St. C.’s Eaton qualifies in two events for state swim

COLUMBUS – For the third straight season, St. Clairsville’s Michael Eaton is headed to the Ohio Division II State Swimming Championship.

While qualifying to Canton has become somewhat of old hat for the Red Devil, heading to Branin Natatorium in two events is a first.

That’s the workload that Eaton faces when the state championship meet opens Thursday in Canton after he qualified in his two specialties, the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke during District action held Friday afternoon at The Ohio State University’s McCorkle Pavilion.

“It’s exciting,” Eaton said. “It’s definitely a little bit different going for two events and not having to worry about just one event, but it’s definitely a good problem.”

Eaton’s day at the pool got started with a gold medal swim in the 100 freestyle. He posted a personal-record time of 48.36 to prevail.

“The freestyle was tighter than I had expected,” Eaton said. “I felt really, really good during the first 50, but I had told my mom (Melanie) I was going to take the first 50 out as hard I could and then trust my training and hope to hold on.”

The 100 breaststroke, which Eaton won in 2012, was much faster than it was a year ago. Four swimmers broke the 60-second barrier and Eaton settled for silver with a 57.81.

“There were just some absurd times at this district,” Eaton admitted. “I never would have guessed it would have been that fast.”

The focus now shifts to preparing and scouting for next week’s meet. Eaton spent much of Friday evening working his cell phone to track down results.

“I think I am seeded third going into the breaststroke,” Eaton pointed out. “I am not totally sure on the freestyle yet. I know a kid I beat in a meet at Christmas time, who is the defending state runnerup, swam a 57.04, so he’s the top seed.”

Along with Eaton, the Red Devils enjoyed one of their best district finishes in the program’s history. The boys finished 10th in the team standings, while the girls were 11th.

The Red Devils’ 400 freestyle relay dropped 16 seconds to 3:33 for a fifth place finish.

The St. C. boys and girls’ 200 free relay teams earned a spot on the podium with seventh-place finishes.

“I am so proud of my whole team,” said St. C. head coach Melanie Eaton. “Everyone put forth their best effort and did an awesome job. I think every kid we brought swam his or her best time, so you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Barnesville senior Christopher Baker, who is a two-time state qualifier, will hold out for a possible at-large bid in both the 200 IM and 500 freestyle. He placed sixth in the 200 IM with a 2:05.95 and was fifth in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:02.98.