Swimmers around the state of Ohio will dive into the postseason this weekend as the quest for the OHSAA State Swimming and Diving Championship begins.
Sectional action will be held Saturday with area swimmers converging on Steubenville High School's natatorium with their sites set on earning a trip to the district meet on Feb. 14 at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on the campus of The Ohio State University.
The sectional meet is slated to begin at 10 a.m. The sectional champion this weekend earns an automatic spot in the district. The balance of the field won't be known until Sunday evening because the final 27 spots are determined by times of the other sectionals that converge on the OSU district, which are in the Central and Southeast Districts.
The Division II state meet will be held on Feb. 20 and 21 at Branin Natatorium at Canton McKinley High School.
For St. Clairsville senior Michael Eaton, the chase of the state title officially begins. The talented two-time all-Ohioan has enjoyed a brilliant season thus far.
He'll be entered in his two specialties and boasts the top seed time in both the 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. Eaton qualified to the state meet in both events a season ago. He was fifth in the state in the breast.
In this weekend's breaststroke, three of the top five from last year's state meet will be in the field. Eaton will be joined by the Dover duo of Jake Armstrong and Frannie Brogan, who finished second and third, respectively in the state.
Eaton has swam a 58.38 this season, which is more than three seconds faster than each of the Dover entrants.
In the 100 freestyle, Eaton's 48.92 seed time is nearly two seconds better than his nearest competitor.
The Lady Red Devils boast a top seed in senior Alaina Fasola. Her 58.60 is the top entered time in the 100 freestyle.
Classmate Carly Falcone is second seeded in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:18.31.
Delainey Banks is a quality entrant for the Lady Devils in the 200-yard IM.
The St. C. boys and girls both have quality relay teams entered in the field that could contend for district spots.
Martins Ferry believes it can once again qualify a solid delegation to the district meet.
"Every year, our goal is to advance as far in the postseason as we can," said Martins Ferry head coach Nick Levi. "We must swim fast at the sectional, so we've stressed the little things that could be the difference between advancing and sitting at home."
The Lady Riders boast the top entrant in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle in freshman standout Alyssa Kalinski. Her seed times are 2:22 and 5:31.08, respectively. Those times are seven and 11 seconds faster than her nearest competitor.
Tara Fogle is seeded second in the fly and fifth in the back, putting her in a solid position to advance.
Levi believes Abbey Ecker (200 IM and 500 free), Megan Ritts (50 and 100 free) and Shelby Poludniak (500 free and backstroke) are on the bubble for spots in the district meet.
The Lady Riders' 200 medley team is the top seed in the relay event.
"In order to give ourselves the best opportunity to advance, we realize we must drop time or, at the very least, hold your seed time," Levi said. "We have a few swimmers who are still training hard this week and we're holding their taper until the week of districts."
Brandon Bliss and Alex Meigh are the top entrants for the Purple Rider boys. Bliss is seeded fourth and fifth in the 500 free and backstroke, respectively.
"The hardwork we've put in for the last several years, as well as this season, is reflective in our seed times," Levi said. "We have several kids who have given themselves an opportunity to advance."
Barnesville's youthful girls squad should fare well as it pertains to advancement.
"We spend most of our season preparing for this meet," said Barnesville head coach Bobbi Jo Johnson. "We established our team 14 years and we've had swimmers reach the district each year."
The Shamrocks had only three swimmers compete in the OVAC because of the bout with Mother Nature two weeks ago. Much of the season, has been a battle with the weather.
"It has been rough," Johnson said. "The kids have gotten ready for practices and/or meets just to have them cancelled. I think we'll be ready for Saturday."
The Shamrocks have all three of their relays seeded inside the top 10 and 13 individuals inside the top 11.
"That's the most swimmers we've had seeded that high in a very long time," Johnson said. "We're just hoping the weather cooperates."
The Lady Shamrocks are led by freshman Kasi Castello, who is third seed in the 50 freestyle and fifth in the 100 fly.
Senior Shelby Wells and sophomore Alexis Starr are seeded fourth and fifth, respectively in the 100 breaststroke.
Myka Gordon and Carolyn Blattler are two other key cogs for the Lady Shamrocks, who could fare well as individuals.
St. John Central's Austin Schramm and Karlee Vostatek could also make some noise in hopes of a district berth.