Since Patrick Johnston took over as coach for the 2016-17 season, the Dublin Jerome High School swimming and diving program has used what he calls a "fast-paced racing" approach early each season.
The boys team, which has grown from 16 athletes last season to 17 this winter, has picked up where it left off last year when it won its first Division I district championship and placed 10th at state.
On Dec. 8, the Celtics scored 373 points to place second in the A-flight of the Ned Reb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State behind Hunting Valley University School (396.5) as 35 teams scored.
"We're looking strong again this year," Johnston said. "We have a slightly bigger team this year. We run a slightly different program than others. I try to swim kids in a bunch of different events and potentially try to get them to imagine the postseason."
At the Ned Reeb meet, senior Max Scott anchored the winning 200-yard freestyle relay (1 minute, 25.56 seconds) that also included juniors Austin Davis, Reno James and Ian Smith. In the 100 breaststroke, James finished first (program-record 58.81) and Smith placed second (58.99).
Last season, Scott joined 2018 graduates Grant Cicci, Westin Fisher and Elek Kayuha on the 200 free relay that tied for the state title in 1:23.36.
Also at state, Scott finished seventh in the 50 free (20.96) and 19th in the 100 free (47.12) and joined Cicci, Fishel and Smith on the 400 free relay that finished eighth (3:08.55), and James finished 19th in the 200 individual medley (1:55.91) and joined Smith, 2018 graduate Graham Carpenter and Kayuha on the 200 medley relay that placed 19th (1:36.56).
Carpenter now competes at Ball State, Cicci swims at Miami University and Fishel swims at John Carroll.
The other seniors on the boys team are Reid Newman, Matt Shepard and Samer Zidan and other juniors are Ronith Doddi, Spy Gupta and Patrick Wellman.
Sophomores Ryan Chowdhury, Joey Haas and Eddie Kelly are divers.
Also on the team are sophomores Zach Imamura and Austin Wyner and freshmen Adam Bartlett, Alex Davis, Nicholas Kremin, D.J. Lloyd and Carson Smith.
"The whole experience of our 200 free relay (winning state last season) was a lot of fun for Max, and he's trying to get some kids amped up," Johnston said. "We did lose a great senior class, but I think we're still going to be really strong. I have a really strong junior class."
Girls swim team also growing
The girls swimming and diving team has expanded from nine athletes last season to 13 this winter.
The Celtics finished seventh (163) at the Ned Reeb meet behind champion Upper Arlington (391.5) as 38 teams scored.
Senior Brenna Cooper and junior Maya Geringer are returning state competitors.
Geringer, who finished ninth in the 200 free (1:52.38) and 13th in the 500 free (5:06.35) at state last season, won the 500 free (5:02.83) and joined Cooper and freshmen Kelsey Cooper and Michelle Yang on the 200 medley relay that placed third (1:50.33) at the Ned Reeb meet.
Also at state last season, Geringer and Brenna Cooper swam on the 200 medley relay that placed 13th (1:47.42).
Juniors Alyssa Heinlen and Olivia Sivak are divers. Last season at district, Heinlen placed eighth (414.45).
Juniors Caitlyn Laycock and Macy Weeks and sophomore Claudia Sherrer are other key returning swimmers, while rounding out the roster are juniors Grace Lane and Angela Lu and freshmen Ahnika Dauer and Lauren Smith.
"On the girls side, in general, I'm really excited to have more girls," Johnston said. "This year we're up to 11 (swimmers), which is a much healthier number after having eight last year. I'm really excited about the increased depth, which should help us be more competitive in dual meets this season."
Hockey team begins league competition
The hockey team continues Capital Hockey Conference action at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, when it faces New Albany for the third time this season.
After losing to the Eagles 4-3 in a shootout Nov. 24 in the Chiller Thanksgiving Classic, the Celtics defeated New Albany 3-2 in a shootout Dec. 2 in the championship game of the Allgeyer Memorial at Chiller Dublin.
"New Albany is good," coach Pat Murphy said. "They've got a new coach and, trust me, they're only going to get better."
In the Dec. 2 matchup with New Albany, Adam Booth and Avery Mlicki scored goals in regulation for the Celtics.
In the shootout, Jerome goaltender Mark Bishopp stopped New Albany's first three shots. The Celtics failed on their first two shootout attempts before Trent Belli scored the game-winner.
"It felt pretty good," Belli said. "(New Albany is) a super good team and it was a really fun game to be a part of. In league play, we should have some good games."
Jerome will play each of the other five teams in the CHC-Red Division twice, with its other meeting against New Albany set for Jan. 27 at Chiller Easton.
The Celtics improved to 7-0-3-1 overall and 2-0 in the CHC with a 6-1 win over St. Charles on Dec. 9 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
In a 7-1 win over Olentangy Orange in the league opener Dec. 7, J.P. Weaver had a hat trick, Nick Augenstein and Ryan Jenkins each had two assists and Dalton Miller, Nolan Kunzelman, Ethan French and Belli scored one goal apiece. Goaltender Ryan Norkin made eight saves.
"I like where we are right now," Murphy said. "I don't think we're in great shape physically yet, but everybody contributes. It's not been one line doing it all, so we're tough to play defense against and match up with."
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Olentangy at Dublin Recreation Center
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 14 -- Olentangy Orange at Dublin Recreation Center
Dec. 22 -- Delaware at Dublin Recreation Center
Jan. 4 -- at New Albany
Jan. 5 -- at St. Charles
Jan. 12-13 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 18 -- at Upper Arlington
Jan. 19 -- Dublin Classic at Dublin Recreation Center
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 14 -- At Thomas Worthington
*Dec. 14 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
Dec. 15 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson
*Dec. 16 -- New Albany at Chiller Dublin
*Dec. 13 -- At Delaware
Dec. 15 -- Big Dawg Invitational at Dresden Tri-Valley