Blake Fry had a different purpose at this year's Division I state swimming and diving meet.
Making his second consecutive appearance at the meet that concluded Feb. 24 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, the Canal Winchester High School sophomore finished 15th in the 500-yard freestyle (4 minutes, 46.39 seconds) and 19th in the 100 breaststroke (58.28). That was a step up from last year, when he placed 22nd in the 100 breast and 23rd in the 500 free and was eliminated after the first day of the two-day meet.
This time around, Fry got to experience deafening cheers from a sellout crowd of more than 2,400 spectators in an arena that has hosted the boys state meet since 1976 and the girls meet since 1980.
"Making it to finals is an honor. The excitement in finals ... everybody was enthusiastic," Fry said. "I am very happy with the way I swam. Last year, just making state was super-exciting. I am glad I got back, but next year I am hoping for (championship) finals. There is a lot more work I have to do."
The top eight finishers in each swimming event in the preliminaries make the championship finals. The ninth- through 16th-place finishers compete in the consolation finals and the 17th- through 24th-place finishers are eliminated.
Fry earned the Indians two points and a 50th-place finish behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (413) as 51 teams scored. The Bombers won their ninth consecutive state title and 39th overall.
"He dropped (time) for district and turned around and dropped more time (at state)," coach Julie Pastor said. "He has two more years. We let him be himself (Feb. 24). He knows what he has to do. We let him do his warm-up that he wanted, told him what he wanted and let him get out there and go. He doesn't kick as well as he should, but he will get better."
The girls 200 free relay of seniors Hannah Olger and Kassidy Pastor and juniors Leah Bates and Grace Riddle finished 17th (1:38.71), one spot and .43 of a second away from appearing in the consolation final. The relay was at state for the fourth time in five years.
"That hurt," coach Pastor said. "They've been dropping time all year and we're proud, but they were so close."
That ended a season in which the girls team finished second in the OCC-Capital Division for the second consecutive year, scoring 295 points in the league meet Jan. 27 at New Albany to finish behind the host Eagles (459) and ahead of Big Walnut (139), Newark (126) and Groveport (116). Olger, a Youngstown State recruit, won the league title in the 100 free (54.98) and placed second in the 50 free (25.36).
Led by Fry's wins in the 100 breast (1:04.39) and 500 free (4:59.13), the boys team finished third (206) in the league meet behind the host Eagles (458.5) and Big Walnut (278.5) and ahead of Groveport (74) and Newark (55). Freshman Korbin Martino was runner-up in the 100 free (51.34).
In a sectional Feb. 10 at Upper Arlington, the girls were fifth (113) behind the host Golden Bears (328) as 15 teams scored and the boys were ninth (67) behind UA (327) as 13 teams scored.
The girls 200 free relay was eighth (1:38.86) at district Feb. 17 at Ohio University, leading Canal Winchester to 63 points and a 14th-place finish behind UA (274) as 30 teams scored. Riddle was seventh in the 100 backstroke (58.22) and eighth in the 200 free (1:56.02) but fell short of at-large state berths in both events.
Fry placed fifth in the 100 breast (58.38) and seventh in the 500 free (4:43.91) at district, as the boys tied Pickerington Central for 19th (26) behind champion Dublin Jerome (303) as 29 teams scored.
Other expected returnees for the boys team include three district qualifiers in sophomore Drew Kotwis (200 medley relay) and freshmen Lucas Elizondo (200 medley relay, 400 free relay) and Martino (50 free, 100 back, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay). The girls expect to return two other district qualifiers in junior Karenna Reed (200 medley relay, 500 free) and freshman Merideth McFarland (200 medley relay).
Coach Pastor is stepping down after seven seasons and said she hopes assistant coach Brenna Riddle is her successor.
"It's time to hand over the reins," Pastor said. "I can help out a little bit, but Brenna is going to do a great job leading the team."
Ten wrestlers heading to district tourney
The district tournament will be unlike anything the wrestling program has experienced so far.
Canal Winchester qualified a program-record 10 wrestlers to a combined Central/Northeast/Northwest district tournament Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at Perrysburg. The Indians chose to compete in the Whitehall sectional Feb. 24 that fed into that meet in suburban Toledo instead of the closer district competition with other area teams at Hilliard Darby.
Brack Byorth went 1-1 and placed second at 220 pounds to lead Canal Winchester, which finished third (133) behind champion Ashland (304) as nine teams scored. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district.
Other district qualifiers were Chance Brown (145, third, 3-1), Matt Kamer (182, third, 3-1), Jared Mattox (152, third, 3-1), Cian Rose (106, third, 2-1), Camden Butterbaugh (113, fourth, 0-2), Cameron Cross (160, fourth, 2-2), Michael Gallagher (132, fourth, 1-2), Charles Gerth (195, fourth, 2-2) and Patrick Zamble (170, fourth, 2-2). Butterbaugh advanced because there were only four competitors in his weight class.
Also competing but failing to advance was Matthias Hodge, who went 0-3 at 138 but placed sixth.
At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advance to state March 8-10 at Ohio State.
The Indians have not been represented at state since 2014.
Boys basketball team to face Punchers
Boys basketball coach Lyndell Snyder saw exactly what he hoped for from his team last week, given that the Indians had two weeks between their regular-season finale and their Division I district tournament second-round game Friday, March 2, at 29th-seeded Mifflin.
"It's different (to have this long a break)," Snyder said. "You have to figure out when to go hard, when to give the kids a day off and not burn them out. You have to stay in shape and stay engaged.
"We told them (last) week we're worrying about Canal Winchester. We worked on fundamentals and getting better shots. Once we found out who we're playing, then we can concentrate on who we're playing against. We did a lot of up-and-down physical stuff (last) week. (This) week is more mental preparation and figuring out our opponent."
Mifflin upset 15th-seeded Grove City 69-55 in a first-round game Feb. 23, outscoring the host Greyhounds 21-8 in the fourth quarter. Daveonn Logan had 17 points and Ayub Mohamed and James Watkins each scored 15 for the Punchers, who are 11-12.
The 30th-seeded Indians are 12-10 and have not played since a 61-49 loss to Newark on Feb. 16. Canal Winchester had won four of its previous five games before losing to the Wildcats, including a 71-65 overtime win over league rival New Albany on Feb. 9 and a 75-56 loss to Pickerington North on Feb. 6.
North is the top seed in the 48-team district tournament. Newark is fifth.
"Mifflin is extremely athletic and goes really hard," Snyder said. "There will be a lot of possessions in the game. We have to be ready to get out and go. We know it's going to be a dogfight."
The winner will play fourth-seeded Westerville North or 39th-seeded New Albany in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 7, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner advances to a district final March 10 at Ohio Dominican.
The Indians split two OCC-Capital games against New Albany, losing 61-50 on Jan. 5 and winning 71-65 in overtime on Feb. 9.
Girls basketball team advances to semifinal
The girls basketball team played fifth-seeded Westerville South in a Division I district semifinal Feb. 28, marking the program's first appearance in that stage of the postseason since 2006.
Seventeenth-seeded Canal Winchester entered the game at 18-6 after a 55-50 home win over 19th-seeded Logan in a second-round game Feb. 23. Amanda Rarick had 13 points, Shalea Byrd scored 12 and Markyia McCormick added 10 for the Indians.
The semifinal winner plays second-seeded Dublin Coffman or 20th-seeded Lancaster in a district final Saturday, March 3, at Ohio Dominican. The district champion faces Newark, Northland, UA or Watterson in a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 6, at Otterbein. The regional final is March 9 at Otterbein.
The Indians defeated Lancaster 45-36 on Jan. 9, lost to Newark 54-35 on Dec. 4 and 64-46 on Jan. 24 and fell to Watterson 47-33 on Feb. 14.
@ThisWeekDaveAt a glance
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- Third in OCC-Capital, ninth at sectional, tied for 19th at district, 50th at state; Girls -- Second in OCC-Capital, fifth at sectional, 14th at district, did not score at state
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Jake Smithers; Girls -- Erica Babusci, Emily Clubb, Jessica Diskin, Julia Kotwis, Hannah Olger, Kate Ozebec, Kassidy Pastor, Kaitlin Swearingen and Kaitlin Vojacek
*Key returnees: Boys -- Lucas Elizondo, Blake Fry, Drew Kotwis and Korbin Martino; Girls -- Leah Bates, Merideth McFarland, Karenna Reed and Grace Riddle