Learning to excel after what his older siblings accomplished for the Gahanna Lincoln swimming and diving program has been a process for senior Johnny Belli.
His sister, 2014 graduate Morgan Belli, was a four-time state qualifier who placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke and eighth in the 200 individual medley at the Division I state meet as a senior. She went on to compete for Kentucky.
Then there's his brother, 2017 graduate Major Belli, who finished seventh in the 50 freestyle as a senior and also was a standout in baseball and now is a student at Alabama.
Although Johnny Belli could end up playing baseball in college, he's got a few more weeks of competition with the boys swimming team remaining.
"Carrying on the family legacy has been a challenge I've come to own and enjoy," said Belli, whose younger sister, freshman Marie Belli, is on the girls swimming team. "Having a little added pressure really makes me go the extra lap in the pool and the extra rep in the gym."
Belli helped lead the boys team to its third consecutive OCC-Ohio Division championship Jan. 26 at Kenyon College.
The Lions scored 484.5 points to edge runner-up Pickerington North (468).
Reynoldsburg (284) was third, followed by Grove City (229), Pickerington Central (205.5) and Lancaster (202).
The Lions' next meet is a Division I sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington.
In last year's postseason, Belli finished 11th in the 100 backstroke and 13th in the 100 butterfly and swam on the 400 free relay that placed eighth and the 200 free relay that placed ninth at district.
"I've been swimming a little bit of everything," Belli said. "I've been going career-bests and I think that's a good sign that I'll be going career-bests and even some record times at the end of the season.
"The biggest thing we focus on is eating healthy and staying healthy. As a team, we (wanted) to win our league championship meet and have a large amount of swimmers continue on into sectionals, districts and states."
In the league meet, Belli captured titles in the 100 fly (52.26) and 100 back (54.91), was on the winning 200 free relay with McCord Riegler, Derek Yu and Darin Fields (1:33.76) and was on the runner-up 400 free relay (3:29.5) with Fields, Riegler and Nathan Vogelgesang.
Riegler won both the 200 IM (2:03.4) and 100 breast (1:01.5), Yu placed third in the 100 breast (1:04.2) and the 200 medley relay of Gilger, Morgan Govekar, Vogelgesang and Yu was third (1:48.41).
"(Johnny is) pretty good at everything," coach Jeff Riegler said. "Major swam more year-round, where Johnny does just high school because he's more into baseball, but he starts swimming with me in the middle of September and swims five months out of the year, so it's pretty impressive what he's been able to do. His sprinting has gotten a lot better."
Girls swimmers also roll to league title
The girls swimming and diving team also defended its OCC-Ohio championship Jan. 26 at Kenyon College, scoring 623 points to finish well ahead of runner-up North (473) as well as Lancaster (230), Grove City and Reynoldsburg (197) and Central (129).
The Lions don't compete again until a Division I sectional Feb. 8 at Thomas Worthington. Last season, they were sectional runners-up, advancing six individuals and all three relays to district.
"The girls' season has been going really well," said junior Olivia Zeltman, who is one of the team's top distance swimmers. "The most important thing we're working on as a team is staying healthy as the season is coming to an end to get the most out of our season."
In the league meet, Gahanna got titles from Marie Belli in the 100 fly (56.31) and 200 IM (2:06.75), Stella Brofford in the 500 free (5:21.06), Kendall Hitler in the 50 free (24.83) and 100 back (1:00.55), Sami Kiss in the 100 breast (1:08.32), Ashleigh Provan in diving (447.45), Reagan Reetz in the 200 free (1:55.7) and 100 free (54.53), the 200 medley relay of Belli, Eloise Fisher, Kiss and Hitler (1:49.92), the 200 free relay of Belli, Kiss, Brofford and Reetz (1:42.08) and the 400 free relay of Reetz, Gwyneth Payton, Brofford and Hitler (3:42.51).
Fisher was runner-up in the 100 breast (1:09.3), Kiss placed second in the 200 IM (2:13.69), Vicky Miller was second in diving (339.7) and Payton was third in the 200 free (2:00.87).
Girls basketball team out to continue roll
The girls basketball team has been among central Ohio's hottest teams since losing to Watterson 49-37 on Dec. 14 to fall to 2-5.
Since then, Gahanna has won 10 of 11 games and is 12-6 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Ohio after beating Pickerington North 55-24 on Jan. 24 and Dublin Coffman 59-55 on Jan. 25. The Shamrocks dropped to 16-2 with the loss to the Lions.
After beating Pickerington Central 68-63 on Jan. 10 to snap the Tigers' 16-game league winning streak and avenge a 61-56 loss to the Tigers on Dec. 3, Gahanna beat Reynoldsburg 75-56 on Jan. 16, Centerville 68-64 on Jan. 19 in the Classic in the Country at Berlin Hiland and New Albany 65-40 on Jan. 21.
The Lions' last loss was to Hiland, 58-47 on Dec. 23.
"Pick Central has been a great program for years now and they're going to continue to be a great program," coach Ron Bailey said. "We're preaching a lot (about) sticking together in our faith."
Senior guard Edyn Battle is averaging 17 points to lead the Lions, who also have received steady offensive contributions from senior guards Morgan Darnell and Kyla Smith, senior forward Kennadi Harris, sophomore forwards Gabby Anderson and Bella Ward and junior forward Naomi Johnson.
"(Battle) has really stepped up," Bailey said. "Her and Morgan, as far as pushing the ball, they're our engine. We depend on Edyn to do a lot of our scoring. If she's having an off night, it'll affect our team."
Slone named girls volleyball coach
Ashanti Slone has been named girls volleyball coach, pending board approval, after spending the past three seasons as an assistant for the Lions.
A 2008 Westerville Central graduate who also coaches at the club level for Advancement Academy, Slone replaces Molly Martin, who guided the Lions to a 46-24 record over three seasons and a Division I district title in 2017.
Martin stepped down after last season, in which Gahanna went 17-6 and won the OCC-Ohio championship.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 31 -- At Grove City. The Lions beat the Greyhounds 67-37 on Dec. 20.
Feb. 4 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. Grove City. The Lions beat the Greyhounds 58-31 on Dec. 20.
Feb. 4 -- At Westerville Central
*Jan. 4 -- Columbus Academy at HP Lanes
Feb. 1 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier at Sports Plus Cincinnati
*Feb. 2 -- Springboro at Chiller Easton
*Jan. 30 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central