A large group of area swimmers finds itself on the brink of the Ohio High School Athletic Association's State Swimming Championship Meet.
However, a large step remains as area swimmers prepare to head to the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus for the district meet this Friday.
Swimming gets under way for the Division II schools at 2:30 p.m.
MARTINS FERRY’S Shelby Poludniak swims in the backstroke during the OVAC meet last month. Poludniak will swim in both the 200 and 500 freestyles as well as two relays during the district meet at Ohio State University on Friday.
The top two finishers in both individual and relay events will earn a trip to Canton's Branin Natatorium near the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend. Even if an individual or relay isn't in the top two, there is still hope as a collection of at-large qualifiers - regardless of district - will also make the trip.
The official list of qualifiers will be posted by the OHSAA on Sunday.
Here's a capsule look at area schools making the trip to the district:
BARNESVILLE - The Shamrocks' swimming program has made qualifying to the district meet a habit.
The program has taken at least one entrant to the last 13 district swimming competitions and will actually send its largest delegation heading for the second weekend of competition.
"At our first team and parent meeting of the season, we set a goal to get six girls, and hopefully, seven to the district," said Barnesville head coach Bobbi Jo Johnson. "That's exactly what we did, so we're excited about that. We are strong, deep and very young with several young swimmers ready to come up to high school next year."
The lone Shamrocks' boy making the trip is senior standout Christopher Baker, who is seeking his third trip to Canton in the 500 freestyle. He's seeded third coming in with a secitonal time of 5:11.23.
Baker will also swim in the 200 yard IM as the sixth seed with a time of 2:10.01.
"Christopher didn't have his best swims at the sectional, but he's still in a good position," Baker said. "He and his family have put many hours into swimming and my hope is that we get one more trip to Canton because he deserves it!"
The Lady Shamrocks are led by Carolyn Blatter, who punched a ticket in both the 100 freestyle and 200 individual medley. She's seeded 27th and 30th, respectively in the events with times of 1:03.63 and 2:43.10.
The 50 freestyle will be a sea of Green and Red as Barnesville has three entrants in the event. Gabby Fulst (23rd seed, 28.30), Myka Gordon (27th seed, 28.67) and Olivia Jones (29th seed, 28.80) all qualified.
Barnesville's 200 free relay has a solid chance at scoring. It's seeded 11th in a time of 1:54.92. The Lady Shamrocks' 400 free relay team is 21st seed with a 4:31-flat.
"I am thrilled by what all of the kids have accomplished this year," Johnson said. "Each one had skills to work on and things to improve on and I thought by sectionals, they had done that, so as the coach of a team that gets very little practice, I am overjoyed."
EAST RICHLAND CHRISTIAN - Senior standout Katie Albert is still standing in two events after the first weekend of post-season competition.
Albert has had another brilliant season for the Lady Lions, establishing herself as one of the premier swimmers in the area.
This weekend, at OSU, she'll take part in the 100 freestyle and the 200 freestyle. She's seeded 11th in both events with times of 58.97 and 2:09.82.
"Katie has had another outstanding season," said her mother and coach Beth Albert. "She's got a chance as possibly medaling, so we're hoping and praying that she's able to swim her best races this weekend."
MARTINS FERRY - The Purple Riders' program is another that's made it a habit swimming on the second weekend of the postseason.
Coach Nick Levi's team is actually going to be represented in the largest amount of events, nine, in school history this weekend. The boys, meanwhile, qualified in four events.
"We had an excellent sectional meet," Levi said. "We had a lot of swimmers on the bubble going into last weekend. In order for them to have a chance at advancing, many of them had to swim either a life-time best or a season best and the kids responded."
The Lady Riders, who were third in the sectional as a team, have a trio of individuals headed for two events each at Ohio State.
Tyesha Allen will swim in both the 50 and 100 freestyles. She's seeded 21st in the 50 with a 28.22 and 22nd in the 100 with a 1:02.36.
