Stow swimming reaches district meet in 28 events

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls junior Alex Cimera swims the butterfly during a meet earlier this season. Cimera won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races Feb. 13 at the Division I sectional meet at Wooster.

In a season that has been so disrupted, just getting to the sectional meet had to feel like a win for Stow-Munroe Falls swimming.

Once there, however, Stow made it clear they have much bigger goals.

The Bulldog boys finished second at the Division I sectional meet at the Wooster YMCA Feb. 13 with 287 points. Hudson won the boys title with 443 points.

In the girls team race, the Bulldogs finished fourth with 166 points, finishing behind Hudson (510 points(, Akron Firestone (359) and Brecksville-Broadview Heights (286).

More importantly, Stow advanced to districts in 23 individual events and five relays. The Division I district meet is set for Saturday at Spire Institute in Geneva.

Bulldogs coach Ryan Miller said his team's performance at sectionals was "exactly what we expected," even from those who didn't qualify for districts.

"We were looking for breakthrough swims from our underclassmen," Miller said. "They crushed it. They went above and beyond what we expected. We had a lot of them right there on the bubble [to reach districts]. We had all season best times in the meet."

"In my opinion we have the advantage heading into districts, We swam at Spire in the mid-season at Viking Invitational. We get to go from a slower pool to the faster one. 

Heading into districts, Miller said he would like to see a top three place from the boys squad and "drastic improvement from last year." That's a tall order, considering Stow broke eight school records at districts last year.

Junior Alex Cimera opened his postseason scoring three sectional titles.

After setting the school records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle earlier this season, Cimera won both events at Wooster.

Cimera won the 50 in  and the 100 in 48.61 seconds.

"His speed has gotten so much better," Miller said. "At the same time, that's where he's got the most room for improvement."

Cimera then joined his fellow returning state qualifiers — senior Dylan Cossin, senior Luke Novak and junior Will Turnbull —  to win the 400 freestyle relay. The quartet, which reached states last year in the relay, won the sectional crown in 3:16.71

Cimera nearly made it four sectional titles, as he joined with Novak, Turnbull and junior Will Dorenkott in the 200 freestyle relay. The quartet just missed the title, finishing second in 1:29.15, just behind North Royalton (1:28.87).

Cossin also scored a sectional title for Stow in the 500 freestyle. He eased to a 4:52.85 and his eyes fixed on going for a district title.

"We make sure that every year he's gotten better," Miller said. "We've had a really good pattern to his race. I think we have that perfect recipe now."

Cossin also reached districts in the 200 freestyle, despite not having his best swim. He finished sixth in 1:49.91.

Novak beat Cossin in the 200 free, taking third place in 1:49.21.

"For Luke, it's a new challenge," Miller said. "He's done that 100 back and 200 individual medley every single year. The backstroke is a given. It's all there for him."

Indeed, Novak took second in the 100 backstroke in 55.19 seconds. Miller noted Stow has never had two individual state qualifiers in any one event, but feels Novak and Cossin can get there in the 200.

Meanwhile, Turnbull also reached districts in the 100 backstroke, taking sixth in 57,09, as did freshman Lincoln May, who finished 10th in 1:00.05 in the backstroke.

However, Turnbull's best performance came in the 100 freestyle, where he took fifth in 49.96 second.

"He's looking really good," Miller said. "I've never seen him looking better."

Hickin also reached districts in the 100 butterfly, taking fifth place in 53.83 seconds, while Dorenkott — whom Miller called "a miracle story" after he returned from a serious knee injury — advanced in the 50 freestyle. He finished 10th in 23.17 seconds.

Rounding out the district berths were May, Cossin, Hickin and Dorenkott in the 200 medley relay. The quartet finished sixth in 1:44.85.

While the Bulldog girls didn't have quite the high expectations of their male counterparts, Miller was ecstatic with his team's performance.

"I have to say the whole culture of that girls team is really molding into something special," Miller said. "Our 200 free relay, they were lights out. In my four years, I've never seen them go that fast."

The 200 free relay team of sophomore Annalia Dye, junior Olivia Casalinova, senior Evie Lewis and senior Grace Pontius put up Stow's best performance of the meet. 

The quartet reached districts by taking third place in 1:44.20.

Pontius also had a huge meet in the 100 freestyle, taking third in 55.61. She also qualifiers in 100 breaststroke, taking 11th in 1:14.08.

Lewis qualified for her fourth district meet in both distance events. She took fourth in the 500 free in 5:37.2 and sixth in the 200 free 2:03.88.

"The most important thing with Evie is she's in a really good place mentally," Miller said. "She's excited to finish on a really good note. 200 500

Senior Molly O'Brien also qualified in the 500 (11th, 5:49.33), as well as the 100 backstroke (13th, 1:07.81).

Dye advanced in the 200 freestyle (ninth, 2:08.06) and 50 freestyle (seventh, 26.32), while Casalinova edged Dye in the 50, taking sixth in 26.19 seconds.

Finally, the quartet of Lewis, Pontius, Casalinova and Dye combined to reach districts in the 200 medley relay. Stow finished sixth in 1:59.85.