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Port Clinton's Stewart takes top time into 200 IM finals

It's shaping up for a repeat for MacKenzie Stewart.
Feb 25, 2011

It's shaping up for a repeat for MacKenzie Stewart.

The Port Clinton sophomore, who a year ago became the school's first state champion, has the No. 1 time after Thursday's Division II preliminaries at the State Swimming and Diving Championships in Canton.

And to think Stewart, who posted a 2-minute, 6.51-second effort, said the swim was "decent."

"I'm happy with it. The goal was to be in a good spot for (today)," she said.

Mission accomplished since she's in the top spot. But state titles aren't awarded on preliminary swims. Stewart has to win it when it counts today, when the Div. II championships start at 5 p.m.

"I do like going in seeded first, but it's a lot of pressure," Stewart said. "We're all so close. It's a lot of little things that matter."

The top seven in the event are all within 1.05 seconds of Stewart, including Perkins senior Stephanie Gyurke, who enters with the No. 7 time (2:07.56) and will swim just a few lanes away.

"It felt good. It's not as well as I'd have liked," Gyurke said. "I feel really confident about (today)."

Gyurke's time was behind her district performance (2:06.40). The senior and four-time state placer -- she's assured of two medals today -- had the top preliminary time in the 200 IM prelim a year ago (2:05.55), but Stewart won the championship final (2:05.94).

Most of the area swimmers weren't dropping times on the first day for a variety of reasons, be it a day less rest with preliminaries on Thursday this year instead of Friday or the slower pool at Brannin.

"There were a couple of swims where we were on the top of our game that worked. And there were a couple swims where we weren't on the top of our game," Perkins coach Steve Cremean said. "As fast as the state is (this year) you've got to be on the top of your game. There's no room for error and no room for adjustment."

The Perkins 400 freestyle relay (Emily Mariea, Kim Anglin, Elizabeth Gyurke, Stephanie Gyurke), which finished with the 10th-best time (3:38.06 from a 3:39.15 at districts), was an example of how a relay team turned in a good time, but also how nine other teams were that much better.

"That was one swim we were on. It just wasn't top eight," Cremean said.

The 200 freestyle relay sure was.

A pair of sophomores -- Jillian Chapman and Sadie Ahlers -- and a pair of seniors -- Emily Mariea and Stephanie Gyurke -- own the No. 2 time, a 1:38.03 in the event. Gates Mills Hawken set a new state record with a 1:36.34.

"That was our best time from a year ago. We're positioned really well for the finals," Chapman said.

Chapman also is in the championship heat of the 50 freestyle, as her 24.31 put her in the eighth and final spot. "It's a relief knowing that I made it back to the finals," Chapman said. "Hopefully I'll have a better time than in the prelims."

Port Clinton's 400 freestyle relay (Cheyenne Meek, Stewart, Ashley Zoeller, Allie Reynolds) secured a medal finish with a 3:36.93, good for the sixth-best time.

"I felt we had a better meet on the girls side than the boys side," Port Clinton coach Danny Diaz said. "Some kids are coming back and swimming (today), and that's all you can ask at the state meet."

Stewart turned in splits of 27.57, 33.12, 35.36, and 30.46, and was faster in the second half of the race than any other swimmer she'll see today.

But it isn't enough to have Diaz celebrating anything this early.

"We'll have to wait an see. The IM is four specialty strokes," he said. "But MacKenzie tends to excel under pressure. We'll see what (today) brings."