Stow-Munroe Falls swimming coach Ryan Miller knew the Division I Akron North sectional meet was going to be a minefield.
"We went into it knowing it was the fastest sectional meet in the state," Miller said. "We thought that would be a bit of an advantage for us, in that we we would see those fastest swims right off the bat."
That level of competition explains why Stow was a bit off the pace in the team race at sectionals, which concluded Saturday at the University of Akron’s Ocasek Natatorium. Stow’s boys finished seventh with 161 team points, while the girls finished 11th with 91 team points. Hudson swept the boys and girls team titles.
According to Miller, however, the Bulldogs had a huge meet in terms of individual swims.
"We had 97 personal bests at Akron and 90 percent of our swims were personal bests," Miller said. "Overall, it was awesome for us."
What’s more, Stow advanced 12 swimmers and divers to the Division I district meet. Miller noted that group included all four swimmers who did not taper their practice heading into sectionals: Senior Amy Vober and Cory Cremer and freshmen Evie Lewis and Luke Novak.
While Stow did not have any swimmers finish in an event in the top two positions to earn an automatic qualifying spot, Cremer came the closest, as he took third in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:50.17.
Cremer was a bit off the pace in the 200 freestyle — the event he qualified for in states last winter — as he finished seventh in 1:48.63.
Given that Cremer wasn’t tapered for the meet, Miller wasn’t worried his placement.
"He wasn’t really clicking. We’re comfortable with where he ended up," Miller said. "Both of his swims were faster at this meet than they were last year at sectionals. I think he has a really great shot at making states. We expect those drops to come this week."
Meanwhile, Novak also qualified for districts in two events. Novak had a huge swim in the 200 individual medley, taking seventh in 2:03.55, which dropped nearly 3.5 seconds off his personal best time.
Novak also qualified in the 100 backstroke, taking eighth place in a personal best time of 57.05 seconds.
"He’s the most coachable kid we have, really," Miller said of Novak. "He’s got a shot to make states, too. If there’s a kid who can pull off that miracle swim, it’s him."
Senior Simon Lumley earned a return trip to districts in the 100 breaststroke, taking eighth place in a personal best time of 1:03.5. Lumley also swam a personal best time of 56.22 seconds in the 100 butterfly, which earned him the final district qualifying spot.
Miller said Lumley’s butterfly time illustrated how strong the field at Akron was.
"He finished 19th at our sectional meet," Miller said. "At Bowling Green, he would have won the sectional with that time."
Junior Alex Schoenberg also qualified in the 100 butterfly, taking 12th place in 55.29 second. Schoenberg also reached districts in the 50 freestyle, taking 12th place in 22.97 seconds.
Miller was excited about the Bulldogs’ 200 medley relay, which qualified for districts by taking fifth place. The quartet of Novak, Lumley, Schoenberg and senior Matt Johnson-Smyth finished in 1:41.95, which was just a second off the school record.
Meanwhile, in the 400 freestyle relay, the quartet of Schoenberg, Novak, Johnson-Smyth and Cremer finished seventh in 3:24.97 to reach districts.
Stow also had two boys divers advance to the district meet. Junior Evan Barr advanced by finishing eighth with 252.55 points in the 11-dive format. Junior Isaiah Wray finished 11th with 247 points.
On girls side, Vober was one of three girls who advanced to districts in two individual events — but Miller chose to have his star sprinter change events.
"We think she has a little bit more potential in the 200 [freestyle]," Miller said. "What really drives her swims is her mental toughness. I think that shows a bit more in the 200. She wasn’t tapered. Theres no limit what she can do."
The move worked, as Vober qualified for districts by taking 11th in the 200 freestyle in 2:03.24. Vober actually edged Lewis, who also qualifier in the 200 by taking 12th in 2:04.2.
In the 100 freestyle, Vober also qualified by taking 11th in 56.27 seconds. While Vober was slower than her seed time in the 100, Miller wasn’t worried.
"She was hurting because of the all the training we did last week," Miller said. "We don’t want to see her best time until this week at districts."
Lewis ended up taking the Stow girls’ best place at sectionals, as she finished seventh in the 500 freestyle in 5:26.36.
Also advancing in two events for Stow was junior Kayla Engle, who finished 11th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.74 and took 17th in the 200 individual medley in 2:27.73.
Stow girls’ 200 medley relay team of Lewis, Engle, sophomore Elysia Gabbas and Vober advanced to districts by finishing in ninth place. The girls improved on their seed time, finishing in 1:57.47.
Sophomore diver Emily Lilich also reached the district meet, as she finished 11th with a score of 256.05 points.
The Division I district will take place at Cleveland State University’s Busbey Natatorium with diving competition on Thursday and swimming on Saturday.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_RPC