New Albany Roundup: Swimming team's Sydney Boals eyes big finish
Time is flying by for Sydney Boals, and not just in the sense that her varsity swimming career is winding down.
Practice time has been about half of what it was a year ago for Boals and her New Albany teammates because of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions, so whatever time they get in the pool takes on added importance.
Even with preparation at a premium, Boals, a Florida State recruit who competed in four events at last year’s Division I state meet, is posting the times she wants to see entering the postseason, which begins Feb. 13 with a home sectional.
“I feel like I’m still getting the training I need. Even during dual meets, I’ve liked my times. Considering everything that is going on, everything is going great,” Boals said. “I’ve been trying to do stuff on my own to help myself get better.”
Strong swims over the next few weeks could give Boals the rare distinction of finishing her high school career as a five-time state qualifier. Boals qualified three times at Ward Melville in East Setuaket, New York, thanks to a rule that allows eighth-graders to compete on varsity in that state, and she earned four top-nine finishes at state a year ago with New Albany.
Boals was on the runner-up 200-yard freestyle relay with 2020 graduates Lexi Elkovitch and Mia Lachey – who now compete at Villanova and Ohio State, respectively – and Carly Meeting. All of the third-place 200 medley relay returned, a group rounded out by UC Santa Barbara commit Olivia Hovorka, USC commit Ava Lachey and Meeting, and individually Boals was seventh in the 200 individual medley and ninth in the 100 breaststroke.
“She has a lot of power. She’s a strong girl,” coach Dave Wharton said of Boals. “She seems to have put the whole thing (the IM) together well from start to finish. As a breaststroker, she has qualities of all the strokes. She can swim backstroke, she can swim fly, she can swim them all.”
Boals attended school in New Albany through seventh grade, when her father, Jeff, was an assistant coach with the Ohio State men’s basketball team. He became coach at Stony Brook in April 2016, necessitating the family’s move to Long Island, and they returned to Ohio three years later when he was hired as head coach at Ohio University.
“We knew what a strong swimmer she’d become,” Wharton said. “She’s a leader in her abilities and she’s a lot of fun. That’s a part of the culture, part of having a good, well-rounded program.”
Boals’ career-best times in her primary events are 1 minute, 4.5 seconds in the 100 breast and 2:03.7 in the 200 IM, both of which she achieved at last year’s district meet. Her best times in those events this season are 1:04.9 and 2:04.2.
From the sectional level, the top 24 in individual events and the top 16 relays qualify for district Feb. 21 at Bowling Green.
“Matching those times when I was suited up and tapered and only having the six hours of practice per week, that’s hard to do now, but it’s great for me seeing myself matching those times with less training,” Boals said. “I was pretty scared going into state (last year). I realized we had one of the toughest high-school meets in the country, so going in I was really nervous but I had my friends there and they helped and pushed me into becoming the swimmer that I am.”
Boys basketball team
leaning on defense
Despite its struggles after a two-week quarantine in mid-January, the boys basketball team has continued to rely on a stingy defense that coach Ryan Grashel said goes beyond what is reflected in a scorebook.
New Albany was 4-9 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Westland on Feb. 5, having allowed an average of 51.7 points per game. The Eagles had given up more than 58 points just three times and 43 or fewer points four times.
“It’s one of these things that we really do need to continue better (defensively), but we realize we’re playing low-possession games and those defensive stops matter,” Grashel said. “Michael (Berko) took four charges against Pickerington North (in a 40-34 loss Jan. 8) and he’s taken probably somewhere between 15 and 20 this year. He’s doing a nice job on the defensive end even if that doesn’t show in a box score.
“Josh Evans is another guy who’s doing some dirty work, defending the other team’s best wing player every night. He’s rebounding his tail off. That’s been big night in and night out.”
The Eagles lost five of their first six games after their quarantine. Their win in that stretch came Jan. 26, 62-43 at Canal Winchester behind 14 points from freshman Braylon Nash.
According to Grashel, Nash entered quarantine the next day and will be eligible to return Feb. 12 at North.
The boys and girls bowling teams are scheduled to wrap up their regular season Feb. 15 with a home match against Olentangy Liberty at Gahanna Lanes, then face the possibility of two tournaments in less than a week to advance in the postseason.
The girls team will participate in session 1 of the Division I sectional tournament Feb. 17 at HP Lanes, and the boys will bowl in session 1 of their sectional two days later in the same facility.
For both boys and girls, the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 22 at HP Lanes.
The boys were 9-1 overall and in the COHSBC-A and 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before a Feb. 4 match against Westerville South. The girls were 6-3 overall and in the COHSBC-A and 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before Feb. 4.