ach Adam Katz, it is important to not take too much away from an Ohio High School Athletic Association sectional swimming meet.
Yes, it does mark the beginning of the postseason but the second-year coach equated the sectional meet to another regular season swimming invitational.
The Hawks started their quest for their 25th consecutive OHSAA Division II state banner by finishing as the runners-up at the Northeast sectional meet with a team score of 417.5 points, only 22.5 points behind postseason foe Hathaway Brown, last Friday at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva.
“I thought we did alright,” said Katz. “We qualified everybody that we thought we were going to and had one or two nice surprises as well. Some girls snuck in there at the end for us and we are excited. We had a good practice on Saturday morning and are excited to see what happens on Friday and then the following week at the state meet.”
Prior to the 2022 sectional meet, Hawken had been crowned the sectional champions for 23 straught years but has taken a backseat to its postseason foe the Blazers the last two seasons.
“Hathaway Brown is a very good team and they swam pretty well also and it will be a fun couple of weeks at the district meet and at the state meet and it will be exciting for both teams,” said Katz.
A slight change has been made to the list of district qualifiers this season with the top three times in each individual race receiving automatic berths to the district meet and the pool of at-large bids has been expanded to 32 swimmers.
The old rules still apply for the relay races with the top two teams automatically advancing to the district meet but the list of at-large relay teams has grown to 20 teams.
“We benefited with a couple of girls that were able to get out because the field opened up a little bit more so we are excited for them and see if they can move up a bit for this coming week,” said Katz.
The Hawks qualified the maximum four swimmers in each individual race with the exception of the breaststroke, advancing only one swimmer in that event but qualified all three relay teams and crowned three champions in three individual races.
According to Katz, the breaststroke has been Hawken’s weakest event this year and it made the difference at the sectional meet because the Blazers had three swimmers qualify compared to only one Hawk.
“We know that Hathaway Brown has some strength in the breaststroke but we like our depth in some other events like the 100-freestyle, the 50-freestyle which is a sprint which always scares me but we have some depth there, and have depth in the 200-freestyle and the 500-freestyle,” Katz said. “I think our individual medley could be really good as well.
The quartet of senior Marie Musbach, juniors Alaina Pizarro and Sarah Pophal and freshman Emma Salerno received a district berth in the 200-medley relay by taking second place with a time of 1:55.32.
Pophal earned an individual automatic bid when she won the 200-freestyle by out-touching the competition with a time of 1:55.27, followed by junior Carys Edgar who took eighth place with a time of 2:00.10, junior Savannah Hirsch came in 10th place with a time of 2:02.62 and senior Erin Butler placed 14th with a time of 2:05.44.
Senior Chloe Bautista took sixth in the 200-individual medley with a time of 2:13.23, followed by junior Jana Gustin who came in eighth place with a time of 2:20.47, Musbach snagged ninth place with a time of 2:20.67, and Pizarro came in 11th place with a time of 2:20.86.
Freshman Nina Newton clinched a district berth when she took third in the 50-freestyle with a time of 24.60 seconds, followed by junior Bree Shirkey who came in fourth with a time of 25.24, senior Asma Khan captured ninth place with a time of 25.81 and Salerno placed 13th with a time of 25.93.
Bautista snagged an automatic bid when she finished as the runner-up in the 100-butterfly with a time of 59.39 seconds, followed by Musbach who took fourth with a time of 1:00.83, Salerno came in fifth place with a time of 1:02.31 and sophomore Addy Pruce clinched seventh place with a time of 1:00.06.
Newton won her first individual race in the 100-freestyle, clocking a time of 53.46 seconds, followed by Shirkey who took sixth with a time of 55.58, Hirsch came in ninth place with a time of 55.97 and Pruce captured 12th place with a time of 56.71.
Katz acknowledged that Hawken’s depth will be tested this postseason and its success will hinge on the emergence of its group of underclassmen.
“Nina won the 100-free which was pretty exciting for us and was third in the 50-free and we have Emma, who finished fifth in the100-butterfly and made it out in the 50-free also,” Katz said. “We have two freshman girls in the backstroke who came on strong and sneaked out and dropped some times. Addy, a sophomore, went through this last year but sometimes we forget she is just a sophomore because she went through so much and she had a solid meet.”
Pophal won the 500-freestyle with a time of 5:05.29, followed by Edgar who placed third with a time of 5:14.13, Butler came in sixth place with a time of 5:22.75 and Gustin finished in seventh place with a time of 5:26.27.
The team of Pizzaro, Musbach, Salerno and Bautista took third place in the 200-freestyle relay with a time of 1:44.61.
Khan came in fourth in the 100-backstroke with a time of 1:01.65, followed by Pizarro who took sixth place with a time of 1:02.66, freshman Lia Lorenz placed 16th with a time of 1:06.35 and freshman Carolyn Lee finished in 23rd place with a time of 1:08.92.
Sophomore Leilani Belcher came in 19th place 100-breastroke with a time of 1:19.55.
The quartet of Newton, Pruce, Hirsch and Shirkey snagged a district bid in the 200-freestyle relay by coming in second place with a time of 3:40.16.
Hawken will compete for its ninth consecutive district title when they compete at the Robert F. Busbey Natatorium at 3 p.m. on Friday at Cleveland State University.
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