Swimming & Diving: Thomas Worthington Cardinals boys cap season of uncertainty at state
The first thing Worthington swimming and diving coach Keeler Callahan thinks of when looking back at this season is how grateful he is that it happened.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic put the outcome in doubt before the season began. That’s a major reason why Callahan was pleased with the Thomas boys team’s performance in the Division I state meet Feb. 27 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, as two individuals and two relays competed.
“Not only to be able to compete but have the success that we did is honestly just amazing for this year, and I’m so happy for the kids that they were able to do something that they’re passionate about at a really high level,” Callahan said. “It was a challenging year, but it was definitely a rewarding one, too.”
The 200-yard medley relay of seniors Eli Short and Grant Simeone and sophomores Matt Fralic and Connor Florence finished 14th in a school-record 1 minute, 35.41 seconds.
The 200 free relay of Fralic, Florence, Short and sophomore Zach Barnes placed 18th (1:28.08).
Short also finished 17th in the 50 free (21.59) and Fralic was 20th in the 100 butterfly (51.45).
“At one point, we weren’t sure if we would even have sectionals, districts or states, but in the end, we got to swim at those meets,” Fralic said. “Our (state meet) performance was great. It’s hard to swim well in back-to-back weekends, but we managed to do this with (two) of our relays placing in the top 20 in the state.”
Thomas tied for 37th (6) at state behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (261.5) as 51 teams scored.
“That’s such a hard meet to get up there,” Callahan said. “To get them up there, especially with Matt being a sophomore – just getting them that experience at a big meet is something that’s going to help him out going into his junior and senior year.”
Callahan said junior Blake Ament, sophomore Ross Poppy and freshman Nathan Edwards are candidates to replace Short and Simeone on the relays.
“The Thomas boys (team) is our biggest team, so they naturally provide the most depth,” Callahan said. “There are a handful that can fill those spots.”
Fralic said he’s looking forward to next season regardless of a few changes on the relays.
“For next year, with the loss of two crucial seniors, there might have to be some rearranging of who’s swimming where, and who’s doing what stroke,” he said. “Regardless, I’m sure we’ll still have a competitive relay next season.”
Key returnees for the girls team include sophomores Sloane Antonetz, Charlotte Helm, Katie Browning and Natalie Smith.
excel at state
With high expectations following state-meet appearances a year ago, the Kilbourne girls team’s 200 free relay and 200 medley relay delivered strong performances Feb. 26 at state.
The 200 free relay of senior Lauren Richner, juniors Nanami Campbell and Evie DeCarlo and sophomore Paige Delma finished eighth in a school-record 1:37.36, and the same four swimmers placed seventh in the 200 medley relay in 1:46.7.
“That’s some big-time stuff getting two relays in the top eight of the state, so we were excited for that,” Callahan said. “At the beginning of the year, we definitely wanted to get both of those up to states, and we knew we could. Getting them both on the podium is definitely higher than we were thinking before, so that was an awesome way to end (the season).”
“This year at states we were especially motivated to make it on the podium for our relays, because it is Lauren’s last state (meet) and we knew we could do it,” Delma said. “All the meets and practice leading up to it were so fun and I am so grateful to have such an amazing team and coach to help bring us to states.”
Individually, DeCarlo tied for 21st in the 100 free (53.01), Richner placed 23rd in the 50 free (24.3) and Delma was 24th in the 200 individual medley (2:12.78).
The Wolves finished 17th (46) behind champion New Albany (246.5) as 50 teams scored.
Heading into next season, Callahan said Richner is going to be tough to replace on the relays.
“No one’s going to be able to completely fill her shoes, but we definitely have some underclassmen that could start to step potentially into her role,” he said. “We might not be able to replace her right away, but we’ll fill as big of a gap as we can with a couple of those underclassmen that will be able to help us out.”
Callahan said sophomore Kennedy O’Brien and freshman Hannah Lehr are two potential candidates to fill that spot.
“We will miss Lauren on the relay because our relay has gotten so close over the past seasons,” Delma said. “I’m excited to see who Keeler has in mind to replace her.
“Next year with Evie and Nanami’s last season, hopefully some (COVID-19) restrictions will be lifted, but overall I'm so excited already to race with them for another year and be able to have fun with the relay one last time.”
Key returnees for the boys team include junior Connor O’Brien and sophomores Nathan Ambler, Ben Ambler and Christopher Richner.
•Seniors lost: Boys – Andrew Harvey, Israel Najera and Andrew Winget; Girls – Ella Brown, Lauren Richner and Phoebe Saunders
•Key returnees: Boys – Ben Ambler, Nathan Ambler, Connor O’Brien and Christopher Richner; Girls – Nanami Campbell, Evie DeCarlo, Paige Delma, Hannah Lehr and Kennedy O’Brien
•Postseason: Boys – Second (448) at sectional behind DeSales (501), 23rd (3) at district behind champion Upper Arlington (348.5); Girls – First (420) at sectional, seventh (133) at district behind champion New Albany (378.5), 17th (46) at state behind champion New Albany (246.5)
•Seniors lost: Boys – Benjamin Greeson, Eddie Helm, Ashton Roderer, Eli Short and Grant Simeone; Girls – Katie Bozoti, Lauren Justice, Nataliya Kallergis, Maia Lin and Nevin Woods
•Key returnees: Boys – Blake Ament, Zach Barnes, Nathan Edwards, Connor Florence, Matt Fralic and Ross Poppy; Girls – Sloane Antonetz, Katie Browning, Charlotte Helm and Natalie Smith
•Postseason: Boys – First (476) at sectional, seventh (143) at district behind champion UA (348.5), tied for 37th (6) at state behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (261.5); Girls – Second (290) at sectional behind Delaware (350), 15th (40) at district behind champion New Albany (378.5)