Final Touches: Faster field knocks off area champions

Maybe the area was a little spoiled last year with four swim champions.
AnthonyMoujaes
Feb 26, 2011

Maybe the area was a little spoiled last year with four swim champions.

In 2011, the rest of the state got faster. As a result, Erie and Ottawa County will return home without a state title.

Two state champions were dethroned in the Division II State Swimming and Diving Championships and Division I preliminaries on Friday at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.

Port Clinton junior MacKenzie Stewart placed in three events for the Redskins, including a relay, and Perkins -- fifth overall in the girls meet -- got Stephanie Gyurke, Jillian Chapman and its 200 freestyle relay on the podium.

It just wasn't the same as last year, when Stewart, Sandusky sophomore Taylor Vargo, and then-seniors Chris Waldock of Perkins and Michael Gallagher of St. Mary CC came back as champions.

"It was tough. The kids were a little sore and a little tired," Port Clinton coach Danny Diaz said. "We had some PR times, but even though we didn't place as high as we'd like, I felt we had a good showing at the state meet."

Diaz said the competition was so much faster this year that some of the top times in the consolation finals -- the No. 8 through 16 times -- were good enough to win state titles in certain events last year.

Stewart, who a year ago became the first Redskins state champion when she won the 200 IM, was a hair faster on Friday (2:05.81) than she was a year ago (2:05.94), but still finished third.

"My time was faster than it was a year ago, so I can't be disappointed. It's just how it was," Stewart said. "Hopefully I'll have a lot better senior year. I can only hope it's better."

Stewart, who was fourth in the breaststroke, had company from Gyruke in the 200 individual medley. Gyurke was fourth after touching in 2:06.58, nearly a second faster than her preliminary swim (2:07.56) Thursday evening.

"It felt great. I'm really happy with my time. It just hit me on the podium that it's my last time swimming in high school," said Gyurke, who signed to swim with Ohio University. "I put everything into (the race)."

Gurke was swimming in Lane 1, nearest to the bleachers, and didn't have the best view as the race unfolded at her sides.

"It was almost a blur. I really had to stay in my own race," she said.

Gates Mills Hawken sophomore Sarah Koucheki won the 200 IM in 2:03.94, and Hawken won its 21st state championship in the girls meet. Hunting Valley University School won the boys crown.

Stewart, fourth in the breaststroke in 1:04.37, said that race felt "a little off. I won all three years at district ... but I wasn't able to go any faster at state," Stewart said.

Diaz and Perkins coach Steve Cremean said they both needed to learn from the meet to keep up with how fast the state was in the offseason.

"For me, I need to get the kids to peak at the state meet and not the district meet," Diaz said. "Our district is so tough. You want to swim fast to get out to the state meet."

One of Friday's surprise swims belonged to Chapman, a sophomore who tied for fifth in the 50 freestyle with Lima Shawnee's Emily Murphy.

"I figure I place eighth (by making it to the final), so there was nowhere to go but up," said Chapman, who swam a 24.16. "I just wanted to perfect the imperfections of my race (Thursday).

"It was exciting and scary at the same time."

The medal was Chapman's first as an individual after two podium finishes as a freshman on relay teams and another on Friday.

"That was a great swim," Cremean said. "She's getting the hang of things quickly down here."

When this race ended, Chapman and the rest of the field bobbed away wall to look at the scoreboard at Branin to see the places and times. The sophomore had plenty to like with what she saw after trimming 0.15 seconds off her preliminary time (24.31).

"I was so surprised. It was complete joy and happiness," Chapman said. "It was a better time that yesterday and moved me up three places."

Chapman was the lead leg of the Perkins 200 freestyle relay to take fourth in 1:38.66. That relay, which also included sophomore Sadie Ahlers, senior Emily Mariea and Gyurke, entered with the second-best time (1:38.03).

It was the last time on the podium for Gyurke and Mariea, who later swam the 400 freestyle consolation race. The third senior, Kori Penrod, finished up her diving routine on Wednesday.

"They've had great careers. They've been state-meet performers most of their years," Cremean said. "We'll miss them next year. We'll miss their leadership and competitive fire."

The Redskins' 400 freestyle relay (freshman Cheyenne Meek, Stewart, and seniors Ashley Zoeller and Allie Reynolds) was sixth in 3:36.98.