The odds weren't necessarily in Maddie Martin's favor this time.
Seeking her fourth consecutive Division I state championship in the girls 100-yard butterfly, the Pickerington High School Central senior recorded only the sixth-best qualifying time from the preliminary Feb. 22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton to the final the next day. Martin had a time of 56.45 seconds, .75 of a second slower than her district championship time.
That left her in lane 6 for the final, and outside lanes typically feature slower times because waves from the middle lanes travel in that direction.
In the end, that didn't matter.
Martin capped her high school career with her fourth 100 fly title, swimming 55.37 to edge runner-up Emily Slabe of Cincinnati Ursuline by .06 of a second. Slabe's preliminary time of 55.03 was the fastest by .83 of a second.
Martin is the 10th swimmer in state history to be a four-time champion in the same event.
"I really don't think it matters what lane you are in," said Martin, an Auburn signee who also finished seventh in the 100 freestyle (51.97). "I was excited and nervous about cutting time, and I wasn't really thinking about where I was. I feel like I was expected to win it again, so I really wanted to do it and please people, like my parents and my teammates."
Coach Nicole Richmond was on edge the entire race.
"It was very, very nerve-wracking to sit through that. I'm excited for her, though. It's a huge accomplishment," Richmond said. "This is the closest it's been in a while. It was hers to take last year. There was nobody close to her time, and this year it was a little bit closer. It makes for a good meet, though."
Martin, who was Central's only state representative, earned the Tigers 32 points and an 18th-place finish behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (234) as 55 teams scored. Ursuline unseated eight-time defending state champion Upper Arlington by 19 points.
Martin is one of three seniors on the girls team and six in the Tigers' program. Among the expected returnees are district-qualifiers Sidney Martin (freshman, 500 free and 200 individual medley), Matthias Speidel (junior, 100 breaststroke) and Ashley Stewart (junior, 50 free and 100 backstroke).
No Central boys individual or relay advanced from district. The Tigers were paced by their 400 free (3:29.44, 15th) and 200 medley (1:49.36, 16th) relays.
In the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 26 at New Albany, the boys scored 169 points and placed fifth behind Pickerington North (349), Lancaster (197), Grove City (187) and Gahanna (186) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (75) and Newark (48). The girls were fourth (175) behind North (306), Gahanna (297.5) and Reynoldsburg (205) and ahead of Lancaster (129), Grove City (107.5) and Newark (30).
In a 12-team sectional Feb. 9 at UA, the boys were eighth (56) behind champion UA and the girls were seventh (89) behind the champion Golden Bears (463).
UA also swept the district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio State. The Tigers boys were 24th (6) behind the Bears (380) as 24 teams scored and the girls were 13th (61) behind UA (491) as 24 teams scored.
"It's sad because I'm losing some strong guys. I want to keep coming back here," Richmond said. "We have Sidney Martin, who has found an opportunity to compete this year. Matthias and Ben (Rapley, a freshman) have great opportunities. We have every chance to come back (to state). They just have to be focused and do what they need to do in the water."
Martin, White pace Panthers
North junior Andrew Martin was eighth in the 100 fly (51.1) and 100 back (52.42), and junior Clay White placed ninth (440.35) in diving as the Panthers boys scored 31 points at state and placed 23rd behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (270) as 57 teams scored.
White missed on his fourth dive, an inward two-and-a-half, but rebounded for a top-10 finish behind champion Stephen Romanik of Macedonia Nordonia (557.15).
"At districts (the inward two-and-a-half) was my best dive. It was fine here when I was warming up, but I just felt a little close to the boards and I got nervous. I went a little over," said White, who was 16th (354.85) at state as a freshman. "From there, I was pretty happy. I didn't think I'd go up as far as I did because I barely made the first cut."
The 200 medley relay with Martin, juniors Justin Mathews and Jacob Griffith and senior Josh Harris was disqualified in the preliminaries.
St. Xavier easily outdistanced runner-up UA (187.5) to win its fifth consecutive state title and 34th overall, the most by any team in any sport in OHSAA history.
Panthers senior Sara Sams was 13th in the 100 breast (1:06.54), and the girls finished 48th with four points.
The boys were fourth (124) and the girls were fifth (104) in the UA sectional, and they were ninth (114) and 14th (57), respectively, at district.