Rachel Politi had mixed feelings as she stood near the top of the podium after finishing second in the 100-yard butterfly in the Division II state swimming and diving meet.
The Columbus School for Girls junior was disappointed she didn’t reach her goals of capturing her first state title and finishing the race in under 55 seconds – she clocked 55.63 and Gates Mills Gilmour’s Kiley Eble won in 55.17.
At the same time, Politi was proud that she set a team record in the event in the preliminaries (55.61) and had her personal-best finish at state, after finishing fourth in the 100 fly (56.59) last year and third in the 100 fly (56.26) as a freshman.
Politi also was thrilled that she helped her team finish sixth (146 points) of the 49 squads that scored in the state meet, which was held Feb. 19-21 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Gates Mills Hawken won with 217 points.
“I’m not content because I didn’t do as well as I hoped I would, but as much as I wanted to win and go a second or two faster, I have a lot to be happy about,” Politi said. “I was able to stay healthy, do my best and have fun with my teammates, and that’s a victory in and of itself.”
Politi reached the state podium four times. She combined with freshman Miranda Donley, sophomore Eleanor Smith and senior Erin Balasky to place second in the 200 freestyle relay in a team-record 1:36.83, behind Gilmour (1:35.65).
She also opened the meet by finishing seventh in the 200 free (1:53.33) and teamed with Donley, Smith and sophomore Annie Moosavian to finish fifth in the 400 free relay (3:32.05).
“The 200 free was a rough start to the meet because I didn’t have my legs and I (struggled) in the second half of the race,” Politi said. “I was definitely worried because I felt a little tired in that race, so I’m happy with how I was able to finish.
“Our finish in the 200 free relay was really exciting, because when you compete in a relay, you’re swimming for something bigger than yourself.”
Donley placed fourth in the 50 free (23.43) and fifth in the 100 free (team-record 51.42).
“I had never been to a state meet before and I was pretty scared at first,” Donley said. “It was nerve-racking to swim in front of all of those people, but I wanted to win so bad and I had a drive to do well. I was seeded ninth in the 100 free, so I’m really excited about my finish in that race.”
Syreeta Palackdharry placed fourth in diving (355.55 points), while sophomore Gabrielle Eismann, junior Kirby Boes, Moosavian and Balasky finished 14th in the 200 medley relay (1:52.86). Smith was 12th in the 100 fly (59.21) and 22nd in the 100 free (54.48), Boes was 23rd in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.19) and Moosavian was 23rd in the 200 free (2:01.0).
“I’m thrilled that our team finished sixth at state after we finished 12th here last year, because it’s a big accomplishment,” coach Stephanie Donley said. “Our relays were amazing, and Rachel and Miranda both had great individual meets.”
The state meet capped a season in which CSG captured its first CCL title – breaking Watterson’s seven-year league title streak – and won its first district championship since 2001.
The Unicorns scored 413 points to win the district meet Feb. 14 at Ohio State, ahead of runner-up Granville (395), as Donley won the 100 free (52.07) and 50 free (23.42).
CSG finished first (273) of the 20 teams that scored in a sectional meet Feb. 8 at Columbus Academy, ahead of runner-up Granville (263), as Donley won the 50 free (team-record 24.5) and 100 free (53.95), and Politi won the 100 fly (meet-record 57.93).
The Unicorns also won (442) the CCL meet held Jan. 23 at home and Jan. 25 at St. Charles, ahead of Watterson (319), Hartley (193), DeSales (170) and Ready (32).
“We couldn’t have asked for a better season,” coach Donley said. “Erin Balasky is the only state qualifier we’re losing, so I’m really excited about our future.”
Basketball team loses tourney opener
The 20th-seeded basketball team opened the Division III district tournament Feb. 19 with a 77-28 loss at fourth-seeded Ready.
Sophomore post player Annie Parkhill had 10 points and junior guard Myrial Holbrook scored seven for the Unicorns, who finished 5-18 overall.
“We did our best, but Ready is a tough team,” senior point guard Ashley Harrington said.
The Unicorns finished 0-8 in the CCL behind DeSales (6-2), Ready (5-3), Watterson (5-3) and Hartley (4-4).
Under first-year coach Caren Truske, CSG won one more game than a year ago. The Unicorns were 4-19 last season and 1-20 the previous season.
After winning just one of their first 11 games, the Unicorns won the Jaguar Invitational on Jan. 17 and 18 at Wellington, defeating Shekinah Christian 37-34 and Wellington 42-24 in the final as Parkhill was the named tournament Most Valuable Player.
“We’re really excited that we won more games than we won last year,” Harrington said. “The biggest highlight was winning the Wellington tournament because beating Wellington in the final was a big upset.”
The Unicorns lose one senior starter in guard Lindsay Hester. But their other starters are expected to return in freshman point guard Nia Caldwell, Holbrook, junior post player Kameron Millner and Parkhill.
“I think they’re still going to have a strong team, even without us seniors, because the young players are only going to get better,” Harrington said.