Notebook: Relay title kick-starts CSG Unicorns swimmers at state
The volume inside Canton’s Branin Natatorium wasn’t where Brian Botzman wanted it to be, but the Columbus School for Girls swimming and diving coach got maximum effort from his athletes to start the Division II state meet Feb. 24.
With limited spectators in the stands, the normally deafening buzz from the crowd that usually helps to invigorate competitors was missing. But even if the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic cut down on the energy, the Unicorns supplied some of their own by winning the meet’s first swimming event, the 200-yard medley relay, in a program-record 1 minute, 42.96 seconds.
“It was a very different state meet,” said Botzman, who concluded his third season. “The energy was the lowest that I’ve seen. I love being here and I’m so glad we got this opportunity, but it was different.
“We were spread out, there weren’t as many people here and it made for a tough environment. I like it when it’s loud and obnoxious, but the girls started strong on the 200 medley relay.”
Senior Nyah Funderburke (backstroke) led off the 200 medley relay, followed by senior Ava Fortney (breaststroke), freshman Bethany Spangler (butterfly) and sophomore Olivia Morse (freestyle).
“We knew we were going to win (the 200 medley relay) going in,” Funderburke said. “We didn’t have any doubts about the legs. I knew I had to start things off fast, though, because setting the pace is crucial in those types of relays.
“Ava Fortney swam her best split ever and we have two underclassmen in the final two legs. Overall, I’m proud of that and the way we swam.”
Fortney said the performance was a good table-setter against nemesis Gates Mills Hawken, which finished second in the 200 medley relay (1:44.47) but captured its 23rd consecutive state team title. The Hawks (287 points) finished ahead of runner-up Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (260) and third-place CSG (133) as 59 teams scored.
“I think we’ve wanted to beat Hawken in this race since we lost to them by 0.3 (seconds) last year,” Fortney said. “So that’s always been in the back of our minds. Starting out the meet with a win — by a lot — really got us going and gave us a lot of energy.”
Funderburke went on to repeat as champion in the 100 back (54.42), and the Ohio State signee finished second in the 100 fly (55.44) behind Dayton Chaminade Julienne’s McKenzie Reid (54.58). Funderburke won the 100 fly last season in 54.68.
“This season had a lot of unknowns to it but you have to take what you know and apply it to the unknown,” Funderburke said. “Being able to push through mental and physical barriers has been crucial.”
Fortney placed fourth in the 100 breast (1:04.28) and tied for 21st in the 100 free (55.27).
“When I started at CSG, I had zero state events as a freshman and sophomore but I made it in three last year,” Fortney said. “I wanted to redeem myself. I went from the last heat in the breaststroke (1:07.55, 19th) last year to being on the podium so that’s great.”
Funderburke, Fortney, Spangler and Morse also comprised the third-place 200 free relay (1:36.52). Morse placed 10th in the 100 free (54.09), and Spangler was 17th in the 200 free (1:59.23) and 20th in the 100 fly (1:01.11).
The 400 free relay of juniors Riley Murphy and Julianna Aslaner and freshmen Allie Gunsorek and Eva Schindler finished 20th in 3:47.18.
The Unicorns (308) won their eighth consecutive district championship Feb. 18 at Bowling Green as Funderburke won the 100 back (district-record 54.51) and Fortney was runner-up in the 100 breast (program-record 1:04.23).
CSG (394) also won its eighth consecutive league championship in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Jan. 30 at home.
“I’m appreciative that people got together so we could have this season,” Botzman said. “There was a lot of concern that this might not happen. If you look at water polo, they did away with that (until spring).
“The girls were out of their own pool for a couple weeks and some of the club teams shut down, so they didn’t have all of that preparation. I’m glad they could make it to this level and hope it helps them to realize that they can’t take anything for granted.”
•Anja Hoy competed for the Bexley girls swimming team in the Division II state meet. The freshman finished 20th in the 100 back in 1:00.82 after she was runner-up at district in 59.48.
“It’s definitely a different environment and I exceeded my expectations,” Hoy said. “I was happy to take in the experience. I wanted to soak in everything that was going on.”
Coach Sandy Sliwowski was pleased with Hoy’s performance.
“I think this is a great learning opportunity for her,” Sliwowski said. “It’s something for her to come back here next year and make some waves here at the state meet.”
Also competing at state for the Lions was Nicholas Minkin in the Division II boys meet Feb. 25 in Canton. The sophomore was seeded 19th in the 100 back (54.62) after placing fourth at district.
•The St. Charles bowling team had its season end in the Division I sectional tournament, which was held Feb. 19 and 20 at HP Lanes.
The Cardinals finished 34th (3,041) of 44 teams behind champion Marion Harding (4,316) as freshman Stu Hankinson (486, tied for 112th of 250 bowlers) led the way.
Seniors Nick Bastaja (472, tied for 120th), Teague O’Brien (434, 139th) and Cole Hankinson (376, 170th) also rolled three games for the Cardinals.
CSG SWIMMING & DIVING
•MSL-Ohio standings: CSG (394), Columbus Academy (241), Grandview (164), Bexley (157), Buckeye Valley (76), Wellington (64), Liberty Union (24), Worthington Christian (23)
•Seniors lost: Sydney Anderson, Olivia Barry-Wilson, Kayla Badyna Carpenter, Lauren Dittrick, Ava Fortney, Nyah Funderburke, Sophia Koffler and Mimi Purdum
•Key returnees: Julianne Aslaner, Allie Gunsorek, Olivia Morse, Riley Murphy, Eva Schindler and Bethany Spangler
•Postseason: First (452) at sectional, first (308) at district, third (133) at state behind champion Gates Mills Hawken (387)
ST. CHARLES BOWLING
•Record: 5-4 overall
•League finishes: Sixth (3-3) in COHSBC-D behind champion Ready (5-1), fourth (3-4) in CCL behind champion DeSales (6-2)
•Seniors lost: Cole Abbott, Nick Bastaja, Jack Carson, Ethan Clark, Cole Hankinson, Justin Imber, Nick Lusky, Teague O’Brien and Max Taylor
•Key returnee: Stu Hankinson
•Postseason: 34th (3,041) at sectional behind champion Marion Harding (4,316)