After returning to the state swimming meet to conclude the 2016-17 season, there might be no stopping Nordonia High School athletes Jared Toaz and Christine McFarland from returning to states for a third time next year.
Toaz and McFarland, both juniors, were among the participants at this year's state meet, held this past weekend at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Both Toaz and McFarland qualified for states last year as sophomores. It marked the first time that two Nordonia swimmers competed at the state level. In addition, McFarland was the first female swimmer in school history to qualify for the meet.
Last year, Toaz qualified in the 200 individual medley, eventually finishing 23rd. This year, he qualified for states in the same event, but he improved his standing, placing 18th in the 200 IM with a time of 1:56.85.
Toaz was pleased with his performance, specifically his improved finish, but he also once again enjoyed competing on the ultimate scholastic stage.
"It was an amazing experience, competing against the best of the best," said Toaz. "I actually have some friends who competed at the meet, and I'm looking forward to talking with them and congratulating them, too."
Since this was a return trip to states, Toaz had no problem with nerves. He focused on duplicating his performance at districts, which allowed him to qualify for the state meet.
"When I got on the blocks, I just said to myself that I wanted to repeat what I did at the district meet," said Toaz. "It was a little bit of a slower time, but I was still okay with it. It was great to compete in an atmosphere like that."
Toaz owns the school record in the 200 IM with the time of 1:55.29 that he posted at the district meet.
McFarland, meanwhile, finished 14th overall in the 100 backstroke at the 2016 state meet. This past weekend, she competed in two individual events.
This year, McFarland once again competed in the 100 backstroke, finishing 17th with a time of 57.77 seconds. However, she also competed in the 100 butterfly, pairing her performance in the backstroke with an 18th-place finish in the butterfly (57.62).
According to McFarland, the fact that she competed at the state meet last year didn't exactly make it easier this time around.
"It was actually more nerve-wracking," she said. "I was competing in two events, and they were both in the afternoon."
Like Toaz, McFarland wasn't able to improve her times from the district meet, but she still put forth a solid performance in both events.
"Last year, I had a faster time at states than at districts," she said. "This year, I was a little bit slower than at districts, but my parents are still proud of me, and that's what really important."
McFarland also owns the school records in both the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.
Toaz and McFarland were pleased with their junior season, as well as the season that the team enjoyed overall. Both will be back for their senior seasons, and McFarland is already in training in hopes of joining the Junior National Team.
While both Toaz and McFarland will be returning for the 2017-18 campaign, there are some Knights and Lady Knights who will not.
Nordonia is losing a total of four seniors to graduation, two on the boys' side and two on the girls' side. Those four seniors are Claudio Gillota, Sunny Starcher, Tommy Koperna, and Walid Abuhashim.