By SETH STASKEY
Times Leader Sports Editor
Another week and another Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship is on tap.
With wrestling in the rear-view mirror, it's time to shift focus to determine who are the best swimmers in the OVAC.
For the second straight year, the swimming championships will get under way Tuesday evening with qualifying at three sites and the top 16 in each individual event - regardless of location - will earn a trip to Steubenville's Natatorium inside the Crimson Center for Saturday's finals. It's worth noting that all relays will make the trip to Steubenville. There are no qualifying swims for the relay races.
The qualifying swims, which begin at 5:15 p.m., will be held at Linsly, Wheeling Park and Brooke and geography was used as the method for assigning the sites.
Slated to compete at Linsly are Wheeling Central, Morgantown, Cambridge, Bellaire, St. John Central, East Richland Christian, St. Clairsville and Linsly.
At Wheeling Park are Barnesville, Martins Ferry, University, Parkersburg South, John Marshall and the Patriots.
Swimming at Brooke are: Steubenville, Edison, Brooke, Beaver Local, East Liverpool, Steubenville Central and the host Bruins.
Locally, several individuals and teams have had strong seasons thus far as they enter the most important stretch of the season.
St. Clairsville's boys are led by junior standout Michael Eaton in the 100 freestyle. His time of 48.96 is the top-seeded mark by nearly five seconds. He also owns the top mark in the 100 breaststroke, posting a 58.72.
Eaton is seeking a repeat in the 100 freestyle. He didn't swim the breaststroke last year, but he's the reigning champion in the 50 freestyle.
Senior Dan Kennon is seventh overall in the 200 freestyle with a 2:05.48, while sophomore D.J. Beck is eighth in the 100 fly with a 1:07.33. Classmate Quentin Clark is 10th in 1:07.67 in the fly and is seeded the same in the 100 breast with a time of 1:15.32.
Senior Nick Tobin is seeded ninth in the 100 freestyle with a time of 56.96. Beck is the sixth seed in the 200 IM with a 2:26.80.
"Our boys have six seeded in the top 16 and all of our 'A' relays are in the top eight," said St. C. head coach Melanie Eaton. "The team has been working hard, but we have been plagued with illness and injury lately. Hopefully, they will all be well in time to qualify and gon on to compete and do well on Saturday."
The Lady Red Devils are led by junior Carly Falcone, who is the fourth seed in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:16.19. She's also the fifth seed in the 200-yard IM with an effort of 2:32.39.
Junior Alaina Fasola is seeded sixth in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:11.31. Her teammate, frosh Delainey Banks, is 10th in 1:13.61.
"The girls team is looking stronger than they have in a while,"?Eaton said. "We have four girls in the top 16 and all of our 'A' relays are seeded in the top eight."
East Richland Christian's Katie Albert is definitely one to keep an eye on this week. She's seeded third in the 200 freestyle with a 2:10.47 and fourth in the 50 free with a 27.33.
"It should be highly competitive in Katie's two races," said her mother and coach Beth Albert. "The seed times are really close between a lot of girls."
Martins Ferry's girls have two swimmers seeded inside the top 10 overall in three events entering the meet. Junior Shelby Poludniak is 10th in the 500 freestyle with a mark of 6:27. She's also ninth in the in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:14.15.
Freshman Tara Fogle is the 10th seed in the 200-Yard IM with a time of 2:41.10.
"The team has really worked hard this season as their entry times for the OVAC meet reflect the hard work they have put in," said Riders' head coach Nick Levi. "We hope to use this meet to spring board us into a strong finish."
Barnesville is led by senior standout Christopher Baker, who is the top seed in a pair of events as he tries to add to his OVAC title collection. He's a narrow leader in the 500 freestyle, which he won a season ago, over Linsly frosh Reese Boyd. Baker has posted a 5:12.15, which is .48 ahead of Boyd.
"Christopher spends most of the year as the water and as the season is coming to an end, it's hard to imagine next year without him," said Barnesville head coach Bobbi Jo Johnson. "My hope is that he's able again to take podium in the top position."
Baker is also the top seed in the 200 IM with a time of 2:10.80. He's the three-time defending champion in that event. His effort is 24 hundredths better than Linsly sophomore Drew Bastain.
The lone Shamrocks' girl seeded in the top 10 of an event is sophomore Myka Gordon, who is 10th in the 50 freestyle with a 28.61.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org