Knights in position for title

Strong prelims set up St. Francis-St. Xavier showdown

Cheyenne Meek of Port Clinton starts in 100-yard freestyle at the state meet. She was eighth in the race but took third in the 50 free.
Cheyenne Meek of Port Clinton starts in 100-yard freestyle at the state meet. She was eighth in the race but took third in the 50 free.

CANTON — “X” is Nick Brodie’s least favorite letter.

The St. Francis de Sales senior is tired of the Ohio swimming world drowning in it. He only has eyes for a Knights’ celebration when the Division I state swimming champion is crowned today.

The Knights are poised to end Cincinnati St. Xavier’s 14-year stranglehold on the team championship after lighting up Branin Natatorium on Friday.

“When you go to St. Francis and swim,” Brodie said, “you are taught to hate that school, no matter what. From the first day you get here, you’re told, ‘No one up here likes them.’ ”

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the meet.

In Friday’s prelims, St. Francis burned to the top times in both the 200-yard medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay, both anchored by Brodie.

Today’s finals will open with the medley relay, in which St. Francis and Xavier posted Friday’s fastest prelim times, 1 minute, 33.57 seconds and 1:33.78. That’s how close the team race might be.

“It’s awesome to be able to swim against that team,” Brodie said. “To beat them might be the best thing in the world.”

One of today’s best — and most important — races will be the 50-yard freestyle, featuring Brodie, who will swim at Ohio State.

“I want to win the 50,” Brodie said. “I got touched out last year. I should have had it.”

The Knights finished Friday with the second-fastest qualifying time in the 400 freestyle relay, just behind Cleveland St. Ignatius and just ahead of Xavier.

On the relays on which St. Francis had the day’s best times, senior Jack Barone swam a leg on each. Senior Jack DiSalle, junior Christian Sobczak and junior Ben Gordon each handled a leg on one. The 400 freestyle unit, edged by Cleveland St. Ignatius, 3:08.29-3:08.52, included DiSalle, Gordon, junior Aaron Borgman, and Sobczak.

Another swing factor in the team race could be DiSalle’s battle in the 100 freestyle against Xavier freshman Grant House, who is seeded No. 1 to DiSalle’s No. 3 after prelims.

Few know Xavier better than St. Francis coach Brent Ransom. He worked with the swim team at Xavier University in Cincinnati last year. Before that, he spent seven years as a coach of the Cincinnati Marlins, a feeder program for Xavier.

“I respect St. X quite a bit,” said Ransom. “Their coach, Jim Brower, is one of the best I’ve worked with. It’s always fun to have a rivalry. Since they win all the time, us interrupting that every once in a while is a great feeling.”

In Division I girls, Fremont Ross put up the third-fastest qualifying time in the 400 freestyle relay with the quartet of Haley Fisher, Megan Hawk, Morgan Waggoner, and Meghan Moses.

St. Ursula junior Zhada Fields posted the fourth-fastest time (55.59) in the 200 freestyle. Bowling Green junior Emmy Sehmann reached the finals in the 100 (sixth) and 200 (seventh) freestyle races. Moses advanced in the 50.

Port Clinton’s Meek takes 3rd place in 50 freestyle

In Division II girls competiton, Port Clinton's Cheyenne Meek finished third in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.37 and placed eighth in the 100 freestyle at 52.07.

Ashleigh Franks of Bryan finished 13th in the 50 freestyle (24.40) and 14th in the 100 free (53.34). Teammate Lauren Chaney placed 16th in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.36).

The Golden Bears team of Franks, Courtney Rode, Jojo Rode, and Annika Shaffer finished 11th in the 200 freestyle relay. Chaney joined Jojo Rode, Courtney Rode, and Shaffer for a 13th in the 400 freestyle relay and Franks, Chaney, Shaffer, and Jojo Rode swam to 13th place in the 200 medley relay.

Morgan Brebberman of Maumee earned a 12th-place finish in the 500 free (5:14.73) and a 16th-place finish in the 200 free (1:56.93). Wauseon's Kasey Darnell placed 16th in the 500 free (5:17.58).

In Division II boys action, Napoleon’s Ben Kuhlman placed 12th in the 50 free (21.99), and Bowling Green’s Trae Gulgin finished 12th in the 100 backstroke (54.85).