MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon senior Ian Richardson made the most of his opportunities at the Division I State Swimming Championships on Friday morning. Richardson, competing in the 50-yard Freestyle and the 100-yard Freestyle, qualified for today's finals in both events at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Competing at the state meet for the first time didn’t faze Richardson, who was the No. 1 qualifier in the 50. He came out and swam strong, finishing fifth overall with a time of 21.32 seconds. Gus Bailey of Grove City was the No. 1 finisher in the preliminaries at 21.16 seconds; Loveland’s Brandon Williams was second at 21.18 seconds.
“I am very happy [with my finish,” said Richardson. “As long as I was in the top 8, that was a big deal for me. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was swimming strong.”
“I am pleased [with his finish] because the 50 is a tough race, especially at this level,” said Mount Vernon coach Jeff Gottke. “You never know what is going to happen. Ian, being a first-time qualifier and seeded first, I thought he did really well. There are so many variables here.”
Richardson’s time was nearly a half-second off his qualifying time of 20.80 seconds, but that didn’t bother him. Many of the state qualifiers struggled to put up their best times.
“No one went that fast today,” Richardson said. “It seems like very few people are doing their very best right now, which, to me, is fine. There is a lot of emotion going on.”
In the 100, Richardson swam about the same pace, finishing .49 seconds (47.39) behind his qualifying time. He was fast enough to sneak into the finals in the 16th position, however, edging out Kevin Schwab of Cincinnati Moeller by two-hundredths of a second. Jacob Schuster of Dublin Scioto was first with a time of 45.75 seconds.
“Once again, I was happy with [qualifying]; finishing 16th, I’ll be on the outside lane, which is always fun,” said Richardson. “I don’t mind being 16th because I think that is better than being in the middle.”
“When he got out of the pool, he said, ‘I did the best I could,’” Gottke said. “At this level, that’s all you can do.”
Richardson’s strategy coming into the state meet was simple — go as hard as he could for as long as he could. Some swimmers may have held back in an effort to keep some extra juice in their tank for the finals, but that’s not the way Richardson works.
“We talked about his strategy earlier, and you are never sure what the level of preparation of everybody else is,” said Gottke. “We talked about going as fast as he could, and swimming the best race he could. Whatever happened, we would go from there. I think he did that.”
Heading in to Today’s finals, Richardson has positioned himself in a great spot. He is a favorite to reach the podium in the 50, and, with a little better swim in the 100, he can play a role in deciding the champion.
“I’m just going to put it all out there every time,” said Richardson. “I am really very pleased with both of my swims. ... As far as [Today] goes, I expect it to be a little better than today. I’m not really concerned about the other swimmers; I just want to do the best I can. Staying in the top 8 would be great no matter what, and I’m in a great position to do that.
“I’m not a big expectation setter, and I expect nothing. What I would like to do is make the top 8 in the 50, and move up a few spots in the 100. I would be happy with that. I just don’t want to finish 16th in the 100.”
“This is great,” Gottke said. “I’m very excited for him. He has a chance to do some special things; if he could win it, it would be all the more exciting. ... I expect him to go as fast as he can and swim the best race he knows how. Then we’ll see what happens.”
The Division I Finals begin today at 9 a.m. in Canton.