The eyes of the Ohio High School sports world are on Branin Natatorium in Canton, where the first state championships of the winter sports season are taking place in swimming and diving.

The eyes of the Ohio High School sports world are on Branin Natatorium in Canton, where the first state championships of the winter sports season are taking place in swimming and diving.

The meet, which began last Wednesday, will conclude Saturday. From central Ohio, five extraordinary swimmers will step up on the blocks as defending state champions. Each of the five reflected on these exciting moments.

Darcy Fishback, Upper Arlington: Fishback is going for her fourth consecutive state title in the 100-yard butterfly. "I really am not feeling a lot of pressure right now because I love to perform and put on a show for the fans," she said. "I know everyone swimming against me is out to beat me, but that even motivates me more and it makes it better when you win. Winning a state championship is not easy and never, ever will be, so you have to stay mentally strong going into competition. This experience is always exciting but this being my senior year makes it a special one."

Gracie Finnegan, Watterson: Finnegan, a junior, won state titles in the 50 freestyle and 100 free a year ago. "There is a lot more pressure this year than last year," she said. "I sort of like being the underdog in competition, but now they are all gunning for me. I am not the most confident person and that is a side of swimming I have to improve on, but my swims at the sectional and district meets helped me mentally. I know you run into trouble if you think you are something special, but right now I am super excited to go back and try to repeat and I also would like to break state records in both the 50 and 100, so let's go."

Ashley Specht, Olentangy Liberty: Specht, a senior, is a two-time state champion in the 100 breaststroke and is one of the premier young swimmers in the country. "I am going into competition open-minded, and I look at it with the mindset that you never know what will happen so you should treat it like your first state experience," she said. "These years have gone so fast and it seems like just yesterday that I was a freshman, so in a way it is sad and upsetting that it will be over. But I have had a wonderful experience, and even though there is a little bit more pressure on me, I want to ignore that and enjoy this weekend."

Eric Huffman, Upper Arlington: Huffman is the defending state champion in the 50 free and 100 free, and he has some major goals ahead of him. "After swimming in the sectional and district meets, I feel very confident for the state meet," he said. "I know I don't have wins in the bag and I know I can go faster, so I have some very big goals starting with trying to set state records in both of my events. The 50 record is a little more realistic, but both goals and my competition will push me to go faster. When I was a freshman I was a lane-six swimmer, and now it is an awesome experience to realize that people know and respect you and that has certainly helped my ego. I will be ready."

Margo Geer, Fairbanks: Geer, a junior, is going for her third consecutive state championships in the 50 free and 100 free. "I am really excited to go back and compete," she said. "I actually like the fact that there is lots of pressure on me, and I think that mental attitude sets me apart from some other swimmers. My dedication to swimming, my coaches and my teammates are the things that have contributed to my success and the only reason my confidence is so high is due to all the training and all the meets I have competed in."

I'll see you at a game.