Based on representation, the Dublin Jerome High School boys swimming and diving team could be well on its way to topping the sixth-place finish it earned at last year's Division I state meet.
The Celtics put together a breakthrough performance to set themselves up for the state meet, which will be held Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
During the district meet that concluded Feb. 17 at Ohio University, Jerome left with the first championship trophy in program history, scoring 303 points to edge runner-up St. Charles (285) for the title as 29 teams scored.
"It was a lot of fun and worth the hard work," said coach Patrick Johnston, who was named district Coach of the Year. "We had a few ups and downs, but overall it was icing on the cake to set the meet record in the (200-yard freestyle relay)."
Grant Cicci, Westin Fishel, Elek Kayuha and Max Scott combined to win the 200 free relay in 1 minute, 23.49 seconds. The relay is seeded first at state.
"We really wanted the district record," Kayuha said. "Our main goal was to make it to state, and we all dropped time."
Also capturing a district title was the 400 free relay of Cicci, Fishel, Scott and Ian Smith. The relay won in 3:07.4 and is seeded fifth at state.
Those two performances helped Jerome take a step forward after finishing third behind St. Charles and Upper Arlington at district a year ago.
"It feels amazing," Cicci said. "This is the first time either UA or St. Charles hasn't won in years. It's a great victory for Jerome and it's just awesome to be a part of this team."
Earning district runner-up finishes were Reno James in the 200 individual medley (1:54.61) and Scott in the 50 free (21.16). They are seeded 14th and ninth, respectively, at state.
Cicci placed fourth in both the 50 free (21.5) and 100 free (46.54) and is seeded 20th and 13th, respectively, at state.
Scott finished fifth in the 100 free (46.59) and is seeded 14th at state, while the 200 medley relay of Graham Carpenter, Austin Davis, James and Kayuha placed fifth (1:36.46) and is seeded 19th.
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.
"Our boys have been working really hard this season, and we've been looking forward to this title since November when the season kicked off, so we're just really glad we finally got it," Scott said. "Maybe we didn't get first in all the events, but we got points at the bottom and it really brought us up."
The girls scored 121 points at district to place seventh behind champion UA (274) as 30 teams scored.
Moving on to state were Maya Geringer, who placed third in both the 200 free (1:53.36) and 500 free (4:58.88); Lauren Cooper, who finished sixth in the 50 free (24.12) and 10th in the 100 free (52.53); and the 200 medley relay of Brenna Cooper, Lauren Cooper, Geringer and Emma Mathews, which placed third (1:46.3).
At state, Geringer is seeded ninth in the 500 free and 15th in the 200 free, Lauren Cooper is seeded 20th in the 50 free and 22nd in the 100 free and the 200 medley relay is seeded 11th.
Girls basketball team set to open tourney
Girls basketball coach Natalie Herring did her best to keep practices from becoming "humdrum" during the regular season.
That was particularly important for the Celtics before they put together a three-game winning streak at the beginning of February that brightened their perspective regarding their progress.
With guards Stephanie Cline and Mitali Singh being the only seniors in the program, some of Jerome's goals - such as developing correct practice skills - have been long-term.
"The greatest thing about the kids we have at this point in time is that they haven't stayed stagnant from where they were at," Herring said. "We've continued to try to do new drills offensively and defensively, and your kids have to be willing to stay engaged in those practices to make it happen. Otherwise, practice can become pretty boring and you don't improve. We as coaches have tried to do our best to change it up a little bit, and the players have done a really good job of staying engaged and wanting to improve."
Experiencing some victories, of course, has helped.
The Celtics lost six of their first seven games and were just 5-12 before earning consecutive wins over Hilliard Darby (37-35 on Feb. 2), Hilliard Bradley (41-33 on Feb. 6) and Delaware (47-19 on Feb. 9).
Jerome then lost to Logan 54-47 on Feb. 10 before falling to Scioto 55-40 in its regular-season finale Feb. 13 to finish 7-5 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, tying Bradley for third behind co-champions Thomas Worthington and Scioto (both 9-3).
The Celtics are 8-14 overall and are seeded 36th for the 50-team Division I district tournament, which they'll open Friday, Feb. 23, at eighth-seeded Hartley in a second-round game.
