Justin Mathews of the Pickerington High School North boys swimming and diving team was a little upset after the OCC-Ohio Division meet Jan. 25 at Thomas Worthington.
Mathews won the 200-yard freestyle by 3.82 seconds and was second in the 100 breaststroke by .91. His times weren't up to his standard, but Mathews was pleased that he helped the Panthers win their fourth consecutive league championship.
"You have good races and you have bad races. You just have to live with them," he said. "There will be more tries. Sectional and districts are coming up, so hopefully I'll have a good taper, come back and have a strong swim. But this, winning the championship, it is really awesome. It's special to maintain this tradition."
Mathews went 1:52.84 in the 200 free to beat runner-up Garrett Dunn of Lancaster, and his 1:04.39 in the 100 breast was just shy of Lancaster's Ryan DePietro. Andrew Martin won the 50 free (21.89) and 100 free (48.9) for North, which scored 330 points to easily outdistance Grove City (232), Lancaster (211), Gahanna (209), Pickerington Central (132) and Reynoldsburg (27).
Newark did not attend the meet because of wintry weather conditions, and Groveport does not have a swimming and diving program.
North's boys 200 free relay also won (1:33.31), edging runner-up Grove City by .3 and Lancaster by .47.
"The guys did really, really well," said Justin Dortch, who coaches both North and Central. "As I keep reminding them all, they're not supposed to swim well this time of year. I know Justin is really frustrated with his 100 breast time and I'm not at all. It's exceedingly difficult to maintain that kind of intensity level in training, especially as we transition to more sprint work and more higher-intensity things. They see it as getting higher reps. What they don't understand is we're reconditioning their bodies to do something different."
Clay White won the diving title (497.5) in a separate event at New Albany, defeating Gahanna's Patrick Mason (205.7) in a two-athlete competition.
Also for North's boys, the 400 free relay was second (3:27.7), Nicholas Rushlow was third in the 100 backstroke (1:03.06) and fifth in the 200 individual medley (2:18.7), Nate Campbell was fourth in the 200 free (1:59.03) and fifth in the 100 butterfly (1:02.47), Alex Radanof was fifth in the 500 free (5:37.13) and Durkin Ross was fourth in the 50 free (24.11) and sixth in the 100 breast (1:09.7).
The girls team's bid to repeat as league champion was thwarted by Gahanna, which scored 354.5 points to finish well ahead of Reynoldsburg (222), North (221), Lancaster (157.5), Central (135) and Grove City (85).
The Panthers got runner-up finishes from the 200 medley relay (1:56.65), Kelly Mason in the 100 fly (1:03.1), Abby Grube in the 100 breast (1:12.52) and the 200 free relay (1:49.49). Anna Bower was third in the 500 free (6:02.52) and Mason was third in the 100 free (59.24).
Stewart, Speidel lead Tigers
Despite feeling under the weather, Ashley Stewart was second in the 50 free (26.74) and third in the 100 back (1:08.13) to pace Central's girls.
Stewart was .29 behind winner Kirstyn Thomas of Gahanna in the 50 free.
"I wasn't as good as I thought I'd be. I'm coming down with a cold and that's worn me down a little," Stewart said.
"I was about a second off in the 50 free. My 100 back was maybe three seconds off of what I expected. I'd have liked to have gone even faster than that, but I know there's time to improve."
The 200 free relay was third (1:53.82) and Sidney Martin was fifth in the 100 breast (1:17.73) for Central, which was without sophomore freestyler Valerie Orr because of an injury.
Matthias Speidel was second in the 100 back (1:02.94) to lead the boys. Trace Eberhardt was third in the 100 free (53.02) and 200 free (1:56.88), and George Melikian was fourth in the 200 IM (2:12.35) and fifth in the 100 breast (1:08.98).
Ben Rapley was fourth in the 100 fly (1:01.3).
"A lot of these kids are dog-tired, and that makes me excited about how they performed so well," Dortch said. "At a short meet like this when you're not tapered, sometimes the energy just isn't there. But I'm proud of the way these kids are working."
Central and North will compete in a Division I sectional Feb. 8 at Upper Arlington. The winner of each event qualifies for district Feb. 15 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites. Divers do not compete until district.
Both programs also compete Friday, Jan. 31, in the Small School Invitational at Lancaster YMCA.