Locked in a tight battle with Gates Mills Hawken in the championship race of the 200-yard freestyle relay in the state meet, senior Perry Finnegan of the Watterson High School boys swimming and diving team finally got his chance to relieve what had been mounting pressure.
Although the Eagles were seeded first in the final, senior Thomas Clark, who led off the relay and was followed by sophomore Michael Vondran, senior David Coss and Finnegan, said it felt like "forever" waiting for the event to occur Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The relay finished first in 1 minute, 25.66 seconds, edging runner-up Hawken (1:26.09).
It marked the first state title for the boys program, according to coach Megan Downing Teeters.
"My team had trust in me," Finnegan said. "As soon as I got on the block, I was going to give everything I had and didn't want to let them down."
Watterson was in third heading into the third leg but got a 21.37 split by Coss and a 20.67 split by Finnegan.
According to Coss, the relay "left it all out there."
"It was insane," Downing Teeters said. "I didn't even really think it was possible. I thought it would be great if they could get into the top three because Hawken is known for stacking their relays for the finals. I was just in complete shock and I was so happy. It was a great ending."
The same four boys finished ninth in the 200 medley relay (1:36.43).
Also at state, Clark placed seventh in the 200 individual medley (1:55.09) and 10th in the 100 butterfly (50.75) and Finnegan was seventh in the 50 free (21.43) and 13th in the 100 free (48.26) as the Eagles scored 93 points to finish seventh behind champion Hunting Valley University School (219.5) as 54 teams scored.
The girls team competed in the Division I meet that concluded Feb. 24.
Junior Elizabeth Intihar finished ninth in the 500 free (4:57.83) and 12th in the 200 free (1:53.36).
"It hurt at the end, but that's what's supposed to happen in the 500," Intihar said. "I really don't go out very fast and definitely count on that last 300 (yards). State is the greatest swim meet of all time and I had such a great time. We really loved the relays."
Sophomore Mia Brown finished ninth in the 50 free (23.73) and 22nd in the 100 free (53.09).
"It was a great time," Brown said. "I visualized it and I did everything I wanted to do and won (the consolation final of the 50 free), which was the goal. ... We had two seniors, a junior and a sophomore (at state), so I'm excited (for next year)."
Also competing at state were the 200 free relay of Brown, Intihar and seniors Cecilia Moore and Julia St. John (18th, 1:38.83) and the 400 free relay of Brown, Intihar, Moore and St. John (18th, 3:37.08).
The Eagles scored 23 points to place 21st behind champion Mason (236) as 55 teams scored.
"Elizabeth last year only made (state in) the 500 free and didn't make the (consolation) final, so to make it in two events was good," Downing Teeters said. "We had good performances in both (our girls relays)."
Boys basketball team set to open tourney
After having a first-round bye in the Division II district tournament, the ninth-seeded boys basketball team will begin postseason action Saturday, March 3, at home against 14th-seeded Sparta Highland.
The Fighting Scots, who are 14-8, lost to DeSales 53-43 on Feb. 10. The Eagles beat the Stallions 45-38 on Dec. 15 and 53-42 on Jan. 26.
"Their record is pretty good," coach Vince Lombardo said. "We know they've got some big kids and a good record, so we'll expect that to be a good challenge. It doesn't look like there will be any easy games in the tournament."
The winner plays third-seeded Columbus South, 17th-seeded Buckeye Valley or 20th-seeded Caledonia River Valley in a district semifinal Tuesday, March 6, at a neutral site to be announced.
The district final is March 10 at Africentric.
The Eagles closed the regular season with a 47-33 loss to Hilliard Davidson on Feb. 20 to drop to 12-10. Zach Sawyer had 19 points for Watterson, which trailed 27-17 at halftime and was held under 10 points in three of the four quarters.
Girls basketball team reaches district semi
The girls basketball team reached a Division I district semifinal by defeating 29th-seeded Olentangy 52-36 in a second-round game Feb. 22 at home.
The 13th-seeded Eagles were 16-8 before facing top-seeded Newark in a semifinal Feb. 28. The winner plays seventh-seeded Upper Arlington or sixth-seeded Northland in a district final Saturday, March 3, at Ohio Dominican.
The district champion faces Dublin Coffman, Westerville South, Canal Winchester or Lancaster in a regional semifinal Tuesday, March 6, at Otterbein. The regional final is March 9 at Otterbein.
Against Olentangy, Gretchen Glanzman had 16 points, Lainey Billing scored 12 and Paige Woodford added nine, as Watterson led 30-12 at halftime.
