Hunter Johnson has been a quick study for the Bexley boys swimming and diving team.
Joining the program as a sophomore, the senior has developed into one of the Lions' top performers and leaders.
Some friends persuaded Johnson to start swimming for Bexley, and he fell in love with the competitive nature of the sport.
"A few of my good friends were (in the program) and they spoke highly of it so I decided to give it a try," he said. "Coach (Sandy Sliwowski) has gotten me motivated and helped develop my character and my work ethic that has brought me this far. I knew how to swim when I got here as a sophomore, but she really helped me with my strokes."
Johnson was a Division II district qualifier last season in the 200-yard freestyle and 500 free. He finished 17th in the 200 free (2 minutes, 5.78 seconds) and 21st in the 500 free (5:47.46).
"It's been a total transformation from his sophomore year until now," Sliwowski said. "I think a big part of that is being more confident with what it is that he can do in the pool and trusting himself."
Johnson found his niche when he began to excel in the 100 butterfly. He likes the challenge of the stroke and getting into its rhythm.
"I enjoy the fly more because there's more to it," he said. "Definitely the rhythm is the most important thing in the fly. Strength is kind of a second thing, but if you get your rhythm wrong you're not moving as much as you want to be.
"It really has to do with your kick. It actually took awhile for me to understand everything. I really didn't get it down until the beginning of this season. I worked over the summer on it a lot. It's kind of trial and error and seeing what works best for you."
Johnson loved swimming so much that he decided to give water polo a try, starting in the fall of his junior year.
"I practice at St. Charles with the Columbus (club) water polo team, and this was my second year," he said. "In water polo, swimming is kind of a precursor. Plus, I dove into swimming and really loved it so I decided to take it as far as I could and see what else I can do with it."
Johnson also competes with the track and field program, throwing the discus and shot put. In the MSL-Ohio Division meet last spring, he was runner-up in the discus (121 feet, 7 1/2 inches).
"Honestly it's a pretty big switch when you go into track because it uses a lot of different muscle groups," Johnson said. "I feel like it does help with my balance, which doesn't seem like a big thing in the pool but it really is. I think it really gives me a better sense of where my body is."
The Lions are preparing for the MSL meet Saturday, Jan. 25, at Columbus Academy. Johnson wants to get a sense of where he is heading into the postseason, which begins with a sectional Feb. 8 at Academy.
"I would like to get around 2:00 in the 200 free and under 1:00 in the 100 fly," said Johnson, whose best performance in the 100 fly is 1:02. "I would like to continue to advance in that meet because if I do well it's a good sign for me to do better in sectional and district."
Johnson has a 3.87 GPA and would like to study biology or psychology in college at Butler, Dayton or Elon.
"One of the main things as a senior is that we have a lot of new kids and I kind of help direct them like the upperclassmen did for me," he said. "It's one of the bigger roles. You need to be a role model and help people find ways to excel and find their place on the team."
Sliwowski said Johnson exemplifies that leadership role.
"The other gentlemen on the team look to him and kind of follow suit," she said. "If he is doing what he is supposed to be doing, the other gentlemen on the team do as well. If they have questions, he's the first one they go to for answers."
Girls team knocks off league leader
The girls basketball team handed Worthington Christian its first MSL-Ohio loss, defeating the host Warriors 43-31 on Jan. 18.
"We played with more energy and effort than they did," said coach Brycen Baugh, whose team lost to the Warriors 39-26 on Dec. 6. "We set the tone early by handling their pressure and turning that into easy points."
Maddy Young had 20 points with three 3-pointers and Sofia Sheridan added 11 points for the Lions, who were 6-8 overall and 5-3 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Academy on Jan. 21.
"Aly Cox and Grace Heilman did an excellent job of defending their two main scorers, Katherine Weakley and Meghan Mayotte," Baugh said. "When they did get free, we had excellent help from the rest of the team. Every time they tried to put a run together, we answered right away with a basket.
"Maddy Young was huge all night, bringing the ball down the floor and hitting key shots. Even though she scored 20, it was a whole team effort to handle the press and defend."
Sheridan scored 12 points and Young added eight as Bexley defeated Academy 44-32 on Jan. 14.
Brenner tops wrestlers at Licking Heights
The wrestling team had three competitors place in the Licking Heights Invitational on Jan. 17 and 18.
Carter Brenner (138 pounds) went 4-1 and finished third, defeating Celina's Jaden King 4-1 in the consolation final. Noah Lyons (152; 4-2) and Sean Palmer (106; 3-2) both placed fifth.
The Lions finished 13th (48.5) of 20 teams behind champion Westerville North (198.5).
Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 25 -- At Columbus Academy. The Lions lost to the Vikings 58-45 on Dec. 13.
Jan. 28 -- Home vs. Hamilton Township
*Jan. 24 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley. The Lions lost to the Barons 43-42 on Dec. 10.
Jan. 25 -- Home vs. Logan
*Jan. 28 -- At Grandview. The Lions defeated the Bobcats 53-36 on Dec. 14.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 25 -- MSL meet at Academy
Jan. 25 -- New Albany Invitational