The Dublin Jerome boys swimming and diving team has taken the approach that the more work it puts in, the better the results will be, especially late in the season.
With that in mind, the Celtics were busier with weight training and conditioning this winter than they were in past seasons.
It created some demanding moments that they believe are beginning to pay off.
"The boys team has been doing very well this year," senior Reno James said. "We're always excited and ready for the next challenge. We're still training hard as of right now, but as we go into the postseason we will lay off the tough training and focus on swimming as fast as we can. Our team is excited for the postseason because we've been swimming fast even when we're tired and worn down. We'll do very well (in the postseason) this year."
Jerome scored 543.5 points in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet Jan. 26 at Kenyon College to capture its sixth consecutive league championship and eighth in nine seasons, finishing well ahead of runner-up Hilliard Darby (328).
The postseason begins Feb. 8 with a Division I sectional at Kenyon.
Last season, the Celtics were sectional runners-up but won the district title.
"It's been going pretty well," coach Patrick Johnston said. "I'm very happy with how the team's doing. Our lifting schedule is a little bit different this year. We've been lifting Thursday and Friday going into every meet, so the kids are a little bit more broken down because of that. ... It's trying to keep the kids positive about the extra challenge this year."
James and fellow seniors Austin Davis and Ian Smith swam on the 200-yard freestyle relay along with 2019 graduate Max Scott that shared the state title in 2018. The same four swam on the 400 free relay that placed third at state last season.
Scott, who is now competing for Indiana University, has been replaced on the 400 free relay by sophomore Carson Smith.
At the league meet, James won the 200 individual medley (1:57.47) and placed third in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.71), Ian Smith finished first in the 100 free (47.87) and second in the 50 free (21.64), sophomore Alex Davis was first in the 100 backstroke (54.93), Carson Smith was runner-up in both the 200 IM (2:00.07) and 500 free (4:49.32), senior Patrick Wellman was runner-up in the 100 butterfly (53.58), the 200 medley relay of Alex Davis, senior Ronith Doddi, Wellman and junior Austin Wyner was runner-up (1:42.11) and the 200 free relay of Ian Smith, Austin Davis, Carson Smith and James (1:29.56) and the 400 free relay of James, Carson Smith, Austin Davis and Ian Smith both finished first (3:15.46).
James, a Cleveland State commit, competed in the 200 IM at state each of the past two seasons and the 100 breast at state last winter but is planning to swim the 100 fly instead of the 100 breast in addition to the 200 IM in this year's postseason.
"I used to do the 100 breaststroke, but my coach and I think I have a better shot at the 100 fly this year because (I've) improved a lot (in that event)," James said. "I'm excited to see where it will take me."
Girls swimmers also add to title streak
The girls swimming and diving team captured its third consecutive league championship and sixth in eighth seasons by scoring 499 points in the OCC-Cardinal meet Jan. 26 at Kenyon, well ahead of runner-up Olentangy Berlin (361).
"I'm very excited for the girls team going into the postseason," senior Maya Geringer said. "There were a lot of talented freshmen that came in this year and they bring such great energy to the team and work so hard. With them, we have a lot more depth and have high expectations for all three relays going into the postseason. It's exciting to see such a dedicated group of girls' hard work pay off."
Geringer, an Ohio State commit who was the Division I state runner-up last season in the 500 free, has been among the team's leaders all season, according to Johnston.
At the league meet, she won both the 200 free (1:58.83) and 500 free (5:21), while senior Alyssa Heinlen finished first in diving (392.15), freshman Libby Grether was first in the 100 back (59.22) and the 400 free relay of Geringer, sophomore Michelle Yang, sophomore Kelsey Cooper and Grether was first (3:48.19).
Freshman Ashlyn Walter placed second in the 500 free (5:38.31) and Cooper was second in the 100 back (1:00.77).
"Libby Grether is a freshman who's come in and done really well on the girls side," Johnston said. "She's shown versatility to be on the 100 fly, 100 back or 200 free and it'll be tough to figure out where to place her (for the postseason). Maya, of course, is doing fantastic. (Sophomore) Lauren Smith is a girl who's been training incredibly well in the pool and in the weight room and I'm excited to see what she can do at the end of the season."
Hockey team taking strides forward
An inexperienced roster combined with a challenging December schedule equaled a slow start for the hockey team.
Things gradually have started to come together for the Celtics, who beat Berlin 4-1 on Jan. 24 and Cincinnati Moeller 5-1 on Jan. 26 and have won five games in a row.
Jerome is 14-10-1-1 overall and 5-4-1-1 in the CHC-Red Division.
"I wouldn't write us off," coach Pat Murphy said. "I think we could have a strong (rest) of the season and try to do some damage when we get to the Blue Jackets Cup and state tournament. I wouldn't see us being a top seed. We're probably (the fifth-best team in the area) right now, which hasn't happened in a long time."
The play of junior forwards Evan Halligan and Joel Kunzelman supports the assertion that the Celtics' best hockey this season could remain ahead of them. Through 24 games, Halligan had 15 goals and nine assists and Kunzelman had 10 goals and five assists.
Halligan missed most of last season with an injury while Kunzelman served a complementary role in last year's run to a state runner-up finish.
Senior forward Matt Kish, who had 15 goals and 13 assists through 24 games, also has been a key scorer.
In goal, senior Ryan Norkin is 7-7-1-1 and Nikolas Wagner is 7-3.
Senior forwards Adam Booth, Nolan Kunzelman and Avery Mlicki have played key leadership roles for the Celtics, according to Murphy.
The Blue Jackets Cup tournament begins Feb. 13.
Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 31 -- At Hilliard Darby. The Celtics lost to the Panthers 43-41 on Jan. 3.
*Feb. 4 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley. The Celtics lost to the Jaguars 37-21 on Dec. 20.
*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. Darby. The Celtics beat the Panthers 37-17 on Jan. 3.
*Feb. 4 -- At Bradley. The Celtics lost to the Jaguars 47-29 on Dec. 20.
Feb. 1 -- Win the Day Invitational at Cincinnati Anderson
Feb. 4 -- At Coffman with Marysville, *Olentangy Berlin, Scioto and *Thomas Worthington
*Jan. 31 -- Olentangy at Chiller North
*Feb. 1 -- New Albany at Chiller Dublin
*Jan. 30 -- At Darby
Feb. 1 -- New Lexington Invitational