By Dan Woodlock
Times-Junction Sports Editor
Willard’s youthful swim team did not sink in their deepest waters of the season.
Instead, they continued to submerge school and personal records and dove headfirst into what will be a record week at Districts.
The Flashes and Lady Flashes combined to break five WHS school records, while establishing 28 personal records at Saturday’s Division II Sectional meet at Malabar in Mansfield. Their prolific performances clinched berths in 10 races at this Friday’s District meet at Bowling Green State University.
Six different swimmers, Nick Bauer, Gavin Buurma, Levi Hill, Lindsay Holbrook, Blake Smith and Blake Thompson, will represent Willard at BGSU in the Northwest District event that begins at 3 p.m. at the Cooper Natatorium. All six will compete in at least two races, with Bauer and Smith qualifying in four events.
“This has been so exciting,” said Willard Head Coach Ashley Wenninger. “Qualifying in 10 races at Districts is by far the most we’ve ever had. We also have a lot of our kids seeded higher at Districts than before, as we’ve had to fight to get in a lot of times in that 28-to-32 range.
“Everybody swam great at Sectionals, even the kids who didn’t qualify,” she added. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way we competed. Our Sectional is one of the strongest in the State in Division II.”
Holbrook snapped both of her own WHS marks in the 100 Freestyle (59.98 seconds) and 100 Backstroke (1:07.92) at Sectionals, claiming 10th and fifth in those races, respectively, and will enter Districts seeded 31st and 21st.
The Boys 200 Free Relay team of Bauer, Buurma, Smith and Hill also took down their own record they established this season, swimming a 1:38.26 to finish fifth in the Sectional field. They will enter Districts as the 12-seed.
Buurma, Smith and Hill joined Thompson on the record-setting 400 Free Relay unit that swam a 3:45.24, garnering a sixth place spot at Malabar and number 20 at BGSU. Thompson also took down the Flashes’ 500 Freestyle record, zipping his way to a 5:29.85 finish. His time was fourth best in the Sectional and stands 17th entering Districts.
Willard’s boys qualified a third relay in the 200 Medley, as Thompson, Smith, Hill and Bauer claimed fourth at Sectionals with a swim of 1:53.38. The Flashes will be the District’s 16-seed.
Bauer earned a pair of individual District spots in the 200 IM (where he was sixth at Sectionals, at 2:19.69) and finished on the front end of a third and fourth place combo with Smith in the 100 Breaststroke. Both swimmers will compete in the event at BGSU, with Bauer swimming as the 19th seed (1:09.24) and Smith at 26th (1:10.78).
Buurma landed the final District qualifying berth in the 50 Free, swimming an 11th place time at Malabar (24.46 seconds).
“What helped us was having basically two full weeks of swim practices going in,” said Assistant Coach Steve Bauer. “The kids were able to get in eight pool practices and a number of dry land days. That was nice because they could focus on practice and what they were working on, without having to worry about a meet.”
Willard’s eighth (boys) and ninth (girls) place spots in the final team standings didn’t even begin to tell the story on the explosive day both teams put together.
“Sectionals were so much different for me as a coach, and I know Districts will be too,” said Wenninger. “Having 29 swimmers, compared to like 15 or 16 in previous years, everything was pretty much ‘boom, boom, boom’. The kids swam so well, it was a challenge keeping up with all of the personal records that just kept coming.
“With us having so many races at Districts, there won’t be those big gaps in time to wait through,” she added. “Other years, we’re sitting upstairs playing cards and things during what seemed like forever between races. We’re going to get to be on the deck most of the time Friday.”
Lexington won the girls Sectional crown with 617 points, while Galion took similar honors on the boys side with 418 points. A total of 16 schools were represented in the girls meet, while 15 schools competed for the boys.
Rounding out Willard’s Sectional efforts were the following results: Girls 200 Medley Relay--7th: Strayer, A. Smith, Holbrook, Beamer (2:24.63); Girls 200 Free--17th: Bates (2:52.64), 18th: Eitle: (2:56.47), 21st: Spearman (3:06.97), 24th: Carpenter (3:12.91); Girls 200 IM--14th: Jackson (3:18.03), 15th: A. Thompson (3:18.45), 17th: Moore (3:29.21); Boys 200 IM--10th: B. Thompson (2:24.58); Girls 50 Free--21st: Beamer (30.5), 33rd: Lykins (34.84), 40th: Lowery (40.75), 42nd: Ousley (49.08); Boys 50 Free--22nd: Slone (27.87), 33rd: Luna (33.97); Girls 100 Free--21st: Beamer (1:07.37), 39th: Moore (1:22.45), 41st: Clark (1:25.66); Boys 100 Free--14th: Buurma (56.06), 15th: Hill (56.15), 24th: Slone (1:04.76), 34th: Luna (1:19.28); Girls 500 Free--11th: Strayer (6:55.05); Boys 500 Free--17th: Carnahan (6:47.66); G 200 Free Relay--11th: Spearman, A. Thompson, Clark, Carpenter (2:20.72); G 100 Back--23rd: Bates (1:32.13), 24th: Jackson (1:32.22); B 100 Back--19th: Carnahan (1:17.94); G 100 Breast--10th: Strayer (1:22.88), 19th: A. Thompson (1:37.98), 21st: Eitle (1:41.7); G 400 Free Relay--8th: Beamer, Bates, Jackson, Holbrook (4:42.14)