CANTON – Sam DeNero had it a lot better Thursday than the people camping out next to the snow drifts outside the C.T. Branin Natatorium, just so they could be first in line for choice seating Friday at the state swim meet.
No matter how good their seats, the folks making up that tent city won’t have a better view of things than DeNero. The Galion senior earned a middle lane for the Division II finals after turning in the second-fastest preliminary time in the 50-yard freestyle.
Fourth-seeded coming in, DeNero turned a 21.22, breaking his school record set at last year’s state meet when he finished third behind champion Trevor Lake of Bay Village.
They were in adjacent lanes for Thursday’s third heat of the 50 free, with Lake beating DeNero to the wall in 20.55.
That was only a dress rehearsal. DeNero will get another crack at Lake around dinnertime Friday.
“Sam’s right where we wanted him to be,” Galion coach Ted Temple said. “I can’t think of a better place to be — one-two going at it. It’s like a blessing knowing right where (Lake’s) at. We’ll go with him again and see what happens.
“That kid is awesome …. but this kid (Temple pats DeNero on the back) is pretty awesome, too.”
More than anything, DeNero wants what Lake has. Yes, the state title, but cracking 21 seconds has been a goal even longer.
February 26th 2015 Swimming: State prelims at Canton
“That’s what I really want,” he said. “All I want really is improvement, especially on my personal record … to get 20. I want to improve on last year’s spot – either second or first. I’m not too picky.”
So the time is more important than the title?
“I don’t want to say no or yes,” DeNero said. “I don’t want to jinx myself. I just want to get 20 (seconds). I have to stay focused, get off to a really good start and get off my turn.”
DeNero loved that he and Lake, who is also defending champ in the 100 free, got to duel before the finals.
“He can probably break 20, he’s that fast,” DeNero said. “I just like having people to push me, and he’s the guy to do it.”
DeNero also guaranteed himself All-Ohio honors in the 100 free and a spot in Friday’s consolation finals with a 15th-place time of 47.92, but the 200 free relay team he anchored wasn’t as lucky. The crew of DeNero, fellow senior Chad Karnes and freshmen Sam Rigdon and Luke Eisnaugle was 22nd in 1:31.99. Only the top 16 placers in each race advanced to the A and B finals.
Also advancing to Friday’s championship finals were two Ontario relay teams. The 200 medley relay team of Andrew Jolley, Steven Toth, Jimmy Sheldon and Chad Wright was sixth in 1:38.89. The 200 free quartet of Tyler Watson, Sheldon, Toth and Naz Tkachenko was fourth in 1:27.63.
The medley team was only seeded nin
th and knew that merely holding its ground wouldn’t be enough to get into the A finals.
“Chad wasn’t really tapered last week and we knew that the difference between us and four spots ahead of us was only about a half-second, so we knew we could go faster,” Jolley said. “Especially with relay starts, you’re a lot safer at sectionals and districts. With each meet you get closer and closer to a DQ (disqualification for a false-start). Your starts have to be as fast as they can be. That was probably a huge factor.”
A fast start helped Ontario there, but cost the Warriors and Lexington in the meet’s final event, the 400 relay. Each school started a leg too fast and was disqualified.
Three Warriors reached the B finals in both of their individual events: Watson in the 200 free (12th, 1:45.72) and 100 backstroke (14th, 54.72), Tkachenko in the 50 free (10th, 21.92) and 100 free (12th, 47.58) and Wright in the 100 butterfly (15th, 52.64) and 100 back (12th, 54.64).
Also making it to the second day was the Lex medley relay team of Kelsi Brown, Alaina Merkel, Ashley Basham and Abbie Kaple with an 11th-place time of 1:52.07.
Lex’s Derek Sautter will be in the B finals in three events: he was 12th in the 100 fly (52.26) and the 500 free (4:47.85) and swam on the 12th place 200 medley team with Stephen Ward, Noah Eckstein and Nick Stricklen.
Nobody made a bigger leap Thursday than Watson in the 200 free. He was seeded 22nd, six spots shy of the Friday cut-off, but improved 10 spots.
“At districts, I wasn’t mentally there,” he said. “I was physically there and knew I could shave a few more seconds off my time.”
Watson did more than that. He took the school record away from Wright, a triple medalist in last year’s meet.
“When you’re swimming at a meet of this caliber, improving 10 spots is quite a bit,” Watson said. “It’s a great atmosphere and (Dayton Oakwood’s Jackson) Higgins broke the meet record (1:38.19) swimming with us in my heat. The competition was intense, but I knew I had to get into the finals to get points for the team.”