Senior Andrew Bernsdorf and junior Janessa Mathews have returned to lead the Westerville North High School boys and girls swimming and diving teams after reaching the awards podium in the Division I state meet last winter.
Mathews placed third in the 100-yard breaststroke in a program-record 1 minute, 1.6 seconds. It was her second consecutive third-place state finish in the event.
Bernsdorf, who has signed to compete at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, finished fifth in the 500 freestyle in 4:33.8.
"I think Andrew will have an outstanding year," fourth-year coach Rich Morris said. "He is so much stronger than he was (at state last) February, and he's preparing himself to go to college. He is going to have a really big year.
"Janessa has committed herself, and I think she will have a huge year. She has had a monster offseason and is getting faster and faster. When she's on, she really goes. She is one of five girls who could win the state (title) in the 100 breast. They all five could break 1:01 and one of them will break one minute, and I think it will be Janessa."
Mathews' brother, Jason Mathews, won his second consecutive state championship in the 100 breast last season, finishing in 54.76. The 2018 graduate and Ohio State swimmer won the event in 54.91 as a junior when competing for Pickerington North.
Morris is excited about the girls team, which has 19 swimmers and five divers.
"We have the largest girls team we have had in four years," he said. "We have depth that we have never had before."
Other top performers are senior Maggy Bolen, juniors Alaina Bernsdorf, Emma Bolen and Christy Harper, sophomores Allison Bolen and Allie Thompson and freshman Gwyneth Payton.
Thompson is one of 13 club swimmers for North. Morris said Thompson had a personal-best 57.2 in the 100 free last season but already has reached the 55-second mark this winter.
"I think (swimming club) helps a lot because now I'm in the pool a lot more," she said. "I swim year-round instead of just the winter. It helps me with my technique and I'm more prepared. (The club coaches) give us hard sets to do (in workouts)."
In the Ned Reeb Invitational on Dec. 7 and 8 at Ohio State, Thompson was 13th in the 100 free (56.24) and 16th in the 200 free (2:02.37).
North has 16 boys led by Andrew Bernsdorf, senior Chris Lake and sophomores Taylor Sanford and Hayden Yeager. In the Ned Reeb, Yeager placed 16th in the 100 butterfly (55.48) and 18th in the 100 breast (1:04.47).
Andrew Bernsdorf and Janessa Mathews did not compete, opting to participate in a U.S. Junior Nationals event in Greensboro, North Carolina.
"The boys team is going to be interesting," Morris said. "I think we are competitive with the other Westerville schools. We have Andrew, we have Hayden and Chris Lake, and Taylor Sanford should do well for us."
Morris doesn't like to set goals in terms of a performance time. He believes hard work day in and day out will help his swimmers in the long run.
"We have an idea (of times), but we remain focused on the process and how you get there," he said. "I really hope we have success in the water. I think we will. We're going to do everything we can as coaches to make sure these kids find that success."
Boys basketball team starts 0-2 in league
The boys basketball team began its title defense in the OCC-Buckeye Division by losing a pair of two-point contests.
The Warriors were 1-2 overall before playing Wellington on Dec. 11. They lost to Olentangy 65-63 on Nov. 30 and Westerville Central 57-55 on Dec. 7 in league games.
North finished 8-2 in the league last season.
Jeremiah Keene entered the week 31 points from reaching 1,000 for his career. The senior guard led the Warriors in scoring through three games, averaging 18.7 points, followed by Philip Alston (10.7) and Camden Ledford (7.3).
Girls basketball team starts season strongly
The girls basketball team has won three consecutive games to improve to 3-1 overall.
The Warriors are 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye, defeating Olentangy Orange 39-36 on Dec. 4 and Central 36-25 on Dec. 7. They also defeated Northland 41-40 on Nov. 29.
During the three-game winning streak, Charia Smith averaged a team-high 9.0 points, followed by Alyssa Wright (8.7), Imari Martin (6.0) and Mikayla Martin (5.0).
SWIMMING & DIVING
Nov. 30 -- Worthington Kickoff Classic Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Dec. 1 -- Columbus Academy Relays
Dec. 7-8 -- Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State
Dec. 14 -- Gahanna at Westerville Community Center
Dec. 21 -- Westerville Central and Westerville South at Westerville Community Center
Jan. 5 -- Groveport at Westerville Community Center
Jan. 12 -- Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton
Jan. 18 -- Canal Winchester at Westerville Community Center
Jan. 26-27 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and wrestling teams:
Jan. 15 -- Home vs. Watterson
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Dec. 14 -- At Olentangy
Dec. 17 -- Home vs. Licking Heights
Dec. 18 -- Home vs. New Albany
*Dec. 13 -- Olentangy Liberty at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 18 -- Big Walnut at Capri Lanes
Dec. 14-15 -- Liberty Classic