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02-25-04: Swimmers set for state meet


The state swimming and diving championships kick off Thursday morning, and the area will be well represented as it’s sending five athletes.
Celina leads the way by sending three athletes, a diver and two swimmers.
Sara Knapke will kick off the meet for the Bulldogs on Thursday morning in springboard diving.
It’s the second consecutive year Knapke has qualified for state, and she’s coming off a good showing at the Bowling Green State University district meet where she placed third.
Knapke said she hopes to draw on her experience at the state level last year to help her place well this weekend.
“I definitely won’t have as many nerves as I did last year,” she said. “Last year I didn’t make the first cut, so I definitely want to make the first cut and try to make it to the last cut.”
Knapke will be one of 24 divers who will be given five dive attempts. After five dives the group will be cut to 20 divers, and three attempts later it will be down to just 16 divers.
“I’m going to mix dives that I’m decent at and ones that have high DD (degree of difficulty) to get my points up there,” Knapke said about the initial round.
Knapke will be the only area competitor competing on Thursday, but Celina’s Kelly Mallory and his cousin Amanda Mallory will take to the pool on Friday morning.
Kelly Mallory will be competing in the 50-yard free style and also the 100-yard butterfly where he’ll be joined by Coldwater’s Tyler Post.
“It feels really great, I’ve been working really hard for a long time to get to this level and I’m just glad I made it here,” said Kelly Mallory. “I don’t really care where I place, I’m just really happy I made it.”
Kelly Mallory said he thinks he has a better chance of qualifying for the swimming finals in the 50-yard free style where his best time is 21.92.
Post has taken somewhat the same philosophy as Kelly Mallory, and said he’s thrilled to get a chance to represent Coldwater at the state level.
“I feel awesome, last year I came really close to making it, so this year when I made it I was just really happy,” Post said. “My goals are to drop more time, I haven’t picked an exact time but I’ll do that soon. I’ve gone a 53.9 and I want to drop that down even more.”
Post is the first Cavalier swimmer to ever qualify for state competition, and said now all the pressure is behind him.
“Districts was my big pressure point, now we’ve got that out of the way so now I’m just going to swim,” he said.
Amanda Mallory like Post has accomplished a great deal by qualifying for state, as she’s the first Bulldog female swimmer in roughly three decades to be making the trip.
The last Bulldogs female to qualify was Judy Vanderhorst, who qualified before Celina even had a high school team.
“It’s been a goal of mine forever and finally making it feels really good, I’m really excited but nervous, because I don’t know what to expect,” Amanda Mallory said. “I’m just concentrating on lowering my time and I’d like to go a low 25 (seconds) because I’ve been stuck at a mid-25.”
“I’m very happy for them, they’ve worked very hard,” said Celina coach Jane Fleck. “Amanda’s done numerous camps and clinics to improve her strokes and worked at it, and Kelly’s just naturally talented at this.”
Fleck said this years meet will mark the most Celina swimmers ever to qualify for state.
“Kelly is seeded 17th in the free style and they take the top 16 to the finals, so he’s got a very good shot of getting in,” Fleck said. “The time drops these guys have all year I’m not counting any of them out. It will be a tough competition.”
“Tyler’s team leader on the YMCA team has been unbelievable, and he’s taken a leadership role and he leads all the sets and makes sure they’re all going on time,” said Celina assistant coach Matt May. “It’s an honor for all of them to be down there, their in the top 24 in the state.”
Amanda Mallory and her Bulldogs teammates also wanted to point out that coaches Fleck, May and assistant coach Chrissy Lugo have all been positive influences this season.
“Jane has really stepped up and did a really good job taking over the coaches role,” Amanda Mallory said. “She didn’t really know the full duties, but she’s done really good and really helped us out this year and it’s been a lot better year then what a lot of us expected.”
St. Marys will also send a representative to the state meet this weekend, as Jaz Craft will be swimming for the Roughriders.
Craft will be the only area athlete competing on Saturday, where’s she’s qualified in the 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard free style. Craft said she believes her best chance to finish high will come in the breaststroke, where she placed second at the district meet with a season best time of 1:10.01.
“My goal is to get in the top 16 at state,” Craft said. “As far as times go, I’d like to get a 1:09 if not lower.”
Just a freshman at St. Marys, Craft said she feels honored to make it to the state level in her first year.
“I think it’s great, so many of my teammates have tried to make it for a number of years and I feel privileged and lucky to make it my first year,” Craft said.
Craft said despite not swimming until Saturday that she’ll be in Canton by Thursday to help support the other athletes.


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