"I know I was thinking the whole time that this is my last time playing (at home), so I was going to leave it all out there," said Glanzman, one of three seniors for the Eagles along with Billing and Elizabeth Van Paepeghen. "We've been practicing and watching film and knew what we needed to do to win. I was just making my shots and it just felt good. Every practice coach (Tom Woodford) says we just (wanted) a shot (at Newark)."
Bowling teams open postseason
The bowling teams opened the postseason last week at HP Lanes.
On Feb. 23, senior Jesse Pulsinelli of the boys team earned medalist honors with a 592 three-game series to advance individually to the district tournament Saturday, March 3, at HP Lanes.
The Eagles finished 30th (2,919) of 38 teams, behind champion Westerville Central (3,836), as the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams moved on to district.
Senior Danny Callaghan (95th, 437) and junior Seth Payton (131st, 361) also competed in all three games, while senior Lane McVey, junior Conor Smith and sophomore Jacob Garland were other competitors.
The girls team advanced to district by finishing 10th (2,961) of 37 teams at sectional Feb. 24, behind champion Gahanna (3,642).
Sophomore Isabelle Payton was 20th (495), followed by juniors Mary Pulsinelli (32nd, 470) and Anna Rose (tied for 82nd, 395). Also competing were junior Ella Riedinger and freshmen Christine Rose, Rachel Reuter and Madison Shaw.
At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament March 9 (boys) and March 10 (girls) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
CHC title highlighted hockey season
During its second season under coach Jay Graham, the hockey team improved by eight victories and won the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division championship, going 11-5 (22 points) to finish ahead of DeSales (10, 5-11), Thomas Worthington (4, 2-14) and Gahanna (0, 0-16).
The eighth-seeded Eagles lost to the eventual champion, top-seeded Dublin Jerome, 7-1 on Feb. 8 in the first round of the Blue Jackets Cup tournament.
Then on Feb. 18, eighth-seeded Watterson lost to 12th-seeded Cincinnati St. Xavier 7-2 in a district tournament second-round game to finish 21-11-2 overall.
"We obviously didn't finish the way we wanted to, but upon reflection, we're very pleased with the season," said Graham, whose team finished 13-20-1 last season. "When guys needed to, they just stepped up to the plate. Strong goaltending certainly helped in lots of places and we had a pretty special team bond."
Watterson is losing five seniors, led by forward Nick Kuraly, who led all CHC players with 30 league goals. Senior forwards Kyle Naderhoff, Jack Geswein, Ian Callahan and Keiler Rodil also were key players.
Naderhoff and junior forward Adam Fallon both scored 15 goals in league action and Geswein had 12.
On the season, Kuraly had 47 goals, followed by Fallon (26), Naderhoff (21) and Geswein (16). Kuraly also led in assists with 20, followed by Naderhoff (18), Fallon (16) and Callahan (10).
Fallon, junior forward Dom-inic Giacomin and sophomore goaltender Max Graham should be the top returnees.
Others eligible to return include juniors Jack Kish (defenseman/forward), Danny Kraft (defenseman) and Ryan Roark (goalie) and sophomore Ian Simone (defenseman).
Kish, Simone and sophomore Zach Kubatko all missed the loss to St. Xavier because of injury.
Watterson is expected to move up to the CHC-White next season, according to coach Graham.
"Adam Fallon is going to be a huge piece of the puzzle, we don't lose any defensemen and we've got both our goaltenders coming back," coach Graham said. "Hopefully, we'll have some guys able to fill the void for Nick, Jack and Kyle."
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
*Finishes: 21-11-2 overall, 11-5 (first) in CHC-Blue
*Seniors lost: Ian Callahan, Jack Geswein, Nick Kuraly, Kyle Naderhoff and Keiler Rodil
*Key returnees: Adam Fallon, Dominic Giacomin, Max Graham, Jack Kish, Danny Kraft, Zach Kubatko and Ian Simone
SWIMMING & DIVING
*Finishes: Boys -- Second in CCL, third at sectional, second at district, seventh at state; Girls -- Second in CCL, third at sectional, fifth at district, 21st at state
*Seniors lost: Boys -- Thomas Clark, David Coss, Matthew Heutel and Perry Finnegan; Girls -- Kelsi Connors, Cecilia Moore, Catherine Segreto, Amanda Springer and Julia St. John
*Key returnees: Boys -- Luke Franckhauser, Jack Macbeth, Samuel Oliver and Michael Vondran; Girls -- Anne Marie Arnold, Mia Brown, Maura Hickey, Elizabeth Intihar, Elena Latshaw, Emily Latshaw, Alyssa O'Sullivan and Isabella Roscoe