Pickerington High School Central swimming coach Justin Dortch thinks his favorite memory of Nathen Eberhardt could change in the next month as the senior wraps up an outstanding career.
For now, it's a vow that Eberhardt made -- and proceeded to follow through on -- during a summer meet when he was 13 years old and swimming for Dortch at the Jerry Garver YMCA.
"Right before he swam the 200 (-yard individual medley), he told me he was going to go fast enough to make zones," Dortch said, referring to the regional level for club swimmers. "Then he went out and dropped 18 seconds off his time. It was that moment that I knew he was different."
Reminded of that race after a practice last week, Eberhardt laughed and shrugged.
"I've always just been one to push myself and try to become better," he said. "I went into that race and wanted a best time and it showed."
The Cleveland State recruit owns four individual program records and was part of the record-setting 200 medley relay, but he has his eye on becoming Central's all-time best in the other four individual events during the season's stretch run, which begins Saturday, Jan. 26, with the OCC-Ohio Division meet at Upper Arlington.
Eberhardt, who placed 16th in the 100 backstroke at last year's Division I state meet, currently is the program's record holder in the 100 back (51.96), 200 freestyle (1:43.02), 200 IM (1:56.65) and 500 free (4:50.12). He was part of the 200 medley relay that swam a record 1:42.33 in the district meet two years ago.
Eberhardt set the 100 back record in the state meet, the 200 IM mark in the Northeast Classic on Jan. 12 at Branin Natatorium in Canton -- where state is held each year -- and the 500 free time in the Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational on Dec. 8 at Ohio State.
"Those motivate me at practice to try a little harder," Eberhardt said.
Dortch is not surprised at Eberhardt's accomplishments, but rather at their timing.
"Nate hasn't done anything I didn't think he was capable of, but he's farther along than I thought he would be," Dortch said. "I've coached him since he was 10 and Nate does everything well. He doesn't do everything perfectly. I've had better butterfly guys. I've had better sprint freestylers and distance freestylers, but I've never had anybody do everything as well as he does. He is the most all-around swimmer I've ever seen come through this school. He does not have a deficient stroke."
Acknowledging that breaststroke is his weakest event, Eberhardt said freestyle is the one at which he works the hardest.
"These times are what I want to be going right now," he said. "It just is about how hard I am working. The 200 free (time) was a long time coming. I do a ton of freestyle in practice and that came across at the Northeast Classic."
Eberhardt still is chasing the program records in the 50 free, 100 breast, 100 fly and 100 free.
This weekend, the boys team will try to improve on its sixth-place finish in the league meet last year, when they scored 113.5 points to finish behind Gahanna (297), Lancaster (238), Reynoldsburg (200.5), Pickerington North (178) and Grove City (172).
The girls finished fourth (133) in last year's league meet behind North (389), Gahanna (249) and Lancaster (229) and ahead of Grove City (116) and Reynoldsburg (77).
"(The league meet) is almost business as usual for us, working hard and trying to improve the little things," Eberhardt said. "But I'm excited for what's to come."
Girls basketball team routs Panthers
Ranked first in last week's Division I state poll, the girls basketball team focused on defense and intensity as it sought its ninth consecutive win over North.
Central used exactly that formula to seal the result early, scoring five consecutive baskets off turnovers during an 18-0 run spanning the first two quarters that led to a 79-34 rout of the Panthers.
Maliya Perry scored a game-high 21 points and Maliya Perry and Nicole Stephens each added 15 points for the Tigers, who built a 39-9 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter.
"We've been emphasizing defense and executing off of turnovers," said Stephens, a junior guard who committed to Akron on Jan. 17. "Our trap creates a lot because we were able to go right in for layups and my teammates found myself for some shots."
Central followed that up with a 50-43 win over Kettering Fairmont on Jan. 21 in Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland and was 14-1 overall before playing Westerville Central on Jan. 22. The Tigers are 7-0 in the OCC-Ohio entering a Friday, Jan. 25, home game against Lancaster.
The Tigers can clinch at least a tie for their fourth consecutive league championship with a win over Lancaster. Central is two games ahead of second-place Reynoldsburg, which plays Grove City on Jan. 25, with three games remaining.
"We just tell our girls that every team is going to come in here and give their best and we always have to be prepared to handle that. We have to come out aggressive and with a lot of energy," coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. "We missed a few layups in the beginning, but once we got into a groove there and some shots went into the net, the game got easier and we created some turnovers leading to more opportunities."
Greene and Perry were announced last week as nominees for the McDonald's All-American games, scheduled for March 27 in Atlanta. Rosters will be announced Thursday, Jan. 24.
Boys team bounces back from first loss
The boys basketball team fell to visiting North 65-55 on Jan. 18 for its first loss of the season, but recovered in a big way by defeating Trotwood-Madison, this week's top-ranked team in Division II, 95-80 on Jan. 21 in Flyin' to the Hoop at Kettering Fairmont.
Jahvon Garcia scored a career-high 32 points and recorded seven rebounds and four assists, and Garner Wallace added a career-high 24 points with 10 rebounds and four assists.
Jaidon Lipscomb scored 11 points and Elhadji Thiam 10 for Central, which was 13-1 overall before playing Westerville Central on Jan. 22.
The Tigers are ranked sixth in Division I.
Garcia had 20 points, four assists and three steals and Wallace added 14 points and eight rebounds against North. Central trailed 14-5 after the first quarter and 58-47 with less than two minutes to play before pulling within five points twice in the final minute.
Central, which is 5-1 in the OCC-Ohio and tied for first with North, will visit Lancaster on Friday, Jan. 25, in league play and play host to Garfield Heights the next day in the nightcap of the six-game Jared Sullinger Ohio Scholastic Play by Play Classic.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 25 -- At Lancaster. The Tigers defeated the Golden Gales 90-34 on Dec. 14.
Jan. 26 -- Home vs. Garfield Heights in Jared Sullinger Ohio Scholastic Play by Play Classic
*Jan. 25 -- Home vs. Lancaster. The Tigers defeated the Golden Gales 58-24 on Dec. 14.
Jan. 26 -- Louisville (Ky.) Sacred Heart Academy at Raatz Fence/O'Shea's Classic at Louisville (Ky.) Mercy Academy
*Jan. 28 -- Groveport at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
*Jan. 30 -- Hilliard Davidson at Rule 3
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Ohio meet at Upper Arlington
*Jan. 24 -- Home vs. Grove City and Lancaster
Jan. 26 -- Washington Court House Bracket Tournament