Talented frosh Tara Fogle has had a strong first varsity season. She'll take part in the 100 fly and 200 IM with a solid chance at scoring. In the fly, Fogle is seeded 15th with a 1:07.12. She's in the 15th-seeded spot in the 200 IM with a time of 2:35.12.
Shelby Poludniak, who had a strong season as well for the Lady Riders, will be entered in the 200 and 500 freestyles. In the shorter race, she's seeded 22nd with a time of 2:16.93. In the 500, she's seeded 17th with a 6:09.23 and is the only local entrant.
The Lady Riders will also compete in all three relays.
Their team of Fogle, Allen, Christina Lattimer and Poludniak make up the 400 free squad, which is seeded eighth with its time of 4:14.53.
The team of Poludniak, Shannon Lewis, Fogle and Allen will join forces for the 200 medley relay. The team is seeded 11th with a time of 2:08.46.
The Ferry squad of Lattimer, Kaitlyn Bliss, Alyssa Smith and Lewis punched its ticket into the 200 free relay race with a time of 1:57.95. That's the 18th best time entering the weekend.
The Rider boys have two individuals and a relay team set to compete. Jonathan Strawn is the 28th seed in the 200 freestyle with a time of 2:12.50
Brandon Bliss, meanwhile, will take part in two individual events. He is 28th seed in the 100 breaststroke in 1:15.04 and the 23rd seed in the 200 IM with a time of 2:27.70.
The Riders' lone relay team to earn a trip to Columbus was the squad of Bliss, Strawn, Davie Buehner and Alex Meigh, who qualified in the 400 free relay with a time of 4:19.23.
"Going into the season, our goal is to advance as many swimmers as possible to the district meet," Levi said. "Furthermore, by advancing as many swimmers as possible to district, this gives us the opportunity to achieve our goal of scoring as high as we can at the district meet.
"We are going into the meet with the goal is trying to swim up (from our seeds) and score as many points as possible," Levi continued. "We are in position to compete for all-district accolades in several events."
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Red Devils also had an impressive sectional meet and have qualified their biggest delegation to this weekend's district meet.
"We're taking 11 swimmers to the district," said St. C. head coach Melanie Eaton. "We had nine swimmers qualify for an individual event, which is twice as many as I've ever had qualify individually in one year previously, so I am really excited for the kids."
Leading the way for the Red Devils is standout junior Michael Eaton, who is seeking his third consecutive trip to the state meet. Eaton is the top seed in the 100 freestyle with his sectional time of 50.11.
He's the second seed in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:00.41.
Senior Nick Tobin is set for his third district meet, but first as an individual. He's seeded 25th in the 100 freestyle with a time of 56.47.
Senior Dan Kennon is the 14th seed in the 200IM with a solid time of 2:21.77. He, too, is competing in the district as an individual for the first time.
Sophomore D.J. Beck is seeded 23rd in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:56.63. Senior Codi Eaton is the 28th seed in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:08.44.
Sophomore Quentin Clark is the 27th seed in the 200 freestyle with a time of 2:11.28.
The Red Devils' 200 freestyle relay team is the sixth seed with a sectional time of 1:39.43 and the the 400 free squad is the eighth seed in a time of 3:49.09.
The Lady Red Devils are led by junior Carly Falcone, who has had a brilliant campaign. She's entered in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM. She's the 17th seed in the breaststroke and 11th in the 200 IM with times of 1:17.11 and 2:32.14, respectively.
Junior Alaina Fasola is headed for her third district meet, but for the first time, she'll be entered in an individual event. She'll swim the 100 fly after posting the 22nd best time in the sectional level at 1:09.76.
Frosh Delainey Banks is embarking on her first district and will do so in the 200IM after she posted the 24th best time in the meet this weekend at 2:40.26.
St. Clairsville's 200 free relay squad is seeded eighth overall with a 1:53.64. The 400 relay squad is 15th in 4:25.61 and the 200 medley team is 10th in 2:08.13.
"I am hopful that all of my swimmers will have good swims and nice drops in their times," Eaton said. "We have the potential for several individual and relay team top eight podium finishes. These kids have all worked hard this season and deserve to have this chance."
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