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Hudson swimmers shine at Division I state meet

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: March 1, 2017 12:06 AM
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They would have loved to finish a few places higher, but the message is crystal clear.

The Hudson girls and boys swimming and diving squads are one of the best teams in the state again.

The Lady Explorers reached the top 10 for the sixth year in a row. The Hudson girls placed seventh out of 53 teams with 103 points at the Division I state competition, which concluded Feb. 24 at Canton McKinley High School's C.T. Branin Natatorium.

Columbus Upper Arlington won the competition with 246 points and Mason (230) and Cincinnati St. Ursula (167) placed second and third, respectively.

On the boys' side, Hudson, which did not score at the 2016 state meet, placed 14th with 52 points.

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Cincinnati St. Xavier won the 45-team competition with 434 points and Cleveland St. Ignatius (173) took second and Bexley St. Charles (171) captured third.

The girls were seeking a top-five finish at the state meet. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but 11th-year head coach Matt Davis wasn't the least bit disappointed.

"We swam well," he said. "We actually had one of our relays disqualified, which cost us some points. But I'm not sure if we would have changed places.

"We had 17 swims and 16 made finals. Fifteen of the swims were top 16."

The boys had been a perennial state power for many years. Last season, the Explorers didn't have as many stars as they had in the past and weren't a factor at the state meet.

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But the Hudson boys returned to elite status and plan to stay there for years to come.

"Four of the five guys were first-time state qualifiers," Davis said. "All five of our swims earned All-Ohio honors. To get five swims at the state meet is a huge stepping stone."

Freshman Paige McCormick, the Lady Explorers' top swimmer throughout the season, reached the podium in two events.

She finished third in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4 minutes, 54.71 seconds and also placed seventh (2:06.43) in the 200 individual medley. McCormick missed second place in the 500 freestyle by a hundredth of a second.

"Paige swam four events and was on the podium four times," Davis said. "You can't ask for more from a freshman. She has goals for the next three years and I have goals for her. One of her goals is to be on top of the podium."

McCormick also joined seniors Macy Trattner and Gaby Palazzo and sophomore Maddie Hannan on the sixth-place 400 freestyle relay team (school-record 3:28.42) and Palazzo, Hannan and senior Brittan Ham on the eighth-place 200 medley relay team (1:46.86).

"When Brittan came to us as a freshman, she was a decent swimmer," Davis said. "She has really excelled in her four years. She got to go out on top on the medley relay.

"Maddie had a personal best leading off the 400 relay. Gaby had shin surgery in the fall. We weren't even sure if she was going to swim for us. It was great for her to to be on the podium."

Senior Natalie Gundling took sixth in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:51.65 and 12th (5:03.76) in the 500 freestyle.

Gundling plans to continue her academic and swimming careers at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

"Natalie made it to the state meet three years," Davis said. "It was the first time she was in a final in an individual event. It was a great way for her to end her career."

Trattner competed in two other events.

She finished 14th in the 100 freestyle with a time of 52.81 seconds. She also placed 15th in the 50 freestyle with a time of 24.37 seconds.

"Macy made it to the state meet all four years," Davis said. "She made it to the state meet for the first time as an individual."

Hannan added a 13th (1:53.13) in the 200 freestyle.

The girls 200 freestyle relay of Ham, McCormick, Palazzo and Hannan qualified for the final, but he team was disqualified for an early take-off in the final.

Davis will miss his talented seniors, who made the girls swimming and diving squad a powerhouse every year they competed for the Lady Explorers. The veteran head coach also believes his team can continue its stellar run in the future.

"It's bittersweet," Davis said. "Not only did I have them for four years on the high school team, but they were part of the age-group program. They had a huge impact. They are great kids. I feel like they are my own kids.

"We've had a pretty good run. Some of the younger kids need to step up. We lost the four seniors at the state meet and we also have many other seniors who will graduate. A lot of the younger swimmers need to continue to train in the off-season."

On the boys' side, sophomore Jay Johnson led the way with a sixth place time of 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle and a 10th-place time of 46.58 seconds in the 100 freestyle.

"Jay had his best time in the 50 free," Davis said. "He made huge strides since last season. He has set his sights on the team record in the 50 and 100 freestyles. He was motivated. His grandpa passed away [Feb. 20] and his grandpa was very close to him."

Johnson also joined junior Jacob Tuckerman and freshmen Liam Clarke and Caleb Tuckerman on the 10th-place 400 freestyle relay team (3:10.29).

Johnson, Clarke, Jacob Tuckerman and junior Sam Martinez led the 200 freestyle relay team to 11th place (1:27.5).

"Jacob just missed qualifying in the 200 IM and was not far off in the 100 free," Davis said. "He is driven to get there individually. He has the ability and the drive to be successful.

"Coming into this year, Sam knew he had to step up. He worked all season long to be part of the relays. He didn't let his team down."

Clarke also captured 14th (47.54) in the 100 freestyle and Caleb Tuckerman finished 14th (4:41.11) in the 500 freestyle.

"Both Liam and Caleb had tremendous seasons," Davis said. "Liam had the highest finish for a freshman at the state meet in the 100 free and Caleb was the second fastest freshman in the 500 free.

"It's hard for a freshman boy to make the state meet because they are competing against 16- and 17-year-old kids who are bigger and stronger. They gained valuable experience for next year. They both have talked about getting on the podium next year."

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