High school boys swimming: Hudson claims first district crown since 2015

Ashley Bastock
Akron Beacon Journal
Hudson's Seth Baylor celebrates his first-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:37.53 at the boys Northeast District Division I Championship at the Spire Institute on Saturday. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

GENEVA — The Hudson boys swimming and diving team won its first district title since 2015 on Saturday at Spire Insitute, avenging a second-place finish from a year ago.

The Explorers claimed the Division I Northeast District crown with 328 points, followed by North Canton Hoover (275), Jackson (219), Stow (205), North Royalton (156), Firestone (153), Solon (144) and Green (130), rounding out the top eight. 

A year ago, Hudson lost the team title to Hoover and has used it as motivation ever since.

"Getting second was a really big motivator for them last year, nobody expected that," Hudson coach Matt Davis said. "They had it on their radar this year that we can win it. So, they were super pumped just to come here and perform. And they all did that, everybody contributed today, everybody swam great.

"We got a handful of kids moving on to next week but it's just great to see when kids buy in to what you're doing and every day they come working hard even if they're tired or they're sore." 

Hudson got two individual wins courtesy of Seth Baylor. His first came in the 100 butterfly with a time of 50.08. He bested North Canton Hoover's TJ Bragg by less than a second (50.51). Hudson also got a top-four finish from Andrew Ketler (51.00) in the race. 

Baylor's next first-place finish came in the 500 freestyle (4:37.53), and he was joined by Ketler (4:39.23) and Vittorio Cappabianca (4:46.05) in second and fourth place, respectively. Stow's Dylan Cossin came in third (4:40.77).

"Seth was our senior leader and we needed that but everyone stepped up," Davis said. "And that's the thing I think the depth of all the swimmers we have says a lot about the program, not just one or two kids. And that's what we talk about with our team. It's not just a team, it's a program. I've been here 15 years and we continue to build up and do great things."

The top two finishers in each event automatically advance to the state meet at Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium.

Hudson's 200 medley relay team of Dylan Albrecht, Alex Gallagher, Ketler and Benjamin Martinez automatically qualified for state as well, finishing in second place (1:34.94) behind Hoover's team of Peter Helmuth, Karl Helmuth, Bragg and Mack Lochridge (1:32.85). 

Gallagher also qualified in the 200 individual medley (1:54.44) and 100 breaststroke (56.85) with two second-place finishes. The district title in the IM was claimed by North Royalton's Aidan Florio (1:54.15). Hudson also had a strong third-place finish in that race from Cappabianca (1:55.84). Hoover's Karl Helmuth won the district title in the 100 breaststroke (55.66). 

At the state meet next week, Davis said he is most looking forward to more of his kids getting that experience.

"Seth and a few of them have been there, but we've got some freshmen that have done well," he said. "Alex got second in two events. To get him that experience and race against the best kids in the state, to have a shot to get on the podium for a couple of them, some of them still have some unfinished business on some things they want to accomplish. So, I'm looking forward to seeing them have a great week of practice, continue to do what they've been doing, continue to cheer each other on and just have a great last meet."

Firestone's Jonny Marshall signs I love you after his first-place finish with a time of 1:39.77 in the 200-yard freestyle at the boys Northeast District Division I Championship at the Spire Institute on Saturday. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

It was also a big day for Firestone's Jonny Marshall. 

Marshall claimed the district title in the 100 backstroke and set a new district record with a time of 48.25. The previous record of 48.31 was set in 2020 by Hoover's Christopher O'Connor. 

Marshall, a sophomore, also led the way in the 200 free with a time of 1:39.77, besting Bragg (1:41.41) and Stow's Luke Novak (1:43.77). 

"We're just fine tweaking things going through and really focusing on next week, so this is kind of where we were to see what we need to change for next week," Firestone coach Cindy Dial said of Marshall. "He adapts very well, so pretty excited for him. He sets us up really well since it's a timed final to get in that top eight for next week."

Stow's Alex Cimera celebrates his first-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 45.36 seconds at the boys Northeast District Division I Championship at the Spire Institute on Saturday. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

Alex Cimera led Stow, automatically qualifying for state in all four events he swam. 

Cimera, a junior, got the Bulldogs' lone individual win in the 100 free (45.36) and was followed by Hoover's Karl Helmuth (45.39). 

He also qualified in the 50 free (21.00) after finishing in second place behind North Royalton's Luca Aldewereld (20.65)

Cimera kicked off Stow's second-place 200 free relay along with Novak, William Dorenkott and Keith Turnbull (1:27.40). North Royalton's team of Luca Aldewereld, Florio, Vincent Aldewereld and Yaro Hapyuk won the district title (1:26.94).

Stow's 400 free relay team of Cimera, Novak, Cossin and Turnbull also qualified with a second-place finish (3:10.95) behind Hoover's team of Lochridge, Ryan Ehlers, Bragg, and Karl Helmuth (3:06.66).

"Alex, he's a workhorse," Stow coach Ryan Miller said. "He knows exactly what he needs to do at practice. He works his butt off each and every single day, so I'm super proud of him and his accomplishments and everything he's done. It's just great to see him so excited. That's the best feeling as a coach to see all their hard work pay off. It truly is such an honor to coach such an amazing group. 

"Amazing swims today. It's by far the fastest we've ever been. All new records in relays and such. Very exciting, they deserve it. I couldn't be more excited for them."