High school girls swimming: DeWitt paces Hudson as Explorers win Division I district title

Ashley Bastock
Akron Beacon Journal
Hudson's Mackenzie DeWitt, top, is congratulated by Jackson's Janine Murphy after DeWitt finished first in the 100 yard backstroke with a time of 55.52 at the girls Northeast District Division I Championship at the Spire Institute on Saturday. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

The Hudson girls swim team raised the Division I Northeast District trophy on Saturday afternoon at Spire Academy, thanks in large part to four first-place finishes by Mackenzie DeWitt. 

DeWitt, a senior, set a district record in the 100 butterfly, finishing in 54.18 to top the previous record of 55.11 set in 2019. 

DeWitt also helped the Explorers' 200 freestyle relay team also consisting of Eliana Szabo, Carrie Caniglia and Peyton Binns take home the top prize with a time of 1:35.47, edging out North Canton Hoover's relay team by just over a second (1:36.68). 

She also finished in the top spot in the 100 backstroke with a time of 55.52, narrowly topping Brecksville's Annie Krusinski (55.57) for her third win of the day.

DeWitt's final victory came anchoring the 400 freestyle relay team, that also consisted of Lucy Reber, Szabo and Caniglia. Hudson (3:28.92) and North Canton Hoover (3:32.08) were the two automatic qualifiers from that event. 

This will be DeWitt's fourth trip to the state meet in the past four years.

"I feel like it's going to hit me when I'm there," DeWitt said.  "I feel like when I'm at Canton, it's kind of the iconic atmosphere. I'm super excited." 

Hudson's Mackenzie DeWitt finishes first in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 54.18 seconds in the Girls Northeast District Division I Championship at the Spire Institute on Saturday. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

As a team, Hudson finished with 436 points to claim the district title, followed by North Canton Hoover (314), Firestone (241), Solon (173), Green (154), Brecksville (137), Wooster (120) and Chardon (109), rounding out the top eight. 

The finish for Hudson is especially sweet after a year filled with altered training and meet schedules and pauses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We didn't know we would be at this point, especially in December when we had our shutdown," coach Matt Davis said. "All summer, all fall, we were like 'hopefully we have a high school season,' because we knew we had a great group of kids. We were just grateful that we got to this point." 

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

Hudson's strong afternoon continued beyond DeWitt's performance. 

In the 200 individual medley, Reber (2:05.49) and Marisa Schenkenberger (2:07.31) claimed the top two spots to both automatically advance. 

Hudson's Olivia Pisano, rests after placing first in the 500-yard freestyle in the girls Northeast District Division I Championship at the Spire Institute on Saturday. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

Olivia Pisano topped the 500 freestyle field with a time of 5:05.99 after catching North Canton Hoover's Maya Lewis (5:06.23) in the final four laps in a finish that elicited the largest cheers of the afternoon from the Hudson swimmers watching on the deck.

"That's our biggest strength when we have all our kids cheering for each other, rooting for each other and doing what they can," Davis said. "I think it just makes the environment so much better and pushes them all to be better swimmers." 

While they didn't finish in the top two spots, Hudson also got strong swims from Szabo (1:55.24) and Pisano (1:56.26) in the 200 free, as the duo finished in third and fifth place, respectively. Natalie Brindley (1:57.90) and Caroline VonVille (1:58.31) finished in seventh and eighth place for Hudson in the same event. 

Caniglia finished in fourth place for Hudson in the 50 freestyle with a time of 23.97, and was joined in the top eight by Binns and Kate Hensley, in seventh and eighth place respectively. 

In the 100 free, Hudson's top finishers were Szabo (52.33) and Caniglia (52.37) in fourth and fifth place, respectively. In the 100 breaststroke, Schenkenberger came in fifth place to lead the Explorers (1:04.68).

Depending on results around the state, Hudson will very likely have more swimmers going down to Canton beyond their automatic qualifiers.

"We'll see what the results come in across the state and see how many kids we get in, but I think we'll have a good crew going down into Canton," Davis said. "Our two relays will be seeded pretty high. I think Mackenzie and Lucy, they'll be in a really good spot to podium and have a shot winning something next week.

"I'm looking forward to them getting down to Canton and racing. It's a fun environment and I know that for them, again to have that opportunity, it's something that we're going to take, relish and enjoy next week." 

Firestone's Mia Nagel swims to a second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:03.52 at the girls Northeast District Division I Championship at the Spire Institute on Saturday. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

In the 200 medley relay, Firestone's team of Molly Rogers, Mia Nagle, Tera Brilmyer and Emma Moore finished in first place with a  time of 1:45.08. 

Nagle also automatically qualified for the state meet in the 200 free with a time of 1:54.65, just behind Brecksville's Olena Sadovska (1:53.59), and in the 100 breaststroke finishing in second place with a time of 1:03.52 just behind Sadovska. 

Wooster's Gracie Chelf took home the top prize in the 50 free with a time of 23.66, while North Canton Hoover's Reagan St. Clair claimed the top spot in the 100 free, touching the wall in 51.75.