When senior Zak Birnbrich isn't competing for the Dublin Coffman High School boys swimming and diving team, he might be found tearing apart or putting together a computer.
The veteran of three previous Division I state meets believes the lessons he has learned in the water will be beneficial in the long run as he considers studying mechanical engineering in college.
"Swimming has prepared me for my future, getting up at 5 o'clock every morning and going lifting and being on time for places," Birnbrich said. "Swimming has helped me with being more disciplined. If you have fun with it, you'll do great. If you're not having fun with what you're doing, you're not going to do great. It works with both engineering and swimming."
The Shamrocks will compete in the OCC-Central Division meet Saturday, Jan. 26, at Upper Arlington.
Birnbrich will begin his final prep postseason Feb. 9 with a sectional at Kenyon College.
He's the only returnee from the 200-yard medley relay that finished fourth at state last season in 1 minute, 34.32 seconds and is one of two returnees, along with senior Andy Shepard, from the 400 freestyle relay that finished ninth (3:09.83) at state a year ago. He also swam on the 200 free relay that was disqualified from the B final at state.
Birnbrich's best individual event is the 100 butterfly, in which he finished ninth (50.64) at state last season.
"The guys are doing really well this year," Birnbrich said. "We gained three freshmen, and one of them (Zach Stump) is already taking over some spots on relays. We're looking pretty strong this year.
"Constant training is a big part of it. We swim six days a week and lift four days a week. In club meets, I do the 200 fly, and that's probably one of the most hated events in club meets because it's such a tiring event. It all comes down to mentality. I started swimming competitively four years ago, so I haven't been swimming competitively for that long, but in the time span, I've been dropping my times every single year."
Birnbrich, who lists making the state podium in the 100 fly as one of his biggest goals, has not yet decided if he's going to swim collegiately.
On Jan. 12 in the Northeast Classic at Branin Natatorium in Canton, Birnbrich finished third in the 100 fly (51.8) and 13th in the 50 free (22.37) and Ethan Shaw placed fourth in the 500 free (4:47.74) as Coffman finished seventh (129 points) behind champion Jerome (232) as 42 teams scored.
"(Birnbrich is) doing well," coach Steve VonSchriltz said. "He's ahead of schedule on his fly. We're starting to fine-tune things and get going.
"Will Randall and Andy Shepard are ahead of where they were last year. My backstroker is a freshman, Zach Stump, and he's doing great."
Girls swimmers prep for year's big meets
Like the boys team, the girls swimming and diving team heads into the OCC-Central meet after finishing second in the league last season.
On Jan. 12, the Shamrocks finished fifth (145) in the Northeast Classic behind champion North Canton Hoover (243) as 48 teams scored.
Hannah Bailey finished second in the 100 fly (55.8) and fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.26), Kristyn Sabol placed fourth in the 200 free (1:54.59) and eighth in the 100 fly (57.95) and Ellie Andrews was fifth in the 200 individual medley (2:07.42) and sixth in the 100 breast (1:04.95).
In addition, Andrews, Bailey, Sabol and Ryoka Nishibori were runners-up in the 400 free relay (3:32.12) and placed sixth in the 200 medley relay (1:47.26).
"The girls medley is going to be strong and the 400 free relay is going to be really strong," VonSchriltz said. "I like where we're at. Our next focus is sectionals and district."
Boys basketball team focusing on present
Since Jamey Collins took over as coach for the 2002-03 season, the boys basketball team has experienced great starts before, but never as good as this.
The Shamrocks won their first 12 games of the 2014-15 regular season on their way to a 22-2 finish.
Before playing Olentangy Orange on Jan. 22, Coffman was 13-0 overall after having its game Jan. 19 against Northland postponed because of bad weather. Collins is hoping the game against the perennially strong City League opponent can be rescheduled.
The Shamrocks, who were ranked third in the Division I area coaches poll and sixth in the state poll last week, are 6-0 in the OCC-Central heading into their game Friday, Jan. 25, at home against Westland.
"We've had a lot of seasons where we were 9-0, 10-0, 11-0, but we've never gotten to 13-0," Collins said. "With these OCC schedules, there are so many pitfalls, it's hard to do that. It's been a day-by-day thing where you haven't really looked at it as a big-picture thing. It's a veteran group. For me, it's been like one long carryover from last season."
Junior guard Dominiq Penn, who scored his 1,000th career point in a 58-34 victory over Upper Arlington on Jan. 11 and has 1,050 overall, had 15 points in a 64-54 victory over Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 18.
Through 13 games, Penn was averaging 19.2 points, followed by senior wing player Luke Bartemes (15.7), senior forward Will Hunter (10.1), senior forward Derek Van Vlerah (8.6) and junior guard Keaton Turner (8.1).
Against Davidson, Turner scored eight of his 22 points during a fourth quarter in which Coffman outscored the Wildcats 25-14.
Senior guard Grant Yeater, who had 11 points against UA and was averaging 6.3 through 13 games, and senior guard/forward Jack Greenwalt also should play key roles for the remainder of the season.
Greenwalt has missed all of January with a groin injury but was nearing his return as the week began.
"We've got so many seniors, and (Turner) played almost the whole game (against Davidson)," Collins said. "He's a little shifty guy that's really hard to guard. Will Hunter is having an outstanding year.
"We got thrown off a little bit with the injury to Jack Greenwalt. Jack has some experience, so it'll be nice having him back. When you're a senior and it's your last season, you're going to play through the pain."
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 25 -- Home vs. Westland. The Shamrocks beat the Cougars 86-46 on Dec. 14.
Jan. 29 -- At Olentangy
*Jan. 24 -- At Westland. The Shamrocks beat the Cougars 93-20 on Dec. 14.
Jan. 26 -- Eastmoor Academy in Nubian Classic at Africentric
Jan. 29 -- At Westerville South
Jan. 29 -- Home vs. Delaware, Grove City, *Marysville and Westerville Central
*Jan. 25 -- Gahanna at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 26 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller Dublin. The Shamrocks lost to the Crusaders 3-2 on Jan. 19.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Central meet at UA
*Jan. 24 -- Home vs. Westland
Jan. 26 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware