Swimming & Diving: New coach sees bright future for Pickerington Central Tigers

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
North's Regan Turnbull enjoys a moment during last season's Division I state meet after swimming in the 200-yard medley relay. Turnbull, a senior, is one of the top returnees for the Panthers. Also back from that relay are seniors Sydney Hopkins and Rylee Kreinbrink.

Pickerington Central swimming and diving coach Maura Parker entered her first year with the Tigers with a small roster — nine boys and nine girls — but with almost a third of them having competed in the Division I district meet last season.

Some of the athletes about whom she is most excited fall outside that group, which is one reason Parker is so encouraged about the program's prospects.

“It is a small team but I know the athletes come to practice with a love of the sport,” Parker said. “Each practice is uniquely designed to work on certain specifics. Each practice is different. With the underclassmen we have on the team now and witnessing how they train, in the next two to three years this team will be developed into something great.”

Boys senior Brett Eberhardt returns after competing at district in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free but coming up short of his first state berth. Girls juniors Makenna Garn (100 breaststroke) and Bella Jones (100 free) competed as individuals, and boys senior Alex Rowles and junior Ricky Caceres-Gamero were on qualifying relays.

“The boys team is lucky to have such a diverse group who can train any stroke and swim any event,” Parker said. “We have each stroke and event covered. If they were put in an event outside of their top stroke, I know we will be fine and they will (reach) great achievements.

“The girls team is really my technique group. So far this season, it has typically been (about) drills and underwater work. Working on the little improvements can go a long way with time, speed and form.”

Parker, a 2015 graduate of Olentangy who swam at Ursuline College, succeeded Justin Dortch over the summer. Dortch had coached both the Central and North teams for all but one season since 2013 but stepped down to focus on his law career.

Rounding out the Central boys roster are juniors Jared Everhart and Alex Shinaver, sophomores Cole Dashner and Doug Graham and freshmen Dom D’Errico and Isaac Schenk. The rest of the girls team consists of senior Jaida Plair, sophomores Riley Donovan, Abby Marquardt and Kathleen Mowery and freshmen Audrie Dashner, Carlie McClurg and Tessa Rolfe.

Central’s schedule still was being finalized entering the week.

Hopkins, Kreinbrink

among Panthers’ leaders

Five Division I district qualifiers, including three who went on to swim at state on a relay, return for North under first-year coach Chris Motz, who is taking perhaps an unorthodox approach in uncertain times.

“This season, expectations need to be thrown out the door,” said Motz, a 2016 North graduate who swam in high school and graduated from Capital last spring with a degree in political science. “We are swimming amidst an unpredictable pandemic and competing in a (realigned) and ultra-competitive league. We push our athletes to focus on what they can do every day. How they maintain proper social distancing as well as how often they wear a mask is just as important as how well they execute open turns and how fast they are off the blocks. In order to be a competitive team, we have to be a healthy team.”

Seniors Sydney Hopkins (100 backstroke), Rylee Kreinbrink (50 free, 100 butterfly), Regan Turnbull (100 breast, 200 individual medley) and Lauren Vinson of the girls team and boys senior Braden Hopkins (100 back, 100 fly) are back after advancing to district last season either as an individual or on relays.

The girls 200 medley relay of 2020 graduate Lindsey Keaton, Hopkins, Kreinbrink and Turnbull qualified for state and finished 22nd. Kreinbrink also qualified for state as a freshman and sophomore.

Also on the girls roster are seniors Emma Boder and Lilian Muszynski, juniors Evelyn Donley, Claire Moore and Sarah White, sophomores Sarah Bodnar, Abigail Brunelle, Elizabeth Bush, Chelsea Daniel, Marissa Dial, Alyssa Gray, Colleen Healy, Addison Knoll, Lainey Mack, Macy Muetzel and Kaci Naegele and freshmen Lilyanne Canini, Sophia Canini, Macy Erickson, Layne Frost, Avery Hudak, Noria Louketis and Julia Mora.

The rest of the boys team consists of seniors Tyler Brunelle, Luke Grilli, Nathan Ojeda-Pesa, Preston Sanders, Liam Thompson, Braedan Vannatta and Alex Watros, juniors Gavin Mumma and Sterling Potter, sophomores Aidan Eberhardt, Lucas Flinders, Christian Hamilton, Marcus Schwartz and Grant Turnbull and freshmen Samuel Bown, Connor Hanagan, Chase McCluskey, Ethan Mumma and Zachary Thurston.

North is scheduled to open Jan. 7 at new OCC-Ohio Division rival New Albany, which swept the OCC-Capital meet each of the past five years.

“The boys are well-rounded and can find success in almost every stroke,” Motz said. “We have girls who specialize in different strokes and distances.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

CENTRAL

Coach: Maura Parker, first season

Top athletes: Boys — Ricky Caceres-Gamero, Dom D’Errico, Brett Eberhardt and Alex Rowles; Girls — Makenna Garn, Bella Jones, Abby Marquardt and Carlie McClurg

Key losses: Boys — Sam Bechert and Broderick Thompson; Girls — Paige Christy

2019-20 OCC-Ohio standings: Boys — Gahanna (484.5), Pickerington North (468), Reynoldsburg (284), Grove City (229), Pickerington Central (205.5), Lancaster (202); Girls — Gahanna (624), North (473), Lancaster (230), Grove City and Reynoldsburg (both 197), Central (129)

2020 postseason: Boys — Sixth at sectional, 22nd at district; Girls — Seventh at sectional, did not score at district

NORTH

Coach: Chris Motz, first season

Top athletes: Boys — Braden Hopkins, Gavin Mumma, Nathan Ojeda-Pesa and Marcus Schwartz; Girls — Sydney Hopkins, Rylee Kreinbrink, Regan Turnbull and Lauren Vinson

Key losses: Boys — Connor Daniel, Jon Mason and Spencer White; Girls — Emily Grube and Lindsey Keaton

2020 postseason: Boys — Second at sectional, 10th at district; Girls — Third at sectional, 12th at district, did not score at state