As the top seed for the 50-yard freestyle consolation final in the Division I state swimming and diving meet Feb. 22, Grove City High School's Kalvin Koethke set his sights high.
"I had a good lane, so I was like: 'You know what? Let's just go,' " Koethke said. "I am a sophomore and have two more years. I was just trying to beat everybody in both heats. I know that's a lot to ask, but why not set your goals high?"
Koethke didn't beat everyone, but had the finishes from both the championship and consolation heats been combined, he would have ended up on the podium at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Koethke swam 21.21 seconds in the consolation final, tying Ryan Sara of North Olmsted for ninth overall. The top eight swimmers from the preliminaries swam in the championship final and stand on the awards podium, and Koethke and Sara's time would have placed them seventh in that race.
Thomas Trace of Upper Arlington won the championship in 20.61.
"Our district produces a lot of good freestylers," Koethke said. "My goal has been to get here, and I think I did well."
Koethke earned the Greyhounds eight points, as they tied for 44th behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (255) as 61 teams scored. St. Xavier won its sixth consecutive title and 35th overall, the most by any team in any sport in the state.
In addition to hoping his state performance catapults him into the second half of his prep career, Koethke also thinks he has several more inches to grow. He is 5-foot-10, but said his parents experienced growth spurts as late as college.
"My dad was maybe 5-7 as a freshman in college and he's about 6-2 now," Koethke said. "My mom was the same way. She was 5-1 as a senior, and now she's 5-8 or 5-9. I do think I have some growing left to do."
Based on a second-place finish in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 25 at Thomas Worthington and fourth-place performance in a sectional Feb. 8 at UA, Grove City coaches hope similar growth is in store for the program.
"I think we are definitely starting to establish this as a program that is up and coming," assistant coach Matt Long said. "We are still building, but even next year we are scheduling meets with higher-caliber opponents. The guys team in particular is ready for the next level. The girls team needs numbers before we can get there. It's hard to swim with only eight girls. But the program is definitely on the rise."
In the league meet, Koethke was runner-up to Pickerington North's Andrew Martin in the 50 free (22.21) and 100 free (50.72) and helped the 200 medley relay to first (1:49.49) with Isaac Stretch, Graham Sullivan and Adam Stretch.
Martin qualified for state in both events, placing fifth in the 50 free (21.08) and 13th in the 100 free (46.81).
The Greyhounds were second (232) behind North (330) and ahead of Lancaster (211), Gahanna (209), Pickerington Central (132) and Reynoldsburg (27). The girls team was sixth (85) behind Gahanna (354.5), Reynoldsburg (222), North (221), Lancaster (157.5) and Central (135).
Groveport does not have a swimming and diving program, and Newark did not attend the meet because of bad weather.
At sectional, Koethke's second-place finish in the 50 free (24.56) and third-place effort in the 100 free (48.11) led the Greyhounds to 117 points and fourth of 11 teams behind champion St. Charles (340.5). The girls were 11th (19) of 13 teams behind champion UA (494).
Mallory Best was the only individual district qualifier for the girls, placing ninth in the 500 free (5:45.54) at sectional. She also was on the eighth-place 400 free relay (1:55.26) with Kayla Heacock, Margo Leist and Allyson Payne that advanced to district Feb. 15 at Ohio State, where it placed 25th (4:08.95).
Best was 29th at district in the 500 free (5:56.49), and the girls team did not score as UA (522.5) won.
The boys were 15th (51) at district behind champion St. Charles (304) as 25 teams scored. Koethke placed fourth in the 50 free (20.27) and eighth in the 100 free (47.85).
Best was the only senior on relays at district.
"They're all young," Long said. "They have a lot of maturing to do, physically and mentally, so I can't even imagine what it'll be like in two years."