Blake Fry will represent the Canal Winchester High School boys swimming team in the Division I state meet for the third time this weekend, but until now he's never qualified as a district champion.
That changed Feb. 15 at Ohio State, when the junior won the 100-yard breaststroke in a personal-best 57.04 seconds. That was a drop of 1.39 seconds from a sectional six days earlier at Upper Arlington, a time that earned Fry the second seed at district.
"I am very happy, very proud," said Fry, who edged runner-up Mitchell List of St. Charles by .39 of a second. "It means a lot. I didn't think it was going to happen. Being seeded second coming in, that's the best I've ever been seeded, so I saw it as an opportunity to seize the moment. The energy was great. It was exciting. When I saw my time, I had to look twice."
Fry also will compete at state, which will be held Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at Branin Natatorium in Canton, in the 500 freestyle, having earned an at-large berth by placing eighth in 4:40.48.
He is seeded 10th in the 100 breast and 19th in the 500 free.
His district performances led the Indians to 31 points and 19th place behind champion Dublin Jerome (301) as 27 teams scored.
The top two placers in each swimming event automatically advanced to state. In addition, 16 at-large state berths were awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
Fry will be joined at state by Grace Riddle of the girls team, which tied Hilliard Bradley for 19th (24) at district behind champion UA (306) as 27 teams scored. The senior finished sixth in the 100 backstroke (57.7) and is seeded 23rd at state.
Fry placed 15th in the 500 free and 19th in the 100 breast at state last year and finished 22nd in the 100 breast and 23rd in the 500 free as a freshman.
"Blake has had an incredible season. This is great for our program," coach Shawn Elizondo said. "He was super pumped when he came out of the pool (after the 100 breast). He's been working on his dives and glides with his club coach and he's been tweaking things here and there. He swam an incredible race. It was exciting to watch."
Fry's time in the 500 free also was a personal best. Grove City's Spencer Tussing won in 4:32.33, just ahead of Westerville North's Andrew Bernsdorf (4:33.17).
"I feel like Blake held a little bit back in the (500 free) because the 100 breast is his thing," Elizondo said. "He still dropped three seconds in the 500 free. Tussing had an incredible race. It was a fast race overall. But Blake is excited and we're excited. It will be a fun weekend to see what ends up happening."
Although Riddle fell short of an at-large berth in the 100 free, in which she finished eighth (52.71) and dropped 1.43 seconds from sectional, she largely was pleased with her times.
"Every year, this meet seems like it gets faster," Riddle said. "My times were good. Waiting (to see if she made state was) not any fun, but I felt good about it. My 200 free was what I wanted to go. In the 100 back, I was hoping for 56 (seconds), but I won't beat myself up about it. I've been going 57 since my freshman year. It's good to get back down there again."
Boys basketball team focuses on tourney
After losing three of its last four regular-season games, including a 42-33 setback at Newark on Feb. 15 that cost it the OCC-Capital Division championship, the boys basketball team took the weekend off before preparing for a Division I district tournament first-round home game Saturday, Feb. 23, against 18th-seeded Jerome.
Canal Winchester, which is seeded 10th of 47 teams, is 18-4 overall.
Brady Snyder had 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals against Newark, which avenged a 68-61 loss to the Indians on Jan. 11. The Wildcats finished 8-2 in the league, and the Indians were second at 7-3.
"It was definitely more a defensive battle than an offensive battle and they did a good job taking away our inside game," coach Lyndell Snyder said. "We had the lead at 21-19 in the third quarter and they rattled off eight points in a row and led the rest of the way. Brady had two guys running at him at all times and still got some quality shots. It's a game we can learn from. We can build off that energy and that atmosphere and hopefully create that ourselves in the tournament."
Jerome was 14-7 before playing Westerville North on Feb. 19.
"They have 11 seniors and they'll come at you hard. They substitute four guys at a time," coach Snyder said. "I think they're pretty guard-oriented. They'll shoot a lot of 3-pointers and make us work to score."
The winner will play host to 25th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in the second round March 1.
"We told the guys that everything we've been through this season is good preparation for this 'second season,'" coach Snyder said. "If somebody told me before the season that we'd be 18-4, I'd have gladly taken it. We just didn't finish (the regular season) the way we wanted to. The wins are nice, but the losses do sting when you don't have too many of them."
Girls basketball team preps for Vikings
After taking a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament, the girls basketball team will visit 11th-seeded Teays Valley for a second-round game Friday, Feb. 22.
The Indians, who are 13-9 and seeded 18th of 45 teams, finished the regular season with three consecutive wins and six in their last seven games. Canal Winchester has not played since a 53-42 win at New Albany on Feb. 8.
Teays Valley improved to 20-3 by routing 34th-seeded Olentangy Orange 71-29 in the first round Feb. 16. Senior guard Reagan Willingham scored a career-high 30 points and the Vikings made 11 3-pointers in the win.
The winner will play fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg or 43rd-seeded Mifflin in a district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at a neutral site. That winner advances to a district final March 2.
The Indians lost to the Raiders 60-40 on Dec. 11.
Wrestlers head to sectional tourney
After finishing OCC-Capital competition at 0-5 with a 55-21 loss at Franklin Heights on Feb. 14, the wrestling team will participate in a 10-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at Marysville.
Last year in the same facility, Canal Winchester advanced a program-record 10 wrestlers to district. However, that came in a sectional that fed into the Central/Northeast/Northwest District tournament at Perrysburg.
This weekend, the Indians are in a sectional that includes two of the top five-ranked teams in the district in second-seeded Dublin Coffman and fifth-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.