There was so much drama before his boys even got in the pool Thursday that it’s a minor miracle there will be a second day for Ted Temple’s Galion Tigers at the state swim meet.
Sophomore Sam DeNero left his goggles back at the hotel, sophomore Chad Karnes broke his goggles before his leg of the meet-opening 200-yard medley relay and senior Connor Kempf showed up at the C.T. Branin Natatorium with a huge gash on his face from shaving.
Despite it all, those three joined junior Zane Ekin to finish 16th in the Division II medley relay at 1:40.96, just .04 off their school record. DeNero did even better in the 50 freestyle, improving on his 11th seed to finish eighth in 21.99.
To cap the evening, that same Galion quartet finished 12th in the final event, the 400 relay (3:20.8).
Top 16 return for day 2, with the top eight Thursday locking up podium spots Friday and the next eight coming back for the consolation finals. All 16 receive All-Ohio honors.
“It was one of those days,” Temple sighed, “but we’ll get it all together (Friday). We had the same kind of week at districts, with cramped toes and goggles leaking, but it all worked out.
“There can be 1,000 reasons things aren’t going right, but they usually work out. Our times weren’t good today, but the boys are loose. I’m the worry wart.”
Luckily for Karnes, Ekin had a spare pair of goggles in his pants.
“The nosepiece snapped right before I got on the block,” Karnes said, “but thanks to Zane I had a pair. I could see; they just didn’t fit right.”
Temple remembers the old days when nosepieces weren’t a problem.
“I didn’t tell Chad the story about when I swam (for the Marion Y back in the early Sixties),” Temple said. “We didn’t have goggles. As long as your suit didn’t come off, you had no excuses.”
Karnes’ nosepiece problem was nothing compared to the broken nose that sidelined him for the first half of the season.
“I broke it playing football (two-hand touch) in gym class,” he said. “One of my friends ran into me. But I feel great now. We’ve worked hard.”
Luckily for DeNero, the team was staying only a couple of miles from the pool. He was able to retrieve his goggles and was seeing well enough to guarantee himself a medal Friday.
Ninety-nine-point-nine percent guaranteed.
“All he has to do is stay legal (not get DQed),” said Temple, looking for some wood to knock on.
“We had some bad luck,” DeNero said, “but I’m going to make sure I have everything packed in the morning and I’m not shaving. I’m going to pray tonight and hope it works out.”
DeNero was .04 off his district time in the 50 free, but made the all-important three-spot improvement to earn a spot on the podium Friday.
“Making the podium was my goal,” DeNero said. “I was confident, but not sure, so I went all out. My time was slower, but I still felt good in the water.”
The only way Kempf could stop the cut on his face from bleeding was by sealing it.
Rather than use shaving as an excuse, he jokingly blamed his bright red wound on aggressive swimmers in the warm-up pool.
“The more swimmers they bump out of the way, the more room they have,” he said, grinning.
There most have been an epidemic of broken goggles because the same thing happened to Bucyrus junior Taryn Gathright, who just missed making it to the consolation finals with a 17th-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
“They broke as I was getting on the block and I’m like, ‘What am I going to do?'” she said. “A kid next to me had just swam the backstroke so I borrowed his. Boys’ goggles are a lot flatter, so it was very dark.”
She had a bright outlook despite just missing out on All-Ohio.
“It’s OK. I made it to state, so I’m very happy,” she said about being Bucyrus’ first-ever individual qualifier. “I still have next year.”
In the boys’ 100 breast, Crestline’s Kaleb Johnson finished 15th at 1:00.70. He came in seeded 10th at 1:00.11 and was hoping to improve into the medal round.
“He really wanted top eight,” Crestline coach Denise Jeffrey said. “I could cry for him; he wanted it so bad.”
The news was better for Colonel Crawford. Mike Holtzpafel’s Eagles have reached the second day in all three relays, including the medal race in two. Seniors Clay Fogle (12th in the 50 free, 22.19) and Logan Pfeifer (10th in the 100 free, 48.60) will swim in the consolation finals of their individual events.
Fogle and Pfeifer both sacrificed one of their individual races this season, so the Eagles could load up in the relays.
The Eagles will medal for the third straight year in the 200 free after the crew of Fogle, Pfeifer and fellow seniors Ian Kochheiser and Trey Crase finished seventh in 1:28.68. That same quartet was fifth in the 400 free (3:16.02) and the 200 medley of Pfeifer, Fogle, Kochheiser and Nic Roe was 14th (1:40.73).
That means Fogle and Pfeifer will be All-Ohio in four events.
“We made it to the finals in all of our events, so I’d do it again (give up an individual race) in a heartbeat,” Fogle said. “It’s all about the team. We’re looking to move up a couple of spots in the 200 free (after a seventh-place medal last year).”
The personal sacrifice made by a couple of teammates meant a lot to Kochheiser.
“It feels good that they’d do that so we could get it done in the relays,” he said.
As far as Fogle is concerned there is no secret to Crawford’s small-school success in the pool, especially the relays.
“There’s a lot of competition (on the team), a will to work and we practice hard all the time,” he said. “And none of it could be done without Mike (Holtzapfel).”