Seniors Nate Stadler and Abigail Ellsworth are preparing to help lead the Westerville South High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams into the postseason.
Stadler is having a strong season after missing most of last year with histoplasmosis, a fungal lung infection.
"Nate's capability to bounce back is tremendous," coach Shane Davis said. "He has a fight and hunger to be the best swimmer out there, so he fights every time he gets a chance to fight. He is just a phenomenal swimmer (and) competitor and it carries over in his life as well in everything that he does."
Stadler, who said he is back to full strength, is closing in on the program record in the 100-yard backstroke. He has a top effort of 52.94 seconds, just behind the top mark of 52.8 set by 2013 graduate Jared Higdon.
"It's awesome to be back. It feels great," Stadler said. "My sights were set the whole time on returning. I feel like I've exceeded my personal expectations just because I thought it would be harder to get back into the really hard training. There were definitely some bumps, (but) it has been a lot easier than I thought it would be."
Stadler is looking for a berth in the Division I state meet after finishing 18th in the 100 freestyle and competing on the 200 free and 400 free relays at state as a sophomore.
"As of right now, it's looking very good for that and the goal is to be in the top five (at state)," Stadler said.
However, the illness has forced Stadler to alter his college plans. He plans to remain with the New Albany Aquatics Club after graduation in May and forgo attending college for one year while he continues the recruiting process.
"It definitely threw a wrench into things for a while, but I'm starting to get back on track with what kind of places I want to look at," Stadler said. "I'm just going to keep making decisions on what size college I want, what kind of academics I want, what kind of swim team. The goal is to swim and get a good education."
For Ellsworth, she continues to challenge program records. She has a season-best 59.88 in the 100 back, approaching her program record of 59.33 set last season.
She also is closing in on the program record of 54.19 in the 100 free, which is held by 2013 graduate Riley Buer. Ellsworth has a top time of 54.5.
Ellsworth and sophomore Ayden Jones helped the 200 medley relay set a program record of 1:52.4 at district last season.
Ellsworth, who also competes for the Westerville Aquatic Club, is seeking her first state berth.
"I feel like the 100 backstroke is my best chance," she said. "It would mean so much. It would be great because I've been working towards it for so long."
The Wildcats continued preparation for the postseason by competing in the Central Ohio Splash meet Jan. 13 at Thomas Worthington. The diving competition was held Jan. 13 at Westerville Community Center.
The boys finished second (299) of 12 teams behind Dublin Scioto (340). Placing first were Stadler in the 100 back (53.59), Caleb Baker in the 50 free (23.57), Baker, Riley Andrews, Dylan Gary and Stadler in the 200 free relay (1:34.32) and Baker, Mason Crow, Gary and Stadler in the 400 free relay (3:29.23).
The girls finished third (304) of 10 teams behind champion Westerville Central (376) as Ellsworth won the 100 free (55.57).
"I was happy with how I did," Ellsworth said. "There was good competition there, so it was good to challenge myself."
South will compete in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet Jan. 27 at Thomas, tuning up for a sectional meet Feb. 10.
"The team is ready," Davis said. "There's a lot of excitement with kids and times that they're doing right now compared to where they were this time last year, so the kids are really looking forward to the postseason and putting on a display of their talents."
Boys basketball team defeats Central
The boys basketball team is 8-3 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye as it prepares to visit Olentangy on Friday, Jan. 19.
Since losing to Westerville North 56-39 on Jan. 5, the Wildcats have won three consecutive games, including 59-45 at Central on Jan. 13.
South took command in the third quarter, outscoring the Warhawks 12-2. Elton Sunnyway led the way with 15 points.
Jordan McMillian's basket with 4.7 seconds left helped the visiting Wildcats defeat Pickerington Central 54-52 on Jan. 9. He finished with 13 points.
"We had a good week," coach Ed Calo said. "We played great against Pick Central. We played great against (the Warhawks) until the last quarter when we got a little sloppy, a little bit out of our rhythm, and it's a tribute to them. They didn't give up and they kept after it. Overall, our kids played hard."
Girls basketball team splits weekend games
The girls basketball team split a pair of games last weekend, winning at Westerville Central 55-44 on Jan. 13 and falling to Kettering Fairmont 60-57 in overtime Jan. 14 in the Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland.
Gabby Hutcherson scored 13 points, Sommer Pitzer had 11 and Cailin Duffy added 10 against Central.
Anyssa Jones scored 17 points, Pitzer had 15 and Peyton Guice added 13 against Fairmont.
Jones scored 12 points and Hutcherson had 10 in a 59-40 loss to visiting Pickerington Central on Jan. 9. It was Hutcherson's debut with the Wildcats after sitting out the first 11 games because of OHSAA transfer rules. She transferred from Westerville North.
South is 9-5 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Below are the coming schedules for the South boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 19 -- At Olentangy. The Wildcats defeated the Braves 69-60 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 20 -- Home vs. Johnstown
Jan. 23 -- At Reynoldsburg
*Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Olentangy. The Wildcats defeated the Braves 52-37 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 20 -- Eastmoor Academy in Nubian Classic at Africentric
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
*Jan. 18 -- Olentangy Orange at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 23 -- Beechcroft at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 19 -- Canal Winchester at Westerville Community Center
Jan. 20 -- Olentangy Liberty at Powell YMCA
*Jan. 18 -- At Liberty
Jan. 20 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North