Lakewood junior Nathaniel Graham admittedly is not a distance swimmer.
Graham, however, looked like an old pro Saturday. Graham won the 400-meter freestyle and narrowly missed a victory in the 100 breaststroke during a meet at the Licking County Family YMCA.
“It was kind of sketchy,” Graham said. “The 400 free, I have never done it in my life and the 100 breast, it has been a couple years. It was interesting, but I was pleased.”
Graham edged out Newark’s Philip Hall for the victory in the 400 free. Graham said he attempted to keep pace with Hall early on.
By the second half of the race, Graham had the lead by a couple lengths. He had no expectations, finishing in 4:53.88, and Hall dropped about 10 seconds at 5:04.03.
Graham, a two-time district qualifier, said the distance swimming might stick. This is the time to experiment.
“If you are doing the same thing the whole year, by the time it really matters, you get really burned out,” Graham said. “Your times aren’t as good. Also, this time of year it is good to discover new events. If the 400 or 500 ends up being my event, I can figure it out, and I have time to practice.”
Graham is not club swimming this season to spend more time on academics. He said an impressive performance Dec. 21 at Mount Vernon raised his confidence.
“When I did the meet (at Mount Vernon), I guess I kind of proved to myself I could do it,” Graham said. “I have been insecure the whole year, and when I won the 200, I was like: ‘Oh, I am still a contender.'”
Heath’s Trevor Price nipped Graham for the title in the 100 breast, 1:20.80 to 1:21.02. Price also edged out Hall for the win in the 200 individual medley, 2:35.66 to 2:36.64.
Price and Hall each swim out of the YMCA for the Sharks, and they take advantage of the two-week break from school to have more time in the pool. Despite the extra work, Price had a seven-second drop in the 200 IM and a small drop in the 100 breast, too.
“I did a lot of holiday training over Christmas break,” Price said. “We had a ton of pool time. We went like 7,000 meters (Friday). It has helped a lot. I was a little tired, but I wasn’t going to let that get in my way.”
Northridge’s Mat Scott won the 50 free (30.65) and 100 backstroke (1:26.37), Brandon Eckstein won the 100 butterfly (1:13.58), Mason Alexander won the 200 free (2:40.59) and Jasen Dean won the 100 free (1:12.01). The Vikings also swept the three relays to easily win the boys meet.
In the girls meet, Northridge’s Josie Bunstine in the 50 free (29.74) and 100 back (1:16.37) and Riley Love in the 200 IM (2:51.42) and 400 free (5:25.84) were double winners.
Newark Catholic’s Megan Stanton won the 200 free (2:30.88) and finished second in the 100 breast (1:25.81), just behind Watkins Memorial’s Shelby Seas (1:24.91).
“It is definitely more fun to win by a few tenths at the end of the race than to win by a lot,” said Stanton, who joined Mcki Reid, Rose Amore and Katelyn Zimpfer on the winning 200 free relay (2:01.46).
“You know that you accomplished something and there are other good people out there looking to be where you are.”
Stanton’s win in the 200 free was a challenge because of the timing. It came just a few minutes after she swam in the 200 medley relay.
“It is grueling at times especially with kicking from breaststroke,” Stanton said. “You definitely get used to it in club swimming. You get used to swimming back and forth right after each other.”
Additional individual winners for Watkins were Kayla Fenimore in the 100 free (1:10.89) and Rachel Baughn in the 100 fly (1:29.27). The Warriors also won a pair of relays while winning in the team standings.
Strong second-place performances were turned in by Newark’s Hannah Dehus in the 400 free (5:28.26) and Lakewood’s Laura Arvonen (1:11.28).