MANSFIELD — Working at the Ontario cineplex has its perks for Kaleb Johnson. Like seeing all the movies he wants for free.
If only there were time.
“I don’t see many during swim season,” the Crestline senior said. “I actually just saw ‘Safe Haven,’ but only because my girlfriend wanted to see it. It’s more of a chick flick.”
If there’s film out there of the 100-yard breaststroke race from the Division II district meet at Bowling Green, Johnson would love to watch it. He finished second, earning an automatic berth in this week’s state meet in Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium.
Despite the lack of video footage, Johnson has replayed the race over and over in his mind.
“I could tell I was having a good race,” he said. “I could peripherally see the leader in the lane beside me and tell he wasn’t that far ahead of me. All my strokes felt good.”
It was the breakthrough Johnson was looking for in his final season after missing one of the 24 state berths by one spot last season. He heads into Thursday’s action seeded 10th with a time of 1:00.11.
“I was so relieved knowing I could sleep (Friday) night” said Johnson, who didn’t have to wait for at-large berths to be posted Sunday morning. “My coach and other coaches are telling me I hold my glide too long (off the final turn), so I’ll try to correct that, but I can’t really change anything dramatically at this point.”
Johnson has been known to carry his guitar with him to meets, but the part-time song writer said it won’t be making the trip to Canton. He’ll listen to someone else’s music instead. No. 1 on his play list right now is Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
“Normally I mix it up,” he said. “I call it a ‘punked-out’ mix.”
Colonel Crawford’s five-man band of seniors Logan Pfeifer, Clay Fogle, Nic Roe, Ian Kochheiser and Trey Crase probably felt like dancing, Gangnam Style, after pulling off the uncommon feat of qualifying in all three Division II relays.
The 200 freestyle relay team of Kochheiser, Crase, Fogle and Pfeifer won a district title and is seeded No. 2 at 1:28.21 behind University School (1:28.14). The Eagles are also seeded seventh in the 400 free relay (3:16.79) and 14th in the 200 medley (1:40.52) after setting school records in all three events at BG.
“We never tried to load three relays before this year because it’s difficult at a small school like ours just to get two out,” said Crawford coach Mike Holtzapfel, who has 18 boys on his roster. “We’ve been in the finals the last two years (of the 200 free, earning a seventh-place medal last year), so I’m not really surprised to get a top-eight seed. But maintaining second will be extremely hard to do.”
The top eight placers earn medals and top 16 earn All-Ohio. There were 19 state or pool records set in last year’s Division II finals.
Pfeifer (100 free) and Fogle (50 free) are both returning to state in their specialties, but they both sacrificed a chance to go back in two individual races so that the Eagles would have a chance at a relay “triple.”
“I didn’t try to talk them into that,” Holtzapfel said. “They tried the 400 free at the beginning of the season to see if they could get a team record and they got it early. At that point we realized we had three pretty good relays and the option of trying to get all three to state.”
Melisa Stone-Watters’ 15th season at the Lexington helm led to a high-water mark — 12 state qualifiers. Junior sensation Hannah Stevens, coming off district records in the 100 backstroke and 100 free, is seeded third and fifth, respectively, in her bid for repeat medals.
Stevens, senior Kate Cropp and junior Hailee Sautter are members of Lex’s state-qualifying 200 free and 400 free relays, while senior Aaron Burkhart and sophomore Derek Sautter have each qualified in four events.
Sautter is seeded sixth in the 100 fly after taking district runner-up honors at 52.25.
It’s quite a haul for Lex, especially considering that Cropp and Burkhart are the only seniors.
“We knew that all of the younger swimmers had a lot of potential and a great attitude,” Stone-Watters said, “so we felt like it was going to be a good season.”
Lex will get an earlier start to the state meet than anybody else from the area. Freshmen Evan Heth and Adam McCombs will compete in Wednesday’s 1-meter diving.
“Our divers are very good,” Stone-Watters said. “We’re just cleaning little things up with them. Even though they’re young, they’ve been great since Day 1.”
Galion coach Ted Temple saw his boys set eight team records last Friday at BG en route to qualifying for state in six events. Senior Connor Kempf is making a return trip in the 100 back and sophomore Sam DeNero was an automatic qualifier in the 50 free with his district runner-up finish.
Both will join junior Zane Ekin and sophomore Chad Karnes, who missed half the season with a broken nose, in the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay.
“We set two records at the NCC (North Central Conference) meet and four at sectionals, but I’ve never had a team set eight records in one meet, especially just one crew (boys or girls),” Temple said.
“The boys want to make the podium, eighth place or up, in both relays, and if we swim like we can swim, it can happen. A great season could be even greater. Connor’s the senior captain and got them all together after the district meet was over and said, ‘We’ve got one more week in us.’ “
Ontario’s Deb Henry said her four boys headed to state in four events is the best male representation the school has sent to Canton in the 20-odd years she and Sam Van Cura have collaborated as coaches.
Chad Wright, a 2012 All-Ohioan in the 200 free and 500 free, is going back in both races and joining fellow sophomores Tyler Watson and Naz Tkachenko and senior Raymond Hufford in the 200 free and 400 free relays.
The Warriors set school records in all of those events and Tkachenko broke Wright’s mark in the 100 free.
“They all four have different personalties,” Henry said, “but they all came together for the common goal.”
Mansfield Senior’s Hutch Blackstone, a 2012 All-Ohioan in the 50 free and 100 breast, is a repeat qualifier in both, having re-set his record in the former (21.22). But he’s the area’s only Division I representative.
It’s a nice distinction but also a lonely one.
“It’s a lot different when you see all the teams there who have tons of kids, but I’m thankful I could go,” the Tyger junior said. “Last year I had Tori (Taffner, a diver) to practice with, but this year it will just be me and coach (Frank Bartholow).
“When the whole team is together, he has to focus on what everyone is doing. But when it’s just us we can talk about a lot of stuff. He has a great sense of humor.”