The winner plays ninth-seeded Gahanna or 26th-seeded Darby in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 28, at a neutral site to be announced. The district final is March 3 at Ohio Dominican University.
Last season, Jerome made it to a district semifinal for the first time in program history.
The Celtics gave up a season-low point total in the win over Delaware to avenge a 54-46 loss to the Pacers on Jan. 9.
"We're definitely getting so much better," Cline said. "We're feeling so much better about how we've been playing and stepping up. We've connected and have started doing some really good things.
"It's been really fun. We all get along well. The beginning of the season was a little rougher. We have a bunch of younger players so we definitely had some growing pains, but the last few weeks have been really our turning point. When we went on that win streak for a little bit, it definitely helped change the attitude."
Boys basketball team upends Panthers
The boys basketball team posted a "statement" victory Feb. 13 when it defeated host Pickerington North 48-42.
The Celtics are the 25th seed for the Division I district tournament, while North received the top seed two days prior to the matchup.
"We feel this is a big win for the program and definitely a statement win that can give our guys the needed confidence moving forward for the tournament," coach Richie Beard said. "The Central District is the best district in all of Division I and you have to bring your 'A' game. This win gives us something to look back on and learn from moving forward. We have a great group of hard-working young men. Guys are starting to jell at the right time."
Jerome was 12-9 overall before closing the regular season Feb. 20 at Marion Harding and finished 6-6 in the OCC-Cardinal after losing to Scioto 46-43 on Feb. 16.
The Celtics have a first-round bye in the district tournament and open March 2 against sixth-seeded Coffman or 33rd-seeded Hamilton Township.
Against North, Jerome went 14-for-16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Joey Pickering had 14 points, Andrew Golda scored 10 and Trey Ballengee and Lucas House both scored nine.
"We led wire to wire and never trailed," Beard said. "Our guys played together and trusted the scouting report. We had tremendous shot selection and we made the hustle plays that were needed."
Hockey team reaches district quarterfinal
The top-seeded hockey team opened the district tournament with a 10-0 win over 21st-seeded Scioto in a second-round game Feb. 17 at Chiller North.
Jerome improved to 27-4-3-2 and advanced to play seventh-seeded Springboro in a district quarterfinal Saturday, Feb. 24, at OhioHealth Ice Haus. The winner faces third-seeded St. Charles or fifth-seeded Upper Arlington in a district semifinal Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Ice Haus.
The district final is March 3 at the Ice Haus.
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
Below are the members of the Jerome boys and girls swimming and diving teams who competed at district but did not qualify for state:
BOYS -- Graham Carpenter: 100 breast (1:00.49, 12th), 100 fly (52.14, fourth); Ryan Chowdhury: diving (206.1, 17th); Austin Davis: 100 back (54.11, 12th), 200 IM (1:59.37, 11th); Ronith Doddi (1:02.19, 16th); Westin Fishel: 50 free (21.91, 10th), 200 free (1:46.16, 10th); Joey Haas: diving (355.75, ninth); Reno James: 500 free (4:51.41, 13th); Elek Kayuha: 50 free (21.82, eighth), 100 free (48.77, 14th); Reid Newman: 200 free (1:46.45, 12th), 500 free (4:49.44, 12th); Matt Shepard: 100 breast (1:00.67, 14th), 100 fly (52.36, sixth); Ian Smith: 100 breast (59.76, ninth), 100 free (47.85, ninth); Patrick Wellman: 200 free (1:51.42, 27th), 500 free (4:58.35, 21st); Austin Wyner: 200 free (1:51.32, 26th), 500 free (4:57.71, 20th)
GIRLS -- Brenna Cooper: 100 breast (1:07.68, 10th); Alyssa Heinlen: diving (414.45, eighth); Hayley Jacobs: diving (348.95, 12th); Claudia Sherrer: 200 IM (2:20.92, 24th); 200 free relay (1:39.72, 11th); 400 free relay (3:48.85, 16th)Schedules
Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome gymnastics and wrestling teams:
Feb. 24 -- District meet at Worthington Kilbourne. Top three teams advance to state team meet March 2 at Hilliard Bradley, and top eight individuals in each event and the all-around advance to state individual meet March 3 at Bradley.
Feb. 24 -- Division I sectional at Marysville. Top four finishers in each weight class advance to district tournament March 2 and 3 at Hilliard Darby.