In last year's Division I state swimming and diving meet, Olentangy Liberty High School senior Olivia Ball won her second consecutive state diving title in dramatic fashion.
Ball, who trailed New Albany's Estee Pryor by more than 13 points as the competitors entered their final dives, executed a reverse 1 1/2 summersault with a 1 1/2 twist to finish with 461.75 points and edge Pryor (461.5) for first place.
Considering that Ball is seeded first and Pryor is seeded second entering the state meet Thursday, Feb. 20, through Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton, Ball said she is expecting another showdown with Pryor for the title.
"Estee is a beautiful diver and we've flip-flopped back and forth for first place at meets all season, so I think we both have a good shot at winning state," Ball said. "We dive together every day in the same group at Ohio State and she definitely pushes me to get better because she's so good. It seems like our scores are always pretty close and I think we'll be close again at state."
Ball scored a state-record 551.25 points to win the district title Feb. 15 at Ohio State ahead of Pryor (529.85).
At district, the top four girls divers, top three boys divers and top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on district times statewide.
"It was really close until the last few dives," Ball said. "It's really cool to win my third district title because there were a lot of good divers in this meet."
All three of Liberty's girls relays also qualified for state, as its 200-yard medley relay is seeded 20th and its 200 freestyle relay and 400 free relay are seeded 23rd.
At district, Justine Kenny, Bailee Braun, Caroline Racke and Reilly Haas finished fifth in the 200 medley relay (1 minute, 50.16 seconds). Racke, Ally Braun, Sam Dawson and Haas placed sixth in the 200 free relay (1:40.4) and Ally Braun, Haas, Dawson and Racke finished sixth in the 400 free relay (3:39.35).
The Patriots finished fifth (167) behind champion Upper Arlington (522.5) as 24 squads scored.
"The goal for our relays is to go faster at state because some of these kids have been there before and they want to finish at least in the top 16 there," coach Laurie Karr said.
Sophomore Cameron Thatcher led the boys team at district by placing first in diving (558.85) ahead of New Albany's David Dinsmore (553.45).
Thatcher is seeded first for state after finishing sixth (468.2) at state a year ago.
"Cameron came from behind to win on his last dive (at district) and we're excited to see what he'll do at state," Karr said.
Jack Saczawa finished third in the 100 backstroke (52.06) and is seeded 10th for state.
Tom Dawson placed fourth in the 100 breaststroke (59.83) and sixth in the 200 individual medley (1:56.97). He is seeded 20th in the 100 breast and 24th in the 200 IM for state.
Saczawa, Dawson, Turner Schade and Nicholas Tracewell finished sixth in the 200 medley relay (team-record 1:38.35) and are seeded 19th for state.
Liberty finished sixth (131) at district behind champion St. Charles (304) as 25 teams scored.
"This was exciting because we all swam well at district," Saczawa said. "Our relays swam really well again and I think we can all go even faster at state."
Braves girls sixth, boys fifth at district
Sophomore Ellie Nebraska led the Olentangy girls at district by placing third in the 100 free (52.34) and 200 free (team-record 1:52.75). She is seeded 11th in the 100 free and 15th in the 200 free for state.
"I swam my best time in the 200 free and I'm happy I made it back to state," Nebraska said.
Ellie Nebraska, Erika Poling, Mara Nebraska and Abbey Newman finished fourth in the 200 free relay (1:38.77) and are seeded 12th for state. The Nebraska sisters, Poling and Kaylyn Cochran placed fifth in the 400 free relay (3:36.67) and are seeded 15th for state.
Colleen McHugh finished third in diving (473.1) and is seeded fourth for state.
"Beating our school records in both the 200 free and 400 free relays here was fun," said Mara Nebraska, whose squad finished sixth (139) at district. "If we have faster starts, we can go even faster at state in both relays."
Keanan Fomich led the boys team by advancing to state in two individual events, as he finished fifth in the 100 back (52.31) and 200 free (1:43.49). He is seeded 15th in the 100 back and 20th in the 200 free for state.
"My 200 free was great, but I think I can improve more still at state," said Fomich, whose squad finished fifth (140) at district.
Tyler Norris finished fourth in the 500 free (4:43.68) and is seeded 22nd for state.
"My brother, Aaron, set the 500 free school record of 4:46 at Olentangy years ago and he was pressuring me to beat it this year," Norris said. "He was here watching me and when I saw my time I looked up at him in the stands and it felt amazing."
Winston Kuriger, Andrew Davis, Fomich and Norris placed fourth in the 400 free relay (3:12.86) and are seeded 11th for state.
"Everybody dropped so much time and we all broke 50 seconds in the 400 free relay, which was great," Kuriger said.
Kuriger, Colby Brothers, Fomich and Norris finished sixth in the 200 free relay (1:27.72) and are seeded 17th for state.
"We broke our 200 free relay record by three seconds and our 400 free relay record by four seconds," Norris said. "I think we can finish in the top 16 in both relays at state."
Pioneers' Haidet reaches state meet
Orange freshman Alyssa Haidet finished seventh at district in the 100 breast (team-record 1:06.75) and is the Pioneers' lone state qualifier. She is seeded 19th for state.
Also breaking team records were Anna Peura, Haley Johnson, Jasmine Wright and Eily Cogan in the 200 free relay (16th, 1:46.22) and Johnson, Haidet, Peura and Cogan in the 200 medley relay (14th, 1:54.98).
"Alyssa swam a great time to reach the podium," said coach Dan Harris, whose girls team finished 19th (26) at district.
Ric Reynolds placed 16th in the 100 back (team-record 57.12) to lead the boys team, which finished 22nd (17) at district.
Reynolds also finished 23rd in the 50 free (team-record 23.06).
"Our boys and girls had outstanding swims across the board and this was a great way to cap off our season," Harris said.