Harding, Howland swimmers advance to districts

After being disqualified for a false start in the previous year at the sectional meet, the Warren G. Harding 200-yard freestyle relay team did more than get off the starting block in required fashion – it took care of business.

The relay team consisting of sophomores Michael Miller and Nathan Marchek, senior Zackