The dominance the Chevington Woods Kingfish swimming team has shown for more than a decade in the Tri-County Aquatic League hasn't been without challenges.
The program draws mostly from the Pickerington school district, but the Pickerington Tiger Sharks and Huntington Hills Froggers draw from the same pool of athletes.
In the league meet held July 18 and 19 at Denison, the district's depth of talent kept things close but ultimately didn't prevent the Kingfish from winning their 15th consecutive championship.
"Each year is a new team," coach Kevin Yates said. "We get new kids and new competitors. Lots of teams in Pickerington are growing, which makes it a lot more competitive of a championship and a lot more fun. We have a lot of talent that's distributed around the city, which is a good sign for Pickerington Central and Pickerington North (high schools)."
The teams were divided into three divisions based on number of competitors.
Chevington Woods finished with 614 points to place ahead of the Pataskala Porpoises (480.5), the Tiger Sharks (430), the Froggers (422.5) and Bexley Marlins (361) in Division I.
In Division II, the Valley View Gators finished first (386), followed by the Groveport Fighting Fish (255.5), Moundbuilders Piranhas (232.5) and Johnstown-Northridge Jaguars (18).
The Muskingum Makos scored 125 points to win Division III ahead of the Canal Winchester Dolphins (122), Baltimore Sea Lions (96) and Granville Stingrays (83).
The Kingfish won 19 events, including 16 boys races.
Capturing two boys titles apiece were Andrew Taulbee in the 11-12 50-yard freestyle (25.61 seconds) and 50 breaststroke (31.76), Jaron Schwartz in the 11-12 50 backstroke (30.02) and 100 individual medley (1:06.68), Marcus Schwartz in the 13-14 50 free (23.26) and 50 breast (28.64) and Gabe Nervez in the 13-14 50 butterfly (24.97) and 100 IM (59.06).
Also winning for the boys were Kegan Tatman in the 6-and-under 25 back (26.24), Max Herrmann in the 9-10 25 back (17.66), Ethan Mumma in the 11-12 50 fly (30.19), Braden Hopkins in the 13-14 50 back (26.7), the 11-12 200 free relay of Jaron Schwartz, Ethan Bush, Mumma and Taulbee (1:48.32), the 11-12 200 medley relay of Jaron Schwartz, Bush, Mumma and Taulbee (1:59.69), the 13-14 200 free relay of Marcus Schwartz, Nervez, Layne Studer and Hopkins (1:36.29) and the 13-14 200 medley relay of Hopkins, Marcus Schwartz, Nervez and Aidan Eberhardt (1:44.39).
Winning for the girls were Elizabeth Bush in the 13-14 50 back (29.52) and the 13-14 200 free relay of Erin Piekenbrock, Bush, Macy Erickson and Eva-Jolie Persall (1:53.51).
Also winning a title was the mixed 18-and-under 200 free relay of Wil Borchers, Maddy Newsom, Emily Grube and Gavin Mumma (1:41.39).
"(Being the defending champion) makes us nervous because we don't want to let everyone down, but when you're with all your friends, it's really fun," said Marcus Schwartz, who will be a freshman at Pickerington North.
Veteran swimmers lead Tiger Sharks
The older swimmers in the Tiger Sharks' program helped it finish third overall.
Winning for the boys in the 15-18 age group were Brett Eberhardt in the 50 free (21.89), Nathen Eberhardt in the 100 back (52.29) and 50 fly (24.0), Blake Fry in the 100 breast (58.1), the 200 free relay of Joe Phillips, Fry, Brett Eberhardt and Nathen Eberhardt (1:31.22) and the 200 medley relay of Nathen Eberhardt, Fry, Phillips and Brett Eberhardt (1:38.84).
Also finishing first for the boys was Joe Zang in the 9-10 25 breast (20.73).
For the girls, winning titles were the 15-18 200 free relay of Kolya Larson, Cara Luallen, Olivia Ave and Mia Hensley (1:42.31) and the 15-18 200 medley relay of Hensley, Larson, Karly Hendrickson and Luallen (1:53.52).
