Pickerington North Roundup: Panthers swimmer Marcus Schwartz plans to build on state appearance

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
North's Marcus Schwartz dives in for the 200-yard individual medley during the Division I state meet Feb. 27 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. He was the Panthers’ only state qualifier and the first for the boys team since 2017.

In the immediate aftermath of competing in his first Division I state meet, Pickerington North swimmer Marcus Schwartz analyzed his performance in the 200-yard individual medley and simultaneously acknowledged setting a high bar for the next two seasons.

Schwartz, a sophomore, finished last of 24 competitors (1 minute, 58.59 seconds) on Feb. 27 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Schwartz had been seeded 21st (1:55.72) coming off a 10th-place finish at district six days earlier at Bowling Green.

“I missed the wall (on my first turn Feb. 27) and that screwed up the rest of my race. I don’t even know how I missed it. I grabbed it and my hand went straight up the wall and slipped,” Schwartz said. “This year was fun. It was a little weird (because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and having no fans at meets) but overall, it was a great season.”

Schwartz was the Panthers’ only state qualifier and the first for the boys team since 2017, when then-junior Jason Mathews won the 100 breaststroke. Mathews repeated the next year as a senior at Westerville North and went on to swim at Ohio State.

Schwartz said he dropped about seven seconds in the 200 IM from the regular season to a sectional Feb. 13 at Upper Arlington, where he won in 1:55.55, and three seconds in the 100 breast, in which he finished first (58.31) at sectional and 11th at district (59.06).

“This gives me a lot to work toward,” Schwartz said.

Coach Chris Motz cited Schwartz’s work ethic, including many days in which he practices both with North and his New Albany Aquatics Club team.

“He attacks both practices. They’re high-caliber practices,” Motz said. “We were hoping he could cut some major time and he did. He swam out of his mind at sectional in the breaststroke and the IM and at that point, we knew he had a chance to make it (to state).

“It was incredibly impressive that he was able to make it to state in the IM. He had to cut time and had some really fast competitors. This was a huge accomplishment.”

Schwartz is one of several key swimmers eligible to return for North, a group that also includes junior Gavin Mumma, sophomore Braden Hopkins and freshman Chase McCluskey. The only graduating district qualifier is distance swimmer Tyler Brunelle.

The girls team graduates three of its four individual district qualifiers but expects to return two more who competed on relays in sophomores Elizabeth Bush and Kaci Naegele. Freshman Macy Erickson also is expected to return, as are three sophomore divers in Aidan Eberhardt for the boys and Lainey Mack and Macy Muetzel for the girls.

McCluskey set the boys team’s 500 freestyle record at district (4:47.48), good for sixth place but 1.43 seconds shy of a state berth.

Senior Lilian Muszynski had the girls’ top individual finish at district, placing 12th in the 50 free (24.62).

Donavyn Watts was one of eight North wrestlers to advance to the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby. At district, the top four finishers in each weight class qualified for state March 13 and 14 at Darby.

Wrestling team

shines at sectional

Eight wrestlers earned top-four finishes in a Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial, led by Braden Watts’ heavyweight championship.

Watts went 3-0, edging Delaware’s Marshall Klingel 5-4 in the final to lead North to 152 points and fifth place behind champion Westerville North (275) as 11 teams scored.

The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to district March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby.

David Carte (145 pounds) and Erik Gomez (132) placed second. Finishing third were Kyle Coffey (160) and Donavyn Watts (152), while Dashar El-Amin (195), Luke Harris (113) and Colin Touvel (138) were fourth.

Carte had a team-best 24-3 record entering district and Gomez was 22-3.

At district, the top four finishers in each weight class qualified for state March 13 and 14 at Darby.

Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were Drennen Landenberger (126, 2-3, sixth), Dane Wallock (170, 1-2) and Joey Casa (120, 0-2).

Boys basketball team

advances to final 

The seventh-seeded boys basketball team held off visiting and 11th-seeded Olentangy Orange in a Division I district semifinal March 3, making six of eight free throws in the final 1:03 to win 60-54 and advance to a district final March 6 at second-seeded Westerville Central. 

Casey George had 19 points, Jerry Saunders scored 17 and Corey Hudson added 10 as the Panthers improved to 13-5. North reached its third consecutive district final and fourth in five years. 

The Panthers opened the postseason Feb. 26 with a 66-46 home win over 34th-seeded New Albany. George had 17 points to lead a balanced effort as North also got 14 points from Jaiden Vital, 11 from Saunders and 10 from Elijah Hawk. 

The North-Central winner will play Hilliard Bradley or Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal March 11 at Ohio Dominican. That winner will return to ODU for the regional final March 13 against Gahanna, Newark, Olentangy Liberty or Reynoldsburg. 

North defeated Bradley 44-35 on Jan. 23, lost to Gahanna 62-59 on Jan. 30 and 57-42 on Feb. 19 and fell to Newark 42-41 on Feb. 3. 

The regional champion will advance to a state semifinal March 19 at the University of Dayton.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

SWIMMING & DIVING

Seniors lost: Boys — Tyler Brunelle, Luke Grilli, Nathan Ojeda-Pesa, Preston Sanders, Braedan Venetta and Alex Watros; Girls — Emma Boder, Emily Harness, Sydney Hopkins, Rylee Kreinbrink, Lilian Muszynski, Regan Turnbull and Lauren Vinson

Key returnees: Boys — Braden Hopkins, Gavin Mumma, Chase McCluskey and Marcus Schwartz; Girls — Elizabeth Bush, Macy Erickson, Lainey Mack and Kaci Naegele

Postseason: Boys — First (398) at sectional, 10th (82) at district behind champion Upper Arlington (348.5), did not score at state; Girls — First (372) at sectional, 16th (39) at district behind champion New Albany (378.5)