CANTON - It was a welcome trip to the podium for St. Francis DeSales junior Colin Murtagh.
Murtagh placed fifth in the boys 200-yard freestyle event at the Ohio State High School Swimming Championships at the C.T. Branin Natatorium yesterday with a personal-best time of 1:42.50. One year earlier, Murtagh struggled to a 16th-place finish in the same event.
"My goal was just to make it to the finals," Murtagh said. "This was better than I expected."
Murtagh's preliminary time gave him a seventh-place seeding for the finals. His game plan was simple.
"My plan was to take it out fast and, if I died, I died," he said.
If he wasn't nervous enough, there was a nonconfirmed false start in his heat and all of the swimmers had to climb onto the starting blocks a second time.
"It was very nerve-racking," Murtagh said. "But you just have to pretend it never happened and swim your race."
The St. Francis junior faltered a bit in the final lap but held on to earn his best state finish.
Fremont Ross swimmer Jacque Fate also surprised a few swimmers as the seventh-seeded freshman sprinted to a third-place finish in the girls Division I 50-yard freestyle event with a personal best time of 24.28.
"I was a little nervous but I swim better when I'm nervous," Fate said. "This is just an awesome experience, I can't even explain how great it is being here."
That experience will continue as Fate will compete in the 100-yard freestyle event today.
The Sandusky Perkins relay team of Monica Bressler, Alex Kehres, Jess Wohl and Kara Baker swam to a fifth-place finish in the girls Division II 200-yard medley relay final with a time of 1:53.36.
Notre Dame Academy's Nikki Schnell-McCoy, Lauren Barone, Kylie Bombrys and Andrea Kovacs placed seventh in the D-I medley relay in 1:51.67.
t●Team tallies: Upper Arlington leads the boys field with 130.5 points while six-time team champion Cincinnati St. Xavier has 91 points after the first day of competition. St. Francis is in 13th place with 24 points.
Upper Arlington and Cincinnati Ursuline Academy hold the top two positions in the girls Division I standings with 147 and 126 points, respectively. Notre Dame is 11th with 30 team points.
Gates Mills Hawken, which has won all five of the D-II girls team titles since the division began in 2000, holds a commanding lead after Day 1 with 179 points. The highest area team was Perkins at 14th with 30 points.