"We've recruited a lot of people from Lancaster and Pickerington Central and it's a good, up-and-coming team," said Brett Eberhardt, who is a rising junior at Central.
Froggers win six events
The Froggers earned five girls titles and took first in one boys event.
For the girls, Grace Cherryholmes won the 15-18 100 IM (1:02.62), Kaci Naegle was first in the 13-14 50 free (26.7) and 50 fly (29.28), Natasha Spivak won the 13-14 50 breast (32.96) and the 13-14 200 medley relay of Morgan Lavilla, Spivak, Naegele and Chelsea Daniel also was first (2:05.84).
Winning for the boys was Jason Stelzer in the 9-10 25 fly (16.35).
Cherryholmes, a 2019 Pickerington North graduate who will compete for Saginaw Valley State, enjoys the competition against the Kingfish and Tiger Sharks.
"I like this meet because the energy is always so good," said Cherryholmes, who works at Chevington Woods. "A lot of the high schoolers know each other and a lot of us are on the same high school team but different summer league teams, so it's just kind of fun. Our team is pretty good this year. We did a good job of recruiting people."
Strong girls group leads Marlins
Bexley's depth among girls ages 7-12 stood out at the TCAL championships.
Miriam Schrimpf won the 7-8 25 back (21.03) and Elliott Klingelhofer won the 8-and-under 25 fly (19.53). Both also swam on the winning 8-and-under 100 free relay (1:13.39) with Jemma Gold and Georgia Buddendeck and on the first-place 8-and-under 100 medley relay (1:22.6) with Gold and Hazel Lee.
Other girls titles were won by Vivienne Hoy in the 9-10 25 breast (19.21), Hayden Harpe in the 9-10 25 fly (15.56), the 9-10 100 medley relay of Hoy, Harpe, Hadley Langolf and Charlotte Niedecken (1:07.56), Millie Evans in the 11-12 50 free (26.85) and 11-12 50 fly (28.45), Anja Hoy in the 11-12 50 back (30.09), the 11-12 200 free relay of Evans, Sarah Clous, Stella Litfin and Anja Hoy (1:58.97) and the 11-12 200 medley relay of Anja Hoy, Masha Shonia, Evans and Litfin (2:08.75).
Winning the boys team was Ayden Fortney in the 9-10 50 free (32.8) and 9-10 100 IM (1:21.12).
"Almost every swimmer is getting a personal best for the season," coach Taylor Pressler said. "We did have a small taper, but the events (in the league meet had) less to do with the taper and more to do with the hard work they've been putting in all summer."
Dyer wins title for Fighting Fish
Ava Dyer led the Fighting Fish with a title in the girls 11-12 100 IM (1:10.58).
Earning runner-up finishes for the Groveport girls were Maya Keane in the 11-12 50 breast (36.23), the 11-12 200 free relay of Keane, Gabby Hensel, Carley Monhollen and Emma Hamilton (2:02.16) and the 11-12 200 medley relay of Keane, Monhollen, Hamilton and Dyer (2:12.45).
Placing second for the boys was Spencer Keane in the 15-18 50 free (22.45) and 100 breast (58.83).
"We started at different levels and everyone's grown tremendously," coach Kori Pastor said. "It's a bigger team than last year. We've got a good 11-12 girls age group right now and a very strong 15-18 boys age group."
Bates, Haudenschilt lead Dolphins
With 82 swimmers, Canal Winchester had the most competitors among the four teams in Division III and ended up just short of the title.
Abbie Bates earned a runner-up finish in the girls 11-12 100 IM (1:11.91) and also was third in the 50 breast (36.24) while Claire Loeffler placed third in the girls 13-14 50 breast (38.01).
Leading the boys was Cooper Haudenschilt, who was runner-up in the 9-10 25 breast (21.8).
"We're doing great," said coach Hayley Elizondo, a 2016 Hartley graduate who competes for Marymount University. "Abbie Bates pulled out a 1:11 in the 100 IM and got second after being seeded third."