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3 Day
Monday, February 25th, 2008

WaterDogs' 200 relay makes it to the podium in Canton

By Gary R. Rasberry

Celina swim coach Matt May, front, poses with team members, from left, Courtney. . .

Even after a long day of swimming, it was hard for the Celina girls swim team to sleep on the way home from the State Swimming Championships in Canton.
The five Swimmin' Women that qualified for seven events at the state meet returned home early Sunday morning having given the program its best performance ever, finishing 12th in the Division II meet with 57 points, the most points ever scored by the team at the meet.
"It was insane. Just nerves and intensity all over," said sophomore LaRae Dorsten, who swam Friday for Celina and watched the fun on Saturday. "It was amazing."
"It's going to be hard getting to sleep," said sophomore Paige Mertz. "But once I do get to sleep, I'm definitely going to be out because we had a long weekend."
The weekend was highlighted by the first appearance on the podium - top eight finish - in the modern era of WaterDogs swimming. The 200 freestyle relay team - Kirsten Samples, Mertz, Coon and Courtney McKirnan - finished sixth to earn first-team All-Ohio status.
For coach Matt May, it was the perfect way to end a season that brought new heights.
"We had a lot of firsts this weekend," said May via telephone the team drove back to Canton late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. "Lot of good things happened this year and the kids really believed in themselves. Really were able to rise above. Typically, we come down here and have a little bit of trouble finishing off and getting our team to work together for the state meet. We made a couple changes that was a bit different and it paid off. I'm just so darn proud of them. We had a great year and a good way to end it."
Celina earned points on Friday when the 200-yard medley relay finished 15th overall and freshman Ashley Coon took 14th in the 100 butterfly. Saturday, however, was The Day, though, as the best chance for a top-eight finish was the 200 free relay, which was seeded fourth coming in.
First came Kirsten Samples' swim in the 100 freestyle. Seeded 10th coming in, Samples posted the 14th fastest prelim time, qualifying for the B-Final that night.
In the prelim for the 200 relay, Celina matched their seed spot, sporting the fourth-fastest time with a mark of 1:42.09, 5/100th of a second faster than WBL foe Shawnee. The time secured Celina a spot on the podium on Saturday night.
After McKirnan's prelim in the 100 breaststroke, which put her 19th and out of the finals, The 200 relay geared up for the 400. Celina finished out of the top eight, but secured the 10th fastest time to earn the B-Final spot.
Samples, with three races in already, saw a lot of potential when the finals ran in the evening.
"I was kind of disappointed to get 14th because I was seeded 10th, but I knew we would come back tonight and do better because we practice in the afternoon," said Samples. "It makes sense for us to compete in the afternoon."
Samples was up first in the Saturday night finals action. In the 100, Samples upped her placement by three spots, finishing third in the B-Final to take 11th place in a time of 55.34 seconds.
The fact Samples did well in the 100 seemed to flip the switch for the relays.
"It helped set the tone for the rest of the meet. If I would have done bad, our spirits would have been down. Since I did really well, everybody was excited and we were just ready for our 200."
In the 200 relay final, Celina posted a faster time than the prelim, touching the wall in 1:41.73, good for sixth in the state.
"It was just hard to believe," said Coon. "You had to blink your eyes twice just to realize 'Oh my gosh! Out of the whole state, you're sixth.'"
"We actually missed (in the 200) second place by 8/10 (of a second). That's pretty exciting," said Mertz, referring to runner-up Shawnee's time of 1:40.92. "We're just happy to set those records for Celina."
All that was left was the 400 relay. Before the race, May told his team that a good showing would allow Celina's name to make the board that listed the top teams in each division.
Celina went out and won the B-Final with a time of 3:46.54, earning ninth place overall. Sure enough, Celina's name went on the board.
"I didn't really believe him at first, but when we finished (the 400 relay) and got ninth, I asked 'So, are we on the board?' and he said 'Yep! Twelfth, just like I told you.'" said Samples.
All that remained was the presentation of medals.
"It was the best feeling ever," said McKirnan. "That was the main goal that we had this year. We really wanted to make it on the podium. ... It was a sign of relief. We all took a deep breath and realized we did it.
"Standing on the podium. We knew we did it," continued McKirnan. "We did everything we wanted to do."
Like in any other sport, success breeds success. For the Celina quintet, all underclassmen this year and back next year, what happened over the weekend is motivation for next season.  
"We took a lot of steps this year and I feel we'll do better this year," said Samples.
Subler makes podium again
Versailles senior Lauren Subler closed out her career for the Tigers with another trip to the podium on Saturday night.
Subler, third in the 100 butterfly on Friday night, swam the 100 backstroke on Saturday. Subler's prelim time of 1:00.97 placed her in sixth going into the finals in the evening.
In the final, Subler touched the wall in a time of 1:01, tying her with Van Wert's Heather Easley for sixth, giving her three top-eight finishes in two years at the state meet and four top 10 showings.
Overall, Subler gave the Tigers a 24th-place finish in the Division II meet with 28 1/2 points.
Weitzel concludes season
St. Henry standout Scott Weitzel had a tough hill to climb in trying to make it to the finals on Saturday night. Weitzel, the first Redskin to make the state swim meet, entered the day with the 24th seeded time in the 100 breaststroke.
In the end, he improved one spot, swimming the event in 1:01.38, the 23rd best time of the prelims, which ended his season.
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