Justin Dortch is tired of seeing several names he recognizes on the Pickerington High School Central swimming and diving program's list of record holders.
The second-year coach is hoping this is the season that the 400-yard freestyle relay record of 3 minutes, 19.73 second falls, as are at least some of the swimmers responsible for setting the record in 1998, Dortch's junior year at the school then known as Pickerington.
"The goal of this team is eliminating my generation from the record board at Central, and the way to do that is the 400 free relay. It has to go," Dortch said. "That's a focal point of the season. We don't want any of my friends and cohorts to be on the board after this season and I am really proud of that.
"I had dinner (Dec. 1) with one of the guys on that relay who went on to swim at the University of Cincinnati and he is really excited to see what this team can do. We agree it can fall and it's fitting that it's lasted 20 years."
The 400 free relay of seniors Nathen Eberhardt and Joe Phillips and sophomores Brett Eberhardt and Braeden Lehrman got off to a good start Dec. 1 in the season-opening Mason Invitational, placing fifth in 3:37.59 to help the Tigers score 126 points and place fourth of 17 teams, behind nine-time defending Division I state champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (475).
Nathen Eberhardt, a returning Division I state qualifier and Cleveland State recruit, won the 100 backstroke in 54.23 seconds and the 100 individual medley in a meet-record 54.8.
Eberhardt finished 16th in the 100 back at state last year. He was the team's only state qualifier.
"(The 100 IM) is not a thing I do a lot, but it shows the potential I think I have for later in the season," Eberhardt said. "I've gained a lot of confidence and a feel for what the state meet is like and what I can expect. My big goal is to make (it in) two events this time. I came up short (of qualifying) in the 200 IM last year. Hopefully by the end of the season, I'll figure it out and get it done."
Brett Eberhardt and Phillips also were district qualifiers last year, as were seniors Jason Orr and Matt Phelan.
Brett Eberhardt placed sixth in the 100 free (52.72) at the Mason Invitational.
"We have had some good results already," Nathen Eberhardt said. "The relays are looking good. I'd say the medley relay and 400 free are pretty good. We are very excited for what we could do."
Other expected contributors include sophomore Alex Rowles and freshmen Alex Shinaver and Brody Thompson.
"Brody is a raw, massive talent," said Dortch, adding that Thompson is 6-foot-3. "I don't know what to expect from him just yet."
Girls team returns five district qualifiers
The girls swimming and diving team also got off to a good start at the Mason Invitational, finishing fourth (168.5) of 17 teams as Pickerington North (340.5) won.
Central and North both are coached by Dortch and are training together as a combined program for the sixth consecutive year.
Senior Kolya Larson won the 100 IM (1:03.05) and was runner-up in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.64), and freshman Bella Jones placed second in the 200 free (2:05.68) and fifth in the 100 free (58.03).
Larson is among five returning district qualifiers, a group that also includes seniors Paige Burton and Natalie Reed, junior Paige Christy and sophomore Lauren LaVilla.
"They are looking around and (seeing) they have depth, not just in numbers but experience," Dortch said. "They're competing at levels they previously were unable to. Everywhere you look, there's talent and strength."
Also at Mason, Christy placed third in the 100 back (1:04.19) and eighth in the 100 butterfly (1:06.72) and freshman Makenna Garn was fifth in the 100 breast (1:12.53).
"(Garn) is probably one of the better young, up-and-coming breaststrokers in the district," Dortch said. "I have a lot of high hopes for her. It's not just the girls who have made district or state contributing to the team. Everyone is helping."
Other expected contributors include seniors Megan Phillips and Lexi Smith, sophomore Abby Rainey and freshman Emily Green.
"I'm definitely a freestyler and I'm a sprinter. I don't like the distance events all that much," Phillips said. "It's early, but I know we will get stronger at the end. We haven't talked a lot about (expectations) yet. I don't know specifically what Justin wants. Right now, I expect more relays to get to district anyway. We're able to qualify for those times now."
Basketball teams sweep Panthers
The girls basketball team continued its dominance of North with a 73-29 road win Dec. 7, and the boys team dusted off two losses last season to its crosstown rival with an 80-67 victory over the Panthers later that night.
Maliya Perry had a game-high 20 points and Felesia Ondongo scored 12 to pace the girls team, which is 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division entering a Friday, Dec. 14, game at Lancaster.
Central scored the first eight points against North, and after the Panthers got within two points, reeled off a 13-0 run to lead 21-6 after the first quarter. A 15-0 run put the Tigers ahead 53-20 after three quarters as they defeated North for the eighth consecutive time.
"We played too fast for a little while, especially in the half-court. We weren't as patient as I'd like us to be running our sets and things like that," coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. "I want to attack better. Sometimes, I felt like we were a little out of control, so we talked about being under control and making better decisions. That's what we worked on (as well as) defending better.
"We've made good choices quite a bit in transition, but we could do a lot better."
Jahvon Garcia had a career-high 28 points to lead the boys team, which is 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the league as it prepares for a Dec. 14 home game against Lancaster.
Coleton Landis and Sam Towns each added 13 points for the Tigers, who led only 24-19 midway through the second quarter but steadily pulled away in the third and led by as many as 22 points early in the fourth.
"We got out, made it hard for them to score and then pushed the ball," coach Eric Krueger said. "We played instinctive, easier basketball. We've been on the guys about getting stops defensively and then getting out in transition."
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 1 -- Mason Invitational
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 14-15 -- Northwest Classic at Bowling Green
Dec. 29 -- Stampede Cloverleaf Invitational at The College of Wooster
Jan. 4 -- Olentangy Liberty at Liberty Township/Powell YMCA
Jan. 5 -- Southeast Classic Invitational at Ohio University
Jan. 12 -- Central Ohio Splash Invitational at Thomas Worthington and Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 19 -- Presidential Pentathlon at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Ohio meet at Upper Arlington
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 14 -- Home vs. Lancaster
Dec. 18 -- Home vs. Groveport
*Dec. 14 -- At Lancaster
Dec. 18 -- At Groveport
*Dec. 13 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Capri Lanes
*Dec. 18 -- Reynoldsburg at Rule 3
Dec. 14-15 -- Liberty Classic at Olentangy Liberty