Nathen Eberhardt watched his older brother swim in the Division I state meet last year, but the chance for the Pickerington High School Central junior to follow in those footsteps gradually sunk in throughout this week.

Eberhardt will compete in the 100-yard backstroke this weekend at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Preliminaries are Friday, Feb. 23, and the finals are the next day.

Eberhardt finished fifth in the 100 back (52.84 seconds) in the district meet Feb. 17 at Ohio University and is seeded 21st of 24 competitors at state. That time was a new personal-best by .3 of a second.

"I felt pretty good about my races," said Eberhardt, who also finished seventh in the 200 individual medley (1:56.65) to fall short of qualifying for state in that event. "I had a cold (all of last) week. I wasn't feeling 100 percent. After that 200 IM, it hit me that I can do well at this meet and I felt a lot better.

"It means a lot to me (to make state). Watching Trace swim there last year was great and the atmosphere in there is so much different than a regular, ordinary meet. The stands are packed. The energy is so big during the whole meet. So many times are great there. Once I get there, I'll take my chances and see what I can do."

Trace Eberhardt finished 21st in the 100 butterfly last year as a senior.

Nathen Eberhardt qualifying for state means the boys team will be represented at that level for the second consecutive year after not advancing anyone there since 2006, when Tim Kasberg finished 15th in the 100 freestyle.

At district, Central scored 26 points to tie Canal Winchester for 19th behind champion Dublin Jerome (303) as 29 teams scored.

Eberhardt was .5 of a second shy of an at-large berth in the 200 IM.

The top two placers in each swimming event at district automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.

"Nate's 200 IM was terrific," coach Justin Dortch said.

"He didn't make it (in the 200 IM), but will do very well in the 100 back. This was the goal for him all year."

Led by Kolya Larson's 11th-place finish in the 100 breaststroke, the girls team finished 25th (6) at district behind champion Upper Arlington (274) as 30 teams scored.

Dortch was impressed by the 400 free relay despite its 28th-place finish (4:08.4), saying freshman anchor Lauren Lavilla dropped roughly 4 1/2 seconds from sectional Feb. 10 at UA.

"She has a lot of promise," Dortch said.

Wrestlers prepare for UA sectional

Wrestling coach Jason Allen treats the entire regular season as preparation for the postseason, but he's letting himself look backward just a little as Central enters a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 24, at UA.

One of the other nine teams at the sectional is Grove City, to which the shorthanded, illness-riddled Tigers lost 36-33 on Jan. 25 at Lancaster. Allen made no secret of his desire to see some Central wrestlers matched up with their OCC-Ohio rival.

"We have some good matchups at 106, 113 and 145 (pounds)," Allen said. "To match up with those schools there is good because we'll be separated at district. (Dublin) Coffman and Grove City will be the top teams there, so hopefully we can redeem ourselves (against Grove City) and show what Pickerington Central wrestling really is."

The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby.

Rounding out the sectional are Chillicothe, Licking Heights, Olentangy Orange, Reynoldsburg, Teays Valley and Worthington Kilbourne. Coffman is the fourth seed out of the district's 43 teams.

Boys basketball team extends winning streak

Although the boys basketball team fell one win short of tying for the OCC-Ohio championship, it rides a season-best six-game winning streak into the Division I district tournament.

Central finished the regular season with a 79-60 win at Gahanna on Feb. 16 as Adrian Nelson had 27 points - tying the career-high he set Dec. 5 in a 90-74 win over Dayton Thurgood Marshall - and Ja'vohn Garcia scored 22. The Tigers improved to 14-8 overall and finished 8-2 in the league, one game behind Pickerington North.

Central has not lost since Jan. 27, when it fell to Hilliard Bradley 54-33 in the Jared Sullinger Ohio Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic at Ohio Dominican University. Its winning streak began two nights later with a 72-56 victory over Gahanna.

The Tigers, who are seeded ninth in the 48-team district tournament, took a first-round bye and will play host to 22nd-seeded Walnut Ridge or 31st-seeded Central Crossing in the second round March 2.

Girls basketball team routs Cougars

The girls basketball team scored 37 points in the first quarter of its Division I district tournament first-round game Feb. 17 and rolled past visiting and 45th-seeded Westland 96-17.

Maliya Perry's game-high 21 points led 14 Tigers who scored. Adrian Crockwell and Nicole Stephens each added 12 points and Kyla Whitehead scored 10 as third-seeded Central improved to 21-2 and advanced to a second-round home game against 48th-seeded Hamilton Township on Friday, Feb. 23.

The Tigers, who were ranked first in last week's Division I state poll, have outscored their past four opponents by a combined score of 315-129.

The Central-Hamilton Township winner will play 25th-seeded Hilliard Davidson or 33rd-seeded Watkins Memorial in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 28, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner advances to a district final March 3 at Ohio Dominican.

Bowlers trying for program first

The boys and girls bowling teams will try to qualify for their respective Division I district tournaments for the first time when they participate in sectionals this weekend.

The boys sectional is Friday, Feb. 23, at HP Lanes, one day before the girls sectional at the same facility.

Neither the boys and girls have been represented as a team at district since regaining varsity status in 2013, although Central individuals have qualified each of the past three years.

Four Tigers reached district each of the past two years, including sophomore Kate Merkel of the girls team last season.

The top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams in both sectionals advance to district March 3 at HP Lanes.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

Below are the members of the Central boys and girls swimming teams who competed at district but did not qualify for state:

BOYS -- Nathen Eberhardt: 200 IM (1:56.65, seventh); Jason Orr: 100 back (57.05, 23rd); 200 free relay (1:37.46, 23rd); 200 medley relay (1:46.96, 20th); 400 free relay (3:28.99, 19th)

GIRLS -- Paige Christy: 100 back (1:00.95, 19th); Kolya Larson: 50 free (25.37, 26th), 100 breast (1:07.69, 11th); 200 free relay (1:48.13, 19th); 200 medley relay (2:00.07, 21st); 400 free relay (4:08.4, 28th)