DeSales High School swimming coach Ryan Buechner has raised expectations for his program, and not just because of the experience his teams return.
Three Division II district qualifiers return for the boys team in seniors Ian McCandlish and Jonathan Randel and junior Aaron Spittell, but Buechner is equally excited about an influx of 21 freshman into the program that has swelled overall turnout to 42.
"I am very impressed with their dedication, commitment and effort," said Buechner, whose fourth season opened Dec. 1 with the Catholic Showdown at St. Charles. "The freshmen really seem to be full of energy and have enthused the rest of the team.
"The boys should be able to be in the top eight in all of their relays at districts and will have an outside shot of making the state meet if they continue to improve."
DeSales scored 41 points in the Catholic Showdown to tie Fisher Catholic for ninth of 12 teams as St. Charles won (616).
McCandlish placed eighth in the 100-yard backstroke (1 minute, 3.7 seconds) and Spittell was eighth in the 100 breaststroke (1:16.39).
No Stallions advanced to state last season. McCandlish had the team's best finish at district, placing 10th in the 100 back (1:02.24), but still fell short of becoming the team's first state qualifier since Coleman McKinney advanced in the 50 freestyle and 100 free in 2014.
"We have a lot of speed," McCandlish said. "Our expectations are high for this team. A lot of us swim club. We've improved since last year. Getting to state is our goal. We think we have the talent it takes to do that."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Chandler Dalton, Joe Valentine and Caden Zellner, sophomores Ethan Ballard and Leo Sears and freshmen Quinn Brown, Jack Gabrelli, Will Jordan, Timothy Kelleher, Brady McInerney and Nicholas Schetter.
"Brady swims for the Ohio State Swim Club and was a top-16 finisher in several events last season in an Ohio Junior Olympics meet for 13-14 (year-old) club swimmers," Buechner said. "I expect monster points from him as he already has times that would have made the state meet last year."
Buechner is excited for good reason, according to McCandlish.
"(McInerney) makes the rest of us look slow," McCandlish said. "He has so much skill for a freshman and we're excited for him to help take this team farther than we've been in a few years. He'll help us out wherever we need him."
Youth to help guide girls swimming team
Four returning Division I district qualifiers highlight a 28-member roster for the girls swimming and diving team, and Buechner thinks freshman Libby Ruff could be a key addition.
Ruff is the younger sister of 2018 graduate Mary Ruff, a four-time district qualifier, and also has participated in Ohio Junior Olympics meets, according to Buechner.
"She has a wide range of events that she is able to compete at a high level in just like her sister before (her)," Buechner said. "The girls team has a great deal more depth than we had a season ago. I expect us to be able to compete on a more even playing field with some of the teams on our dual meet schedule."
Mary Ruff was DeSales' only district qualifier lost to graduation and was their only individual qualifier, as she swam in the 100 back and 200 free.
Returning qualifiers are seniors Fiona Brown, Anna Sears and Julia Wilkes and sophomore Annamarie DeGuzman.
"I've noticed that we are strongest in relays because even though swimming is mainly an individual sport, we have such a great sense of teamwork and we cheer each other on and support each other," Libby Ruff said. "My best events tend to be any event that includes butterfly because that's my strongest stroke, but I am also very strong in longer distance freestyle."
Wilkes led the Stallions at the Catholic Showdown on Dec. 1 with an 11th-place finish in the 50 free (28.28). Sears was 16th in the 100 fly (1:21.1).
DeSales scored seven points to finish last of 10 teams as Toledo St. Ursula won (556).
Rounding out the roster are senior Katie Kiser, juniors Grace Brunton, Bernadette DeGuzman, Megan Kelleher and Rossy Rivas, sophomores Grace Bogue, Faith Corn, Molly Goldsmith, Makayla Shuey and Montserrat Tlahuel-Flores and freshmen Ashley Anderson, Hayven Atitlah, Jessica Alvarado, Paige Balik, Megan Brown, Isabella Gagliardi, Libby Gutman, Madison Letzelter, Jessica Melvin, Remy Olson, Caitlyn Perlito, Kathryn Stone and Carys Wasill.
"I do expect the girls to be able to qualify all three relays to districts," Buechner said. "With that being said, we are very young and I expect it to take a while to see how best to use each member to their fullest capacity."
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- Catholic Showdown at St. Charles
Dec. 3 -- Grandview at Columbus Aquatics Center
Dec. 5 -- at Thomas Worthington
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 14 -- at St. Charles with Reynoldsburg
Dec. 15 -- Hartley and Olentangy Berlin at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 4 -- Hilliard Bradley and Westerville Central at Westerville Community Center
Jan. 19 -- Centennial at Columbus Aquatics Center
Jan. 22 -- at Columbus Academy
Jan. 26 -- CCL meet at Columbus School for Girls
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 14 -- At Watterson
Dec. 15 -- Home vs. Bloom-Carroll
Dec. 15 -- Home vs. Mount Vernon
*Dec. 13 -- Watterson at Capri Lanes
Dec. 15 -- Pioneer Baker Bash at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 18 -- Ready at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 19 -- Hartley at Capri Lanes
Dec. 14 -- Big Walnut at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading
*Dec. 14 -- Dublin Scioto at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 14-15 -- Liberty Classic at Olentangy Liberty