Despite being led mostly by underclassmen a season ago, the Dublin Jerome High School boys swimming and diving team turned in the third-best score among central Ohio programs in the Division I state meet and finished sixth overall.
Everything second-year coach Patrick Johnston has seen from what figures to be a more seasoned group makes him believe that an even better season could lie ahead.
"It was a great experience last year, and this is a great group of kids with their priorities in the right place," Johnston said. "The boys are looking to be as strong or stronger than last year."
Seniors Graham Carpenter, Grant Cicci, Westin Fishel and Elek Kayuha, juniors Reid Newman, Max Scott and Matt Shepard and sophomore Ian Smith are the top returnees.
The 200-yard freestyle relay of Carpenter, Fishel, Kayuha and Scott was runner-up at state in 1 minutes, 25.08 seconds to help the Celtics score 99 points as Cincinnati St. Xavier (434) won.
The 200 medley relay of Carpenter, Cicci, Kayuha and 2017 graduate Jonathan Liu was sixth (1:35.37).
Also competing at state were Cicci in the 50 free (ninth, 21.07) and 100 free (11th, 46.86) and Scott in the 100 free (18th, 47.86) and 50 free (19th, 21.99).
The Celtics won the OCC-Cardinal Division and sectional titles last season and placed third at district.
"We've got four seniors who are the strength of our team," Johnston said.
Also on the team are junior Samer Zidan, sophomores Austin Davis, Ronith Doddi, Spy Gupta, Reno James and Patrick Wellman and freshmen Zach Imamura and Austin Wyner.
Cicci didn't start the season with the team because he was competing Dec. 6-9 in the Speedo Winter Junior Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Girls swimmers out to overcome low numbers
There are just nine athletes on the girls swimming and diving team, but two competed in the Division I state meet last season.
Senior Lauren Cooper, who has committed to the University of Akron, placed 16th in the 100 free (53.28) to score one point for the Celtics. Also competing at state was sophomore Maya Geringer, who finished 17th in the 500 free (5:06.48).
"We had 11 girls last year and we have nine this year, but they're nine quality girls," Johnston said.
Also on the team are juniors Brenna Cooper and Emma Mathews, sophomores Ruth Herrmann, Grace Lane, Caity Laycock and Macy Weeks and freshman Claudia Sherrer.
Brenna Cooper and Mathews also were key contributors a year ago when Jerome scored 246.5 points to finish as runner-up to Delaware (309.5) in the OCC-Cardinal meet.
Brenna Cooper (100 breaststroke) and Mathews (50 free) were district qualifiers last season, along with Lauren Cooper (100 backstroke and 100 free) and Geringer (200 free and 500 free).
White looks to bring stability to wrestlers
The wrestling team has its third coach in as many seasons in Matt White, who replaced Josh Conn in the offseason.
He's familiar, however, with the sport's history in the community given that he's a 2001 Coffman graduate who previously assisted at his alma mater. He also previously coached at Grizzell and Sells middle schools and in the London school district.
"I was kind of contacted out of the blue, but the situation was too good to pass up," White said. "There's been a little bit of turnover with me being the third coach in three years, but all the kids want is stability in the program. Being from the area, I grew up here and I don't have a desire to be anywhere else."
There are 24 athletes in the program but no seniors.
Jerome opened Dec. 2 by scoring 153 points to finish ninth in the 13-team Bad Apple Brawl at Mount Vernon behind champion Gahanna (391).
Sophomore Jack Viola (106 pounds) placed third, sophomore Drew Kavinsky (170) and junior Lane Williams (132) both finished fourth and sophomore Craigen Lenker (113) was fifth in the event.
Other key wrestlers include juniors John Huber (182) and Cole Whitt (120), sophomores Alex Boukheir (138/145) and Mason Lee (126) and freshmen Zach McMinn (220) and Ezra Strickland (145/152). Whitt went 19-16 last season.
Jerome lost both of its Division I district qualifiers, Kevin Ross (160) and Zack Kowatch (182), to graduation. Both went 0-2 at district.
Kareem Eldika (145) is another 2017 graduate who was a key contributor a year ago when Jerome went 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to place sixth behind champion Hilliard Darby (6-0).
"These guys are young but committed to the program, and they want the program to succeed," White said.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- Olentangy at Dublin Recreation Center
Dec. 2 -- Hilliard Bradley and Hilliard Davidson at Hilliard YMCA
Dec. 9 -- Centennial at Columbus Aquatics Center
Dec. 15 -- Westerville North at Westerville Community Center
Dec. 16 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Jan. 5 -- at New Albany
Jan. 12-13 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 20 -- Dublin Classic at Dublin Recreation Center
Jan. 27 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Thomas Worthington
Dec. 2 -- Bad Apple Brawl at Mount Vernon
Dec. 9 -- Teays Valley Duals
*Dec. 14 -- vs. Delaware
*Dec. 21 -- at Thomas Worthington
Jan. 4 -- at Coffman with *Scioto
Jan. 6 -- Circleville Logan Elm Invitational
*Jan. 11 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 12-13 -- Marion County Tournament at Marion Harding
Jan. 20 -- Dan Wasserbeck Classic at North Union
*Jan. 25 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
Jan. 27 -- Jimmy Wood Memorial at New Lexington
Feb. 6 -- at DeSales
*Feb. 8 -- at Hilliard Darby
Feb. 10 -- All-North Tournament at home
Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics and hockey teams:
*Dec. 15 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
Dec. 16 -- Home vs. Whetstone
*Dec. 15 -- At Thomas Worthington
Dec. 19 -- Home vs. Logan
Dec. 16 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson
*Dec. 15 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 16 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
*Dec. 17 -- Olentangy Orange at Chiller North