The Thomas Worthington High School girls swimming and diving team made a strong showing in the Division I district meet even though its top swimmers requested to forego individual events in order to focus on the relay events.
The Cardinals scored 204 points to place second in the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State behind Upper Arlington (522.5) as 24 teams scored and advanced all three of their relays to the state meet at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The preliminaries for all swimming events will be held Friday, Feb. 21, and the finals are Saturday, Feb. 22.
"We don't have a large group, with five girls going to state, but it's a group that could end up scoring the most points at state that the program has ever scored," said coach Jim Callahan, who was named district Girls Coach of the Year. "This is a team that is built to score in the postseason. They've all been there before, too."
Kaylee Witkiewicz won the district title in the 50-yard freestyle (23.71 seconds) and is seeded fourth at state.
The junior also swam leadoff in the winning 200 medley relay (1:45.29), teaming with senior Julia Valentine, junior Abby Wiet and sophomore Rina Laios. The relay is seeded second at state.
The top two finishers in each swimming event at district automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
"Kaylee and Rina both gave up individual events so they could compete in all three relays for the good of the team," Callahan said. "All of the girls are pulling in the same direction. We wanted the best we had for the medley relay because that seems to be most important for the girls."
Both of the free relays finished second at district and are seeded eighth at state. The 200 free relay of senior Cassandra Laios, Valentine, Rina Laios and Witkiewicz finished in 1:37.98 and the 400 free relay of the Laios sisters, Wiet and Witkiewicz finished in 2:33.2.
Cassandra Laios will be making her third state appearance. She swam four personal-best times at district, but failed to advance to state in an individual event after placing eighth in the 100 backstroke (1:00.02) and 11th in the 200 free (1:59.75).
"I had my best times and came close to a few goals, like breaking a minute in the 100 back and reaching state (as an individual), but it was still a really great feeling," she said. "Now I want to get new PRs in the free relays so we can break school records at state. I want to contribute what I can for this team."
Valentine was district runner-up in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.19) and is seeded sixth at state, and Wiet placed sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:09.85) at district and is seeded 20th at state.
"Valentine was a state finalist last year and Witkiewicz is also on a mission," Callahan said. "Wiet is competing in the 200 IM for the first time this year and made it to state. All three relays had the program's second-best times at district and could break the school records at state. It was a great weekend for the Thomas girls."
Kilbourne was led at district by Jackie Wachtel, who qualified for state in two individual events. The junior placed fourth in the 100 breast (1:06.15) and is seeded 11th at state and finished seventh in the 100 butterfly (58.6) and is seeded 24th.
"Jackie Wachtel did a great job and I'm very excited to see how she does in her first experience at state," said Callahan, who also coaches the Kilbourne boys and girls teams and the Thomas boys team."She overcame a shoulder injury and has been very solid."
Kilbourne scored 47 points at district to place 15th.
Boys teams end season at district
Neither the Kilbourne nor Thomas boys teams had any Division I state qualifiers.
The Wolves' 200 medley relay of senior Riku Kaida, junior Justin Jiang, sophomore Nick Ramos and junior Grayton Giesman finished seventh (1:38.83) at district and missed earning an at-large state berth by .06 of a second.
Also for the Wolves, Kaida set a program record in the 100 back by finishing 13th in 55.09.
Kilbourne scored 47 points at district to finish 17th behind champion St. Charles (304) as 25 teams scored.
"The (Kilbourne) boys may not have advanced, but they all had great meets," Callahan said. "Kaida set a record and the medley relay just missed advancing. Giesman had four lifetime-best swims, Logan Indest had two and Jiang had Kilbourne's second-best ever time in the 100 breast (1:02.51)."
The top finish for Thomas at district was turned in by Jaxon Stiver, who placed sixth in diving (339.75 points) as the top three qualified for state.
Gabriel Finch had the Cardinals' best finish in a swimming event, placing 14th in the 100 back (56.39).
"Finch's time in the 100 back is impressive for a freshman," Callahan said. "All three Thomas relays improved their sectional times and they also got diving points from Jaxon Stiver and Andrew Spain (278.05, 15th), so it was a good day all-around."
Thomas scored 18 points at district to finish 21st.