By Doug Chapin
Area swimmers and divers begin their journey to the state meet this weekend with sectional meets. The majority of Mahoning Valley athletes compete in Division I and Division II sectionals at the University of Akron’s Ocasek Natatorium.
Sectional qualifiers will advance to the district meet next week at the Robert F. Busbey Natatorium at Cleveland State University.
The state meet will be from Feb. 20-23 at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Leading the wave of area swimmers on their quest to reach the state meet is Boardman senior Ryan Bailey. He finished third in the state meet last year in the 100 butterfly and eighth in the 100 breaststroke. He also participated on the Spartans’ state-qualifying 200 medley relay team.
This season, Bailey has the second-best time in the district (both divisions) in both the butterfly and breaststroke, according to swimmeet.com, a Web site that tracks high school swimming results.
“Last year he was hoping to win a state title. He didn’t get it but was very close, just tenths of a second away from winning it,” Boardman swimming coach Terry O’Hallaran said. “So probably 15 minutes after the race he was thinking about what he was going to do this whole year so it didn’t happen again.
He’s been 100 percent totally dedicated to winning the thing this year.”
Bailey, who last week signed to attend and swim for the U.S. Naval Academy, is clearly a positive influence on the rest of the Spartan swimmers.
“On the boys side we have a really young team this year. For the new swimmers on the team he sets a great example of what you need to do,” O’Hallaran said. “Overall, his example is a real positive. The mark that he sets, not only in the water but in the locker room, on the pool deck, academically. He sets a really high bar and the other kids look up to that.”
Bailey’s excellence in both the butterfly and breaststroke is something of an anomaly in swimming.
“The butterfly is usually considered the most difficult and the breaststroke is a different animal. It is such a different type of a stroke,” O’Hallaran said. “You don’t usually see butterflyers excel at breaststroke. It is more about timing of when you pull and kick, and butterfly is more of a power type stroke. It is a little bit unusual to find someone who is fast at both of them.”
Among other local swimmers, Ursuline senior John Tomko also is expected to do well after qualifying for state in 2012 in the Division II 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. He has the ninth-best times in the district (both divisions) for those events this year and the 14th-best in both the 100 butterfly and the 200 individual medley.
Canfield sophomore Connor Brady made it to the state D-II meet last year in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. He is sixth in the district this year in both of those events and 14th in the 50 freestyle.
The Cardinals also have the fifth best time this year in the 200 freestyle relay and the seventh best in the 400 freestyle relay. Canfield finished seventh in the Division II state meet last year in the 400 relay.
Warren Harding owns the fourth-best mark in the district in 2013 in the 200 freestyle relay in addition to the 10th-best in the 400 relay and the 14th-best in the 200 medley relay.
The Raiders’ top individual is sophomore Dylan Thirion who swam at state last year on two relay teams. This year he has the eighth-best time in the district in the 200 freestyle and the 10th best in the 100 freestyle.
Hubbard senior Joe Spurio, a state qualifier last year in the 100 butterfly, is ranked 15th in the district this year in that event.
On the girls side, Boardman has the sixth-best time in the 200 medley relay and the seventh-best in the 400 freestyle relay. Sophomore Brooke Bailey, who swam on the Spartans’ state-qualifying medley relay team last year, has the 12th-best time this year in the 100 breaststroke and the 18th-best in the 100 butterfly.
Harding’s Emily Thirion and Jessica Morrow of Youngstown Christian have the seventh- and ninth-best times this year in the district in the 100 breaststroke. Thirion also is 14th in the 100 butterfly and Morrow is 20th in the 200 individual medley.
Youngstown Christian senior Mikayla Morrow, who qualified for state last year in the 100 breaststroke, is ranked 19th in that event (both divisions) this year in the district.
Howland’s Aimee Gysegem has the 12th-best time in the 500 freestyle, the 13th-best in the 200 freestyle and the 16th-best in the 100 freestyle.
LOCAL divers advance
Ally Chiu of Canfield and Lily Testa of Boardman both advanced to the district next week at Cleveland State University after placing sixth and 19th, respectively, in sectional action on Thursday.
They will be joined by Warren Harding’s Corey Butts and Teddy Arthur who finished seventh and 12th, respectively, in the boys sectional Wednesday.
The top 22 divers advance to district in Division I.
In Division II, there is no sectional competition. All divers begin their postseason competition next week at the district event.