Just what will MacKenzie Stewart do for an encore after winning a state championship a year ago?
Even she doesn't know, but she's ready to find out.
Stewart is one of 13 competitors for Port Clinton at the Division II State Swimming and Diving Championships to hit the pool today in the preliminaries in Canton. The defending state champion a year ago in the 200 individual medley as a sophomore, Stewart enters today with the second best time in two events, including the IM (2:06.33).
"I'm actually really excited. For me, it's just beating my time. I went 2:05.94 last year, so if I go faster than that I'll be happy no matter where I end up," Stewart said. "And we're all so close (in times) so it's more of a chance to beat your own time."
The top six swimmers in the medley are separated by 0.62 seconds, but with high expectations to bring home more hardware, the laid-back Stewart doesn't feel a world of pressure to repeat.
"For me it's exciting because I won this last year, so let's see what I can do this year. And maybe for everyone else it's, 'Oh, she won this last year, and I have to swim against her,'" Stewart said.
"Maybe it's more pressure on them than it is for me."
The top eight times in all events today advance to the championship finals, the next eight swim in the consolation finals. The final eight are finished.
Teammate Allie Reynolds is more certain of Stewart's ending. "I know she is isn't going to let anyone beat her," she said.
As a freshman, Stewart said she was "a mess," but was more calm as a sophomore and entered the meet more relaxed, ready to have fun on the pool deck behind the blocks. When she hit the water, she was all business.
Last year, Stewart didn't go into the IM finals with the top preliminary time -- That belonged to Perkins senior and three-time state placer Stephanie Gyurke, today's No. 3 seed (2:06.40). Hawken's Sarah Koucheki has the top seed this year, at 2:06.26.
This weekend is also the last time Gyurke, a three-time Sandusky Bay Conference Most Outstanding Performer, will swim in high school against Stewart, the league MOP as a freshman.
"I love swimming against Steph," Stewart said. "We've been swimming together since we were little. She's always a really good competitor. We know how the other swims, so depending on where we are in the race, we already know how it ends."
Gyurke topped Stewart at the conference race this year, with Stewart flipping the results at the Div. II sectional and district meets.
As good as Stewart was on the grand stage a year ago, it isn't the IM that holds the top spot in her heart.
"I love breaststroke. I consider that more my thing than IM," said Stewart, who is the second seed for that event as well (1:03.77). "I've already gone faster this year (in breaststroke) than I did last year at state, so if I can go even faster, I'm happy. That'd be enough."
The Pirate and Redskin girls both have swimmers in six events after diving wrapped up Wednesday. Erin Seefus was 18th for Port Clinton in that event.
The 200 medley relay, which broke the school record from 2003, and the 400 freestyle relay swim today, with the 400 freestyle ranked ninth in the seedings (3:37.87).
"At first we didn't realize we broke it," Reynolds said. P.C. assistant coach Hayley Manley was part of that record-setting relay in 2003. "She's goad she was there to watch."
Reynolds, who will swim both relays and the 100 and 200 freestyles, aspires to drop he times and make the top eight for a podium finish in all four events if things work out. In the medley relay, Reynolds swims the freestyle portion after dabbling in the butterfly and backstroke legs.
Five boys for the Redskins qualified from the district meet.
"We didn't expect to have five boys make it," junior Michael Long said.
Long will swim the 200 IM, and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays with the intention of making it to the second day -- be it consolation or championship finals -- in all the events. He swam all three relays a year ago and made it to the second day in the 400 and medley relays.
"I'd like for us to drop more time, but it doesn't matter as long as we get to the second day," he said.