Although the Olentangy High School girls swimming and diving team returns a Division I state finalist in senior Bridget Parker, first-year coach Calvin Higdon was quick to say as the season began that he thinks a deep freshman class meshes well with his older competitors.
"Those seniors and the freshmen complement each other very well, the seniors with their leadership and the freshmen with their size and depth," Higdon said. "Bridget is our driving force and we hope to get her to state for a fourth time. I hope we can get more kids back there with her, including some relays. She'll probably concentrate on the 200 (-yard individual medley) and 500 (freestyle), but I believe there are other events she can excel in. She has a lot of choices because she is so talented."
Parker, a Dartmouth recruit, placed eighth in both the 200 IM and 500 free at state last year and helped the 200 medley relay place 20th and the 400 free relay finish 24th. Junior Emily Espy returns from the latter relay, as does senior Grace Horstman, who competed on both relays but is out for the season with an injury.
Olentangy opened Nov. 30 against Dublin Jerome at the Dublin Recreation Center. The girls team defeated the Celtics 111-71 and the boys lost 143-39.
Unlike Olentangy has done in recent seasons, Higdon will coach both teams. Boys coach Dan Harris stepped down after three seasons and girls coach Nick Ljubi resigned after two.
Higdon is a 2014 graduate of Westerville South who swam for one year at Ashland University. He placed 11th at state in the 100 butterfly as a junior and 12th as a senior.
"I had a few close friends in high school and college who swam for Olentangy and I competed against (Olentangy) when I was in high school," Higdon said. "I jumped at the opportunity to be a high school coach. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes things that come with coaching and training. I love helping swimmers grow."
The boys team lost its only state qualifier from a year ago in 2018 graduate Ben Kuriger, who placed third in both the 100 fly and 200 free. He now swims at Ohio State.
Other returning district qualifiers are seniors Meara Marker and Liz Passias of the girls team and juniors Preston Kuriger and Chris Sabharwal of the boys team.
Rounding out the girls roster are seniors Rithika Charles, Gabrielle Nicol, Alice Pozzi and Joey VanGorder, juniors Arianna Ryan and Ciara Szerencsits, sophomores Sophia Arnold and Lauren Kerscher and freshmen Ellie Berry, Campbell Goh-Johnson, Cameron Kuriger, Izzie Lengal, Anna McGrath, Martina Peroni and Rory VanGorder.
Ryan and Szerencsits are divers.
The rest of the boys roster consists of seniors Max Garner, Matthew King and Max Nieman, junior Nate Steele, sophomore Joe Bulinski and freshmen August Jacobsmeyer, Max McAlister and Raaghuv Vazirani.
"We'll try to have as close a team as possible. It's a new team, for the most part," Higdon said. "I haven't said it directly to the team, but I think it's realistic for us to compete for an OCC (-Buckeye Division) title, especially on the girls side. The boys, I think we can be competitive. We're smaller on that side, but we'll compete well and I think the relays will place well.
"The biggest thing early in the season is to get the team on both sides to realize exactly what they're capable of doing."
Boys basketball team set for weekend trip
The boys basketball team will travel to Parkersburg, West Virginia, this weekend for the annual Parkersburg South Invitational Holiday Tournament, its first of two out-of-area trips this season.
Olentangy, which is 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Buckeye, will play Scott Depot (West Virginia) Teays Valley Christian Prep on Friday, Dec. 14, before facing either the host Patriots or St. George (Virginia) Blue Ridge School on Saturday, Dec. 15.
"It's a big deal down there," coach John Feasel said. "I want to win championships, but I won't cut short the experience of being a high school player and going to Florida or Parkersburg or Indiana. The experience is a big thing for high school. I want them to go away with some memories, not just the wins and losses."
Olentangy will travel to Knightstown, Indiana, on Jan. 19 to play Oldenburg (Indiana) Academy of the Immaculate Conception in the Hoosier Gym, the venue in which the movie "Hoosiers" was filmed in 1986.
The Braves were handed their first loss of the season Dec. 7, falling to visiting Westerville South 79-69 in overtime. Noah Gossett made five 3-pointers and finished with 16 points, Alex Sieve added 13 points and Caleb Steele scored 11.
Senior guard Sean Marks enters the weekend 27 points away from 1,000 for his career. He had nine points against South and six in a 65-52 home win over Mifflin on Dec. 4.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Dublin Jerome at Dublin Recreation Center
Dec. 7 -- Mount Vernon at Mount Carmel Fitness Center
Dec. 8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 14-15 -- Northwest Classic at Bowling Green
Dec. 20 -- Delaware County Classic at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 4 -- Olentangy Orange at Mount Carmel Fitness Center
Jan. 12 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 19 -- at Upper Arlington
Jan. 22 -- at New Albany
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Thomas Worthington
Feb. 6 -- Diving: Worthington Kilbourne at Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and wrestling teams:
Dec. 14 -- Scott Depot (W.Va.) Teays Valley Christian Prep in Parkersburg (W.Va.) South Invitational Holiday Tournament
Dec. 15 -- Parkersburg South or St. George (Va.) Blue Ridge School in Parkersburg South Invitational Holiday Tournament
*Dec. 14 -- Home vs. Westerville North
Dec. 15 -- At Dublin Coffman
*Dec. 14 -- Olentangy Orange at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 15 -- Columbus Academy at Chiller Easton
*Dec. 16 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller North
Dec. 14-15 -- North Canton Holiday Invitational at North Canton Hoover