For the first time in 25 years, the Hawken Hawks girls’ swimming team will not be favored to win the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state championship.
The Hawks will be considered the underdogs after their eight-year run as the Division II Northeast district champions ended when they took second place, scoring 442 points, at the district meet at Cleveland State’s Robert F. Busbey Natatorium.
The Hawks yielded their district crown to their postseason archrival Hathaway Brown, who bested Hawken with 463 points.
“We definitely knew it was going to be a back-and-forth affair definitely,” said Coach Adam Katz. “We knew Hathaway Brown would jump out to a lead and we knew we would probably chip away at it and we just did not have enough at the end there to hold the Blazers off. It was a fun meet and it was exciting for us and we are looking forward to Friday.”
Hawken will defend its 24-year state championship dynasty at 5 p.m. on Friday at the C.T. Branin Natatorium at Canton McKinley High School.
Hawken advanced 13 swimmers in addition to senior diver Christianna Reinieke, who won third place in the Division II girls’ diving competition with 348.35 points.
Of the 13 swimmers who qualified, three of them were underclassmen.
“It is great,” the second-year coach said. “The upperclassmen have really taken them under their wings and it is a big swimming family that we have which is awesome, these freshmen and sophomore have stepped up and we will rely on them not only for this year but certainly in years to come as well.”
The Hawks won only one race and finished in second place in all three relays behind Hathaway Brown, while the Blazers won eight of 11 races.
The Hawks still qualified all three relay teams and advanced the maximum four swimmers in four events, including Hawken’s patented 500-freestyle.
“It means we have opportunities to be better than we were and hopefully those opportunities allow us to have second swims on Friday in the final,” Katz said. “That is always our goal, which is to get a chance to swim well enough on Thursday and be better on Friday, so we have a lot of opportunity ahead of us but we just have to go out there and take advantage of it.”
The Hawks qualified at least two swimmers in every other race except for the breaststroke, where no Hawken swimmer earned a berth compared to three Blazers.
“We had a chance to put some people in it but chose to put them elsewhere,” the second-year coach said. “They probably could have scored at the state meet but in our minds they had a chance to score better in the events that they are in now. We knew we were taking a risk with the breaststroke leaving it virtually empty but we put together the best line-up we thought we could for this coming week and we will see what happens.”
The quartet of seniors Asma Khan and Chloe Bautista, junior Sarah Pophal and sophomore Addy Pruce earned an automatic bid in the 200-medley relay, finishing as the runners-up with a time of 1:48.01.
Pophal snagged an automatic state berth in the 200-freestyle, taking second place with a time of 1:52.51, followed by junior Carys Edgar who came in fourth at 1:54.10 and junior Savannah Hirsch who placed ninth, recording in 1:57.37.
Bautista snagged sixth place in the 200-individual medley, clocking 2:10.04, followed by junior Alaina Pizarro who came in seventh at 2:15.04, and senior Marie Musbach’ 2:15.06 took eighth place.
Freshman Nina Newton snagged fourth place in the 50-freestyle in 24.08 seconds, followed by Shirkey’s 24.62 seconds for fifth place. Senior Asma Khan captured seventh place at 24.93 seconds.
Bautista clinched an automatic berth in the 100-butterfly, clocking 57.31 seconds, followed by Musbach’s fifth place at 59.44. Freshman Emma Salerno earned seventh place at 1:00.17, while Pruce took ninth, coming in at 1:00.56.
Newton won an automatic bid in the 100-freestyle when she tied for second place with Marlington senior Claire Cox, recording 52.32.
“Nina is a competitor and she is a racer and it is exciting to think what she can do this week and potentially for the next three years,” Katz said. “She did a great job and we are going to ask a lot of her in these coming weeks again moving forward.”
Joining Newton was Shirkey, who came in sixth place with a time of 53.37 seconds, followed by Pruce’s 54.01 for seventh. Hirsch earned ninth place at 54.23 seconds.
The Hawks once again excelled in the 500-freestyle, with Pophal winning in 4:56.32, followed by Edgar who placed fourth wat 5:03.01. Butler’s 5:10.71 was good for fifth place, while Gustin took 10th at 5:23.88.
The team of Newton, Hirch, Bautista and Shirkey placed second in the 200-freestyle relay at 1:36.68, only .05 behind the Blazers’ winning team.
Khan’s 58.12 earned a state berth in the 100-backstroke, finishing second. Pizarro was fifth at 59.27 seconds.
The quartet of Newton, Pruce, Shirkey and Pophal placed seconds in the 400-freestyle relay at 3:39.19.
Although the Hawks are not favored to win their 25th consecutive Division II state banner, Katz said he thinks his team still has faster times in them to rally.
“I believe in our team and believe in the work that we have put in and I know at the end of the day we will give it everything we have to swim faster and see what happens at the end,” said Katz.
“We cannot control what anybody else does but we can only control what we do and we are going to do everything we can to be our best and go from there.”
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