Pickerington Central Roundup: Leadership suits swimming team's Bella Jones

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Junior Bella Jones has emerged as a leader for Central, impressing her coach and her teammates alike. Of her leadership abilities, Jones simply says: "I'll do anything for my team."

Maura Parker saw leadership qualities in Bella Jones almost as soon as Parker became Pickerington Central swimming coach last summer, so what happened during a meet Jan. 30 simply served as a reminder.

Still, it’s a moment that stands out to Parker when it comes to Jones, a junior who has made her name in freestyle events throughout high school but continues to expand her horizons.

Short a swimmer because of COVID-19 during a tri-meet against Marysville and Olentangy Berlin at the Delaware YMCA, Jones volunteered to swim the three relays – the 200-yard medley, 200 freestyle and 400 free – instead of her usual events, the 200 and 500 free.

“We were going to struggle and she ended up being a great leader,” said Parker, who had Jones lead off the 200 free and 400 free relays and swim butterfly in the 200 medley. “She does well in distance events, but I know she could do well at sectional and district if I were to put her in those events. I like seeing how rounded she is, not just being grounded with one specific type of event. She works hard. She pushes herself. She has a goal time in mind.

“I think that’s what makes a great teammate and athlete.”

Jones, who advanced to the Division I district meet in the 200 free each of the past two years and the 500 free last season, said her actions simply were those of a good teammate.

“It was something new doing three relays instead of two. It was just something that my teammates needed,” Jones said. “We can’t do relays without that fourth person, so I did it for them. It’s not a big deal for me. I’ll do anything for my team.”

Jones will try to extend her postseason streak Feb. 13 during a sectional at Upper Arlington. She also was on a district-qualifying 200 free relay as a freshman and the 400 free relay last season but still is seeking her first state berth.

“I don’t really know why I’m a good freestyler. It might be my height (5-foot-6),” Jones said. “(Parker) has broadened my skills. It’s going to improve me as a swimmer to not be swimming the same strokes all the time.”

Despite not being a senior, Jones was named a team captain.

“We all look up to her,” boys senior Alex Rowles said. “One day, one of our swimmers was late to practice so he had to do extra work in the pool and even though Bella was on time, she got right in there with him. She yells at people when they need yelled at and helps everybody when they need help. She was an excellent choice for captain.”

While Jones trains with Central’s team Monday and Friday mornings and either Tuesday or Thursday evenings, she participates in physical training with the Marines on Wednesdays and Saturdays. She plans to enlist and begin basic training immediately after graduation, fulfilling a goal she’s held since age 12.

“It looked like a great thing to do,” Jones said. “I just wanted to serve my country.”

The boys will compete in a sectional Feb. 14 at UA.

The top 24 in individual events and the top 16 relays advance to district Feb. 21 at Bowling Green based on sectional times. 

Girls basketball team

prepares for postseason

Despite having a sub-.500 record against a challenging schedule at the time of the Division I district tournament draw, the girls basketball team earned the seventh seed out of 41 teams and will begin the postseason Feb. 16 at home against 37th-seeded Licking Heights.

Central was 7-6 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Groveport on Feb. 5.

Because of a COVID-19 quarantine in early to mid-January, the Tigers were scheduled to play seven games from Feb. 1-12.

Central took a four-game winning streak into its game at Groveport.

“We’ve grown up a lot. We’ve been in games despite the adversity,” coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. “I still think we’ll have a promising finish. We have the girls to do it. Now about it’s about staying sharp and staying healthy. …

“Going back and revisiting film, seeing little things – not even huge things – that we can do better the next game has been key. And I talked to the girls about changing my mindset of coaching; for example, sometimes when you have the momentum you don’t want to stop but maybe with this team, because they’re young, once we make a run let’s slow down and regroup even if we have momentum.”

The Central-Licking Heights winner will play 31st-seeded Upper Arlington in the second round Feb. 19 at the home of the better seed.

Krueger named

girls volleyball coach

Pending school board approval, Jeannie Krueger will be the girls volleyball team’s next coach.

Krueger, whose husband is Central boys basketball coach Eric Krueger, previously coached the eighth-grade team at Ridgeview Junior High. She is a math and social studies teacher at Diley Middle School.

Her hire was announced Feb. 1.

Krueger succeeds Eric Hughes, who resigned in December after going 83-36 overall and 34-16 in league play in five years. The Tigers went 19-5 overall and 10-0 in the OCC-Buckeye last season, losing to Worthington Kilbourne in a district semifinal, and won their second league championship in three years.

Krueger, a 2002 graduate of Clayton Northmont, ranks first in Ohio Dominican program history with 2,410 career digs. She also is second in kills (1,677) and eighth in aces (120).

“After 19 years of coaching the sport that I fell in love with in seventh grade … I am beyond excited for this new journey,” Krueger said in a social media post announcing her hiring.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave