catching on really fast and we have the most fun of any team I've ever been on."
Four-time state-qualifier Taylor Stills was lost to graduation. Last season, she finished 15th on floor exercise (8.925). She also is is the program record holder on balance beam (9.3) and floor (9.4).
Girls basketball team off to good start
The girls basketball team is 4-0 under first-year coach Jim Morgan.
The Warhawks opened OCC-Buckeye play Dec. 8 with a 43-34 win at Westerville North as Brianna Smith scored 13 points.
Central won at Watterson 47-45 in overtime Dec. 4 behind Sam Wyatt's 11 points. Casey George added 10.
Boys basketball team loses league opener
The boys basketball team improved to 3-1 overall with a 53-45 win at Worthington Kilbourne on Dec. 11.
Thomas Hickman and Josh McDaniel each scored 10 points.
The Warhawks lost at North 51-48 on Dec. 8 in their OCC-Buckeye opener. Hickman scored 16 points, Cam Schroeder had 11 and Dylan Edens added 10.
Hickman scored 23 points and Solomon Wells added 14 in a 56-51 win over New Albany on Dec. 5.
Dec. 6 -- at Thomas Worthington with DeSales
Dec. 16 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson
Dec. 20 -- Central Crossing, DeSales, Franklin Heights, Thornville Sheridan and Westland at Worthington Youth Boosters Gymnastics
Jan. 3 -- *Big Walnut, *Olentangy, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome and Dublin Scioto at Worthington Youth Boosters Gymnastics
Jan. 6 -- Worthington Kilbourne Invitational
*Jan. 12 -- at Olentangy Orange with Olentangy Liberty
Jan. 17 -- at Marysville with Grove City and Teays Valley
Jan. 26 -- Warhawk Invitational at Worthington Youth Boosters Gymnastics
Jan. 31 -- at Thomas Worthington with Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome and Dublin Scioto
Feb. 8 -- at Dresden Tri-Valley
Feb. 10 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 14 -- at Worthington Kilbourne with Teays Valley
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- Worthington/Westerville Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Dec. 8 -- Hilliard Davidson and Watterson at Westerville Community Center
Dec. 16 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 23 -- Westerville North and Westerville South at Westerville Community Center
Dec. 29 -- Big Walnut at Westerville Community Center
Jan. 5 -- Central Crossing and DeSales at Westerville Community Center
Jan. 26 -- OCC diving meet at New Albany
Jan. 27 -- OCC-Buckeye swimming meet at Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys basketball, girls basketball and bowling teams:
*Dec. 15 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 15 -- At Orange
Dec. 16 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley
*Dec. 14 -- Orange at Capri Lanes
Dec. 16 -- Muskingum University High School Invitational at Hall of Fame Lanes in Canton
*Dec. 18 -- Delaware at Columbus Square Bowling Palace