The Stow-Munroe Falls boys swimming team had the best day in school history Feb. 15 in the Division I district meet at Cleveland State University’s Busbey Natatorium.
Stow not only had its best finish as a team at districts — sixth place with 152 team points — but the Bulldogs had secured an individual district title and two automatic state berths, while rewriting no less than eight school records. North Canton Hoover won the boys team title at CSU with 308 points.
Despite all this, there was still anxiety in the Bulldog camp after the meet. While Bulldog sophomore ace Alex Cimera had earned two automatic berths to Canton, several other Bulldogs had to wait to see if they would secure one of the 16 at-large bids for the state meet.
"We got out to dinner after the meet and every five seconds, we were checking Mobile Meet to see the results from the Northwest meet," said Stow coach Ryan Miller. "You check it, then you double and triple check it. And then you can’t sleep at night."
When the state qualifiers were confirmed Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the Bulldogs rejoiced.
Cimera would be joined at the state meet by junior Luke Novak in the 100-yard backstroke and junior Dylan Cossin in the 500 freestyle. The trio also joined sophomore Keith Turnbull to advance to states in the 400 freestyle relay.
"It was phenomenal," Miller said. "You can’t really find the words to describe that emotion. To see it come together at that meet was just awesome."
Cimera broke five school records at districts and became the first Bulldog in recent memory to win a district title.
The title came in the 100 butterfly, where he broke his own school record in a time of 50.03 seconds. Cimera beat Boardman’s Noah Basista to the wall by 0.03 seconds to win the title.
"Alex being a district champ is certainly a big deal," Miller said. "It came down to that perfect finish for him to win by that close a margin."
"I’m very happy," Cimera said. "In the butterfly, my first 50 [yards], I wasn’t out first, but I came back really hard. In the 100 butterfly, the goal is to the go 49 [seconds]."
In the 200 freestyle, Cimera broke his own school record, taking second place in a time of 1:40.8. He wasn’t far behind champion Thomas Mattew of Wooster (1:40.31).
"I’m not surprised with my 200 result," Cimera said. "I was on pace with it all year. I’m looking for anything lower than 1:39 at states."
Cimera pulled off a rare double school record in 400 free relay. Not only did Cimera, Novak, Cossin and Turnbull chop nearly four seconds off their seed time to finish fifth in a school record time of 3:13.93, but because Cimera swam the opening leg, his split time — 46.52 seconds — gave him a new school record in the 100 freestyle.
"We knew they were going to go faster than sectionals," Miller said. "Three of the four guys were tapered for this meet and it showed."
Anchorman Turnbull believed the Bulldogs could go even faster at states.
"It’s really fun. We’re not the best at sprinting, so in the 400, you get to swim longer, which helps us," Turnbull said. "We thought we had a really good chance to get to states and we know we can get on the podium."
Stow nearly advanced to states in two relays, as the Bulldogs also set a school record in the 200 freestyle relay.
Cimera, Turnbull and Novak joined sophomore William Dorenkott to finish in seventh place in 1.29.06. According to Miller, the time was the 25th fastest in the state at districts, leaving the Bulldogs one place shy of states.
For Novak, there was a bit of joy and pain in his two individual swims, despite breaking two school records.
In the 100 backstroke, Novak chopped more than three seconds off his seed time to finish fifth in 52.05 seconds. That time broke Cimera’s school record from last season and earned Novak his first state berth
"I knew Alex was going to the swimming in the 200 and butterfly, so I knew I would be the top guy in the backstroke," Novak said. "The school record, it was good, but I think I’m going to be dropping even more time for states."
"He deserves to go down there. He’s such a hard worker, so it was nice to see," Miller said.
In the 200 individual medley, Novak shattered his seed time by nearly six seconds, taking fourth place in a school record time time of 1:55.14. The time would have been enough to get Novak to states, but because one of the slower times from the Northwest district was an automatic berth, Novak was bumped out of a state place.
Meanwhile, Cossin said he wasn’t feeling 100 percent at CSU..
"I wasn’t really feeling the my best at districts," Cossin said. "My shoulder was a bit off."
It mattered not, as Cossin overcame the soreness to finish fourth in the 500 freestyle in 4:41.08. The time broke Cory Cremer’s school record and earned Cossin the 24th and final spot at states.
"It’s crazy. He goes a 4:41 and he just told me was feeling down," Miller said. "He was feeling a little sore coming in. He goes into the state meet at full strength. I certainly think he’s capable of going 1:39."
Cossin also finished in the top 10 in the 200 freestyle at districts, as he finished eighth in 1:46.22.
Meanwhile, the Stow girls saw their season end at the district meet as the Bulldogs finished 20th at districts with 18 points. Hudson won the girls team title with 486 points.
Stow’s lone top 10 female finish came from junior Evie Lewis in the 500 freestyle. Lewis dropped nearly 10 seconds off her seed time to finish in ninth place in 5:19.68.
"She hasn’t been anywhere near that this year," Miller said. "She can enter next year with a lot of confidence in the 500."
Miller said Lewis also was happy with her swim in the 200 freestyle as he just missed breaking the two-minute barrier for the first time. He personal best time of 2:00.02 was a personal record and good for 16th place.
The Division I state swimming meet will take place this weekend C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton. Division I swimming preliminaries will begin at 9 a.m. Friday with finals starting a 4 p.m. Saturday.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO