Throughout its epic reign, the Hudson girls swimming and diving team has barely met resistance at the Akron North Division I sectional meet.
This season, the Lady Explorers got quite a fight from a conference rival.
In the end, Hudson, like it has done for what seems like forever, overcame its unexpected obstacle with overwhelming depth and talent.
As a result, the Lady Explorers’ reign as queens of Akron has now reached 11 years.
Hudson captured the 14-team Akron North Division I sectional title with 424 points Saturday at the University of Akron’s Ocasek Natatorium.
The Lady Explorers’ Suburban League National Conference rival, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, took second with 400 points and Akron Firestone placed a distant third with 225 points.
Twelth-year Hudson head coach Matt Davis was a bit surprised to see the Lady Bees give his powerful squad a fierce challenge.
In the long run, though, the Lady Explorers’ quality and quantity were just too much for the rest of the competition.
"The meet was honestly closer than expected, but Brecksville performed well and kudos to them on a great meet," Davis said. "Our depth continues to be the strength of our team. Many younger swimmers came in and blew away their previous personal-best times."
Hudson has rewritten several Northeast Ohio records over the years. Two more records went down in flames Saturday.
Junior Maddie Hannan won the 200-yard freestyle with a meet-record time of 1:54.33. She broke the 2009 record of 1:54.78 by Firestone’s Kathleen Campbell.
Freshman Mackenzie DeWitt set a record to win the 50 freestyle. Her time of 23.91 seconds bested the 2017 record of 24.25 by Aurora’s Lara Ketonen.
Both Hannan and DeWitt qualified for the Northeast Ohio district meet, which is scheduled to take place this Saturday at Cleveland State University’s Busbey Natatorium. Swimming is set to begin at noon. The top two swimmers in each event and top two relay teams automatically qualified for the district competition.
"Maddie and Mackenzie, along with (sophomores) Giovanna (Cappabianca) and Paige (McCormick), have been our key contributors all season," Davis said.
Hannan also won the 100 freetstyle in 53.01 and Mackenzie DeWitt captured fifth (53.84).
Cappabianca and McCormick took the top two spots in the 200 individual medley. Cappabianca won in a time of 2:07.11 and McCormick swam a clocking of 2:07.82.
Cappabianca and McCormick led the second-place 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams and Cappabianca added a second place in the 100 butterfly (57.4).
The 200 medley relay, which also featured Hannan and DeWitt, swam a time of 1:48.15 and the 400 freestyle relay, which included Hannan and sophomore Noelle Kara, touched the wall in 3:37.54. McCormick easily captured first in the 500 freestyle (5:02.37).
Davis was particularly impressed with sophomore Katie Caniglia, who advanced to the district competition with a seventh-place time of 1:01.82 in the 100 butterfly. Caniglia’s clocking was more than three seconds faster than her seed time.
She also advanced in the 100 breaststroke with a 12th-place clocking of 1:14.32.
"Katie had an amazing meet," Davis said. "Her 100 fly was really something special to watch. She had been struggling for a while in her breaststroke. To see her come through with a best time was really exciting to see."
Davis also was pleased with the performances of junior Jamie Alexander, who advanced in both the 100 backstroke (seventh, 1:02.48) and the 100 butterfly (16th, 1:04.94). Alexander topped her seed time by nearly five seconds in the 100 butterfly.
"Jamie had an impressive meet," Davis said. "She crushed her best times in the 100 fly and 100 back to easily move on. Jamie put herself in scoring position in the 100 back this week and our team will need every point we can get against a super talented North Canton Hoover team at districts."
Kara qualified for the district competition in two other events. She finished seventh in both the 50 freestyle (25.13) and the 100 freestyle (55.47).
Kara also joined Mackenzie DeWitt, sophomore Gabrielle Loring and senior Kirsten O’Keefe on the second-place 200 freestyle relay team (1:40.96).
Other Lady Explorers who advanced in multiple individual events were Loring, who finished fourth in the 500 freestyle (5:24.28) and fifth in the 200 freestyle (2:00.85); sophomore Abby Silcox, who placed sixth in the 500 freestyle ( 5:26.29) and seventh in the 200 freestyle (2:01.79); O’Keefe, who captured ninth in the 200 freestyle (2:02.52) and 10th in the 500 freestyle (5:29.61); and freshman Caroline Coates, who finished 10th in the 200 IM (2:18.81) and 13th in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.46).
Silcox bested her seed time in the 200 freestyle by more than seven seconds.
Also qualifying for the district competition were freshman Taylor Kochanowski in the 100 breaststroke (fifth, 1:08.31); junior Elizabeth Mitalski in the 100 backstroke (10th, 1:03.7); seniors Kaitlyn DeWitt in the 100 freestyle (13th, 56.83) and Corinne Kampman in the 100 backstroke (12th, 1:06.27); and sophomores Meredith Kozar in the 100 backstroke (15th, 1:04.97), Anna Baldwin in the 100 breaststroke (15th, 1:13.11) and Emma Fisher in the 200 IM (16th, 2:24.54).
Davis hopes his team depth can make a significant impact at Cleveland State.
"We are really going to rely on several other talented swimmers to score big like Kirsten, Gabrielle and Abby in the 200 and 500," he said. "Those events have been really good to us over the last few years and we need to be just as strong this year.
"I have all the faith in the world those girls will get it done. Our relays swam OK at sectional, but the goal is to just move on and we did that. I am expecting some great things from the relays over the next two weeks."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.