COLUMBUS — The high school swimming season culminated for the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets on Saturday, and they left little to be desired.
The Jackets swam hard with several personal bests at the Division I District Swimming and Diving Championships, held at The Ohio State University’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. Unfortunately, their season came to an end without any state qualifiers.
“I think they did well,” said Mount Vernon coach Jeff Gottke. “They knew it was a big meet and they did their best. They stepped up. ... Sure, we’re disappointed (that no one advanced to the state meet). That’s somewhere we would like to be. We’ve had some good success there the last couple of years. We have a young team, and overall, I’m pleased. I don’t have any regrets that we didn’t do something we could have this year. I think we got as much out of our swimmers that we could have this year.”
Mount Vernon’s top performances came on the boys side. Junior Ian Richardson made it to the podium in the 50-yard freestyle, finishing seventh overall with a time of 22.03 seconds. Upper Arlington’s Eric Huffman won the event, finishing two-tenths of a second off the record at 20.39.
“I swam my best; I went as hard as I could,” said Richardson, who cut a half second off his qualifying time. “Compared to sectionals, this pool was faster, and I was shaved. My taper was also fully done.”
Richardson also recorded an 11th-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle. He improved by seven-tenths of a second from his sectional qualifying time with a finish of 49.12 seconds. Huffman won the 100 freestyle in a record-breaking time of 44.42 seconds, breaking the record of 44.86 seconds set in 2007.
“It is a real tough district, so anytime we can get somebody up on the podium, it is a good day,” said Gottke. “I’m really proud of him and the way he swam both races.”
Mount Vernon seniors Scott Nielson, Thomas Smith and Jack Tokarsky didn’t fare as well as Richardson. Nielson swam in two events, finishing 29th overall in the 100-yard butterfly (1:01.72) and 21st in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:07.10). Smith was 28th in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:10.21. Tokarsky, competing in the 100-yard backstroke, finished 24th overall with a time of 1:01.32.
Mount Vernon’s freshmen performed well. Gavin Rundell, swimming both the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle, couldn’t better his sectional times. Rundell finished in 5:23.30 and 1:58.07, respectively, for 23rd and 25th place. Johnson Cochran cut nearly 1.5 seconds off his time in the 100 breaststroke, finishing 19th overall (1:06.83). Mike Johnson recorded a 30th-place finish in the 100 backstroke (1:04.86).
The Yellow Jacket relay teams also had strong days. The 200-yard medley relay team of Tokarsky, Cochran, Nielson and Richardson finished 14th overall with a time of 1:47.04, nearly a half second better than its qualifying time. The Jackets 400 freestyle team (Rundell, Tokarsky, Nielson, Richardson) finished 15th with a time of 3:35.78, a full second ahead of its qualifying time. The Mount Vernon 200-yard freestyle team, consisting of Anthony DePascuale, Chase Ledin, Cochran and Rundell, finished 23rd with a time of 1:40.64, besting their sectional time by nearly three seconds.
In all, nine Yellow Jacket times were better than they were at sectionals.
“I think everybody gave it all they had,” Gottke said. “We had talked about that in practice last week. I just told them to leave it all out there and give it all they had.”
The Mount Vernon girls team didn’t have quite as good of a day, but still improved nonetheless. Junior Tate Devlin, the only individual district competitor, finished 24th and 27th, respectively, in the 100 freestyle (57.67) and 50 freestyle (26.25).
“Tate has done a lot of hard work this year,” said Gottke. “It paid off for her. She made it to the district meet. Anytime a swimmer can improve, it is good for them.”
The Jacket girls relay teams all improved their finishing times over their qualifying times, including a near six-second improvement for the 400 freestyle relay team. The foursome of Lindsay Studebaker, Kate Klesner, Samantha Williams and Jess Zeller finished 20th overall with a time of 4:08.62. The team qualified for the district meet with a time of 4:14.46.
The 200 medley relay team (Williams, Zeller, Alaina Mahn and Devlin) finished 20th overall with a time of 2:04.33. Zeller, Mahn, Studebaker and Devlin also teamed up for the 200 freestyle relay and finished 21st overall, finishing in 1:50.98.
“This was great experience; when they are freshmen, that’s what this is all about,” said Gottke. “To get as many to district as we did is a great. It only speaks well of things to come in the next couple of years.”
While they are sad to see the season come to an end, the Yellow Jackets have accomplished much, especially with such a young team. Gottke is going to miss his seniors, who have provided a stable environment this season for his younger swimmers.
“We are going to miss them,” said Gottke. “They’ve provided a lot of leadership. They set the tone for the underclassmen. They also did a nice job of preparing the underclassmen to replace them. I was talking to Jack Tokarsky the other day about next year, and we were sort of filling in the blanks. They will definitely be missed.”