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Preppers surface as repeat contenders
Preppers surface as repeat contenders
By TONY LANGEPhoto by Itamar Gat
University School's swim team claimed another district championship last Saturday. But the three-time defending Division II state champion Preppers may have their dynasty watered down a bit this week at Canton McKinley's Branin Natatorium.
In 2011, they beat state runner-up Cincinnati Wyoming, 337 to 191. But last year the Preppers had six double-podium finishers -- meaning each of them qualified and placed in the top eight in both of their individual events -- who are no longer on the team.
University School does, however, have seven returning state qualifiers this season, including standout Russell Stack who won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.06 and the 100 freestyle in 46.73 at Cleveland State University's Busbey Natatorium during the Northeast District championship last Saturday.
"It was very nice. I'm not used to standing on top of the podium there," he said. "I've been on winning relays before, but I've never won an individual event and stood on the podium by myself. So that was exciting."
While the 50 freestyle is usually a tighter race than the 100 freestyle, Stack won the 50 by a larger margin, 0.62 second, than the 100 freestyle, out-touching the runner-up by 0.33 second. That was because the 50 freestyle was his first race after the Preppers failed to win the 200 medley relay, which Chagrin Falls won by 0.08 second, Stack said.
"After not winning the 200 medley relay, I was very determined to show that US was still a force in the district meet, so I was very excited to swim the 50," he said.
University School went on to win the district meet with 377 points, besting runner-up Chagrin Falls, with 264 points, third-place Hawken, with 211 points, fourth-place Gilmour Academy, with 188 points, and the rest of the 54-team competition.
Stack is seeded first in both his events for the state competition, which begins preliminaries at 5 p.m. Feb. 23 and finals at 5 p.m. Feb. 24.
Meanwhile, Chagrin Falls' Austin Quinn and Davis Staley also won two events each at districts last Saturday.
Staley won the 100 butterfly with a time of 52.21 and the 100 backstroke in 51.55, which set a new Division II meet record.
In the butterfly, Staley and teammate Ben Vandertill, who placed second with a time of 53.62, won the two automatic bids for states from the Northeast District.
"Going one-two with Ben was amazing," Staley said. "It's always something we try to do at dual meets and CVC, but to do it at districts is really special, and for us to get the two automatic bids was pretty neat."
There are four districts in Ohio high school swimming, with the top two finishers from each meet automatically qualifying to the state competition in each event. An additional 16 at-large berths are determined by times.
In the backstroke, Staley is the defending state champion and record-holder with a time of 50.32, which he swam at states last year after posting a 52.15 at districts. At states this season, he is seeded behind a freshman from Dayton Oakwood who swam a 51.18 out of the Southwest District.
"I'm very happy with my 100 backstroke right now," said Staley, who did not shave or taper for district. "I bested my district time from last year by a little over a half a second, so it sets me up well for states."
Chagrin's Quinn is seeded third at states in the 500 freestyle, with a district time of 4:35.74, and fourth in the 200 individual medley, with a district record of 1:54.41.
Single-event winners last Saturday included University School's Noah Sterling, who scored a 423.8 in diving, Gordon Wong, who swam a 1:00.43 in the 100 breaststroke, and Hawken's Micah Simpson, who swam a 1:42.07 in the 200 freestyle.
Simpson won his event by 4.96 seconds. At states, he is seeded third behind two swimmers who finished at 1:41.69 and a 1:41.70 against each other in the Southwest District Championship. Their final 50 splits were 25.31 and 25.30, which were faster than Simpson's 26.18 split that he swam with his competition far behind.
"More competition definitely will push me to go faster," Simpson said. "I love swimming against people who are faster than me. I like the challenge. I think that, with some rest and, hopefully, the environment at states, I will go a 1:40 or better. That's my goal this year, and I'm getting closer and closer to that."
Below are district places, events and times of swimmers from Hawken School, Chagrin Falls, Gilmour Academy, Orange and West Geauga who qualified for the Division II state swim meet:
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