Dan Cherok has a daughter who is on the Watterson High School girls swimming and diving team this winter and knew the program needed a new coach, but he's not just a fill-in parent.
After coaching at the youth level for 10 years, including four seasons with the Ohio State club program, Cherok has taken over an Eagles program that has 36 girls and four boys competing this season.
Megan Downing Teeters, who gave birth to twins during the offseason, had headed the program the past five seasons.
"The team was in good shape, but if I didn't (become the coach), I didn't know who would do it," Cherok said. "We've been working hard. We want to see improvement and work to get district qualifications."
The girls team has a pair of returning Division I state qualifiers in senior Elizabeth Intihar and junior Mia Brown. Intihar finished 12th in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 53.36 seconds) and ninth in the 500 free (4:57.83) and Brown placed ninth in the 50 free (23.73) and 22nd in the 100 free (53.09) at state last season.
Senior Alyssa O'Sullivan, junior Anne Marie Arnold and sophomores Elena Latshaw and Isabella Roscoe also are key returnees.
Cherok's daughter, freshman Lucia Cherok, should be one of the team's top backstrokers.
Freshmen Lucy Loudon, Molly Shanahan and Olivia Oyster also should make an impact.
The other seniors are Grace Elliot, Maivy Ho, Izzy Hofmeister and Laura Loughlin.
In the Catholic Showdown on Dec. 1 at St. Charles, the Eagles finished third (264 points) of 10 teams that scored, behind Toledo St. Ursula (556) and Columbus School for Girls (338).
"We're working with all of the younger ones, giving them a chance and teaching them how to work their way up and be competitive," coach Cherok said.
There are three divers in the program in seniors Mara Ohlin and Kathryn Schreiber and freshman Mary Heink.
"They're all fairly new divers, so we're focused on getting them an 11-dive competition list," diving coach Jayne Ackerman said. "The divers are working hard at practice every day with great attitudes. I have high hopes that all of them will make it to 11-dive meets."
Vondran leading boys swimmers
Of the four competitors the boys swimming and diving team had at last year's Division II state meet, three were lost to graduation.
Junior Michael Vondran has returned after teaming with 2018 graduates Thomas Clark, David Coss and Perry Finnegan to capture the state championship in the 200 free relay in 1:25.66.
The same foursome finished ninth in the 200 medley relay (1:36.43), with Clark also placing seventh in the 200 individual medley (1:55.09) and 10th in the 100 butterfly (50.75) and Finnegan finishing seventh in the 50 free (21.43) and 13th in the 100 free (48.26) as the Eagles finished seventh as a team.
Also on the team are sophomore returnee Luke Franckhauser and freshmen Max Latshaw and Mateo Pitones.
"Last year's boys were really good," coach Cherok said. "We're going to get them going as fast as they can. They all need to grow size-wise."
Girls team looks to build on strong start
The girls basketball team beat first-year Olentangy Berlin 49-27 on Dec. 8 to improve to 5-0 with double-digit victories in each game.
The Eagles played back-to-back games against two of central Ohio's stronger teams, Upper Arlington on Dec. 10 and Gahanna on Dec. 12, but don't play again until facing Hilliard Darby on Dec. 23 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Last season, UA was a Division I district runner-up and Gahanna was a Division I regional semifinalist.
"I'm a senior and this is the most I've had where they're my best friends," guard/wing player Elizabeth Rabold said. "We're so connected and everyone brings so much energy that it's so fun."
In a 69-7 victory over Whetstone on Dec. 6, junior guard Paige Woodford had 15 points on five 3-pointers and sophomore point guard Danielle Grim had a career-high 14 points with two 3s.
Woodford was averaging 13 points and senior post player Grace Jenkins was averaging 11 through four games.
"We're all united," Grim said. "We're mostly known for our defense, but this year we've got a lot of scoring options so we're a lot better. My role in being the point guard is mostly penetrating the defense so I can (pass it outside) or get it inside."
Mikula steps down as boys soccer coach
Ed Mikula recently stepped down after four seasons as boys soccer coach.
Under Mikula, the Eagles went 27-35-8, including 9-7-3 in 2016 and 9-7-1 in 2017.
Last fall, Watterson went 3-10-4 and featured an 11-member senior class. Among the Eagles' victories was a 3-2 win over Worthington Christian, which went on to reach a Division III district final.
"He represented Watterson well during his four years here and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors," athletics director Doug Etgen said. "We will begin the search for his replacement immediately."
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- at Columbus Academy
Dec. 1 -- Catholic Showdown at St. Charles
Dec. 8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 15 -- Westerville Central at Westerville Recreation Center
Dec. 21 -- at New Albany
Dec. 28 -- Dublin Coffman at Dublin Recreation Center
Jan. 4-5 -- Delaware Invitational at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 12 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 19 -- at Columbus School for Girls (diving only)
Jan. 23 -- at Thomas Worthington (diving only)
Jan. 25 -- at St. Charles
Feb. 1 -- at Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the Watterson boys basketball, bowling, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 14 -- Home vs. DeSales
*Dec. 13 -- DeSales at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 18 -- Walnut Ridge at Sawmill Lanes
Dec. 14 -- Gahanna in Rough Rider Holiday Tournament at Kent State
Dec. 15 -- Hudson and Chagrin Falls Kenston in Rough Rider Holiday Tournament
Dec. 16 -- TBA in Rough Rider Holiday Tournament
Dec. 19 -- At Franklin Heights with Ready and Columbus West