Brandon Logan joked full bus rides mean he cannot stretch out anymore.
Of course, it is hard for the Newark junior to find a negative about this season. In 2012, the Wildcats had to mix their team just to swim a relay. Now, the Wildcats have a full pool.
Logan is benefiting. He not only has expanded his own repertoire, but the additions of first-year senior Willie Henderson and freshman Philip Hall have given the Wildcats a formidable trio.
“This year is a lot more fun with the relays, so it is a whole different experience,” Logan said. “Willie has been a great addition to the team. He has always played sports, so he is really strong. He has gotten into the rhythm of things, and Philip has been swimming for a long time. With him, he is our (butterfly) person in the relay, and Willie can do just about anything.”
Throw in improving junior Andrew Lehoe and the Wildcats have relays — pretty good ones. In a meet against Reynoldsburg, Lakewood and Newark Catholic on Friday, Newark just missed its season best in the 200 medley, but it was after Logan and Henderson had switched strokes.
“I finally got all of my strokes down over the summer, so I have been branching out to other events,” Logan said. “My first two years, I only did the 50 free and 100 free, so it was pretty boring at meets. This year, I have done the 200 IM, 200 free, 100 breaststroke. I really like the 200 free because it suits my swim style. I don’t have the fastest arm speed, but I have a strong arm speed.”
Logan won the 200 free in 2:52.83 on Friday. Henderson was second to Lakewood sophomore Nathaniel Graham in the 50 free, finishing in 28.69 seconds. Hall finished second in the 100 breaststroke to Graham and second to Lakewood’s Jarod Rose in the 400 free.
Henderson had not swam competitively since competing on the Licking County Family YMCA Sharks and for Moundbuilders Country Club summer team during elementary school. He runs cross country and track and gave up basketball after breaking his toe in 2012.
“I was running cross country in the fall, and I didn’t know how that would transition into swimming,” said Henderson, who was honored Friday with seniors Willa Neale and Sara Rossignol. “I knew that if I wanted to go into the academies — the Naval Academy or the Military Academy — being in the best shape possible would help me.”
Henderson had no expectations coming into the season. He quickly, however, became Newark’s best sprinter and has shown enough promise in the other strokes to open up freestyle for others in the medley.
“Once you learn how to do it, it is easy to pick up again,” Henderson said. “Freestyle is not too much technique. It is a lot of strength and endurance, which I have slowly been building. I just swim as fast as possible and paddle as fast as possible. It tends to work.”
Newark swims at Bishop Rosecrans on Tuesday. The Wildcats then begin preparations for the Ohio Capital Conference meet at New Albany on Feb. 2 and the Division I sectional meet Feb. 9.
With perennially strong teams all around the OCC and Central District, Newark has not set any specific goals. The Wildcats simply are looking to continue to chop time and enjoy the ride.
“We didn’t know too much about each other coming into the season, but through the morning practices, getting up at 5:30 a.m., we bonded pretty quick,” Henderson said. “What is similar in all of us is we love to compete and we love to swim. All of us together just makes us a great team.”