They had to face some of the state's heavyweights.

Much to the delight of Cuyahoga Falls head boys swimming and diving coach Mike McDonald, the Black Tigers more than held their own.

Falls finished sixth with 144 points at the 18-team Knight Invitational Dec. 15 at the University of Toledo.

Toledo St. Francis DeSales won the competition with 467 points and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook (Mich.) and Hudson finished second and third with 364 and 350 points, respectively.

"The kids stepped up as they always do," McDonald said. "We got to a see lot of good teams that we normally don't get to see. Most of the guys on the other teams wore fast suits. My boys wore their regular speedos. It really shows that all the hard work is paying off."

Andrew Appleby led the way for the Black Tigers. He easily won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races with times of 22.66 and 51.57 seconds, respectively.

Also faring well for Falls was Ryan Hillyer, who placed fourth in the 100 freestyle (50.65) and sixth in the 50 freestyle (22.66).

"When it comes to Ryan Hillyer, I'm not going to put any limits on that young man," McDonald said. "He blew my expectations out the window. Ryan and Andrew had confident swims."

Appleby and Hillyer joined Austin Crawford and Will Turnbull on the fifth-place 400 freestyle relay team (3:28.33).

"Austin had the meet of his life," McDonald said. "He had a PR [personal record] in the 100 free. He had never been to the finals before."

Hillyer and Turnbull were named the Black Tigers' performers of the meet.

Appleby, Hillyer and Turnbull joined Landon Alderman on the fourth-place 200 medley relay team (1:45.19).

"Landon also made the finals in the 100 breaststroke," McDonald said. "He never swam a length and now he's making finals at an invitational. He's a sponge of information."

A number of Falls' swimmers also had standout performances, according to McDonald.

"Every single young man who swam on a relay had a PR," he said. "We're pushing them mentally. Right now, they're physically broken. Our main goal is to break them mentally."

The Black Tigers are scheduled to host Northeast Ohio Conference River Division rival Brunswick Dec. 28 at 5 p.m. They are set to compete at the Walsh Jesuit Warrior Relays Dec. 29 to the University of Akron's Ocasek Natatorium. The competition is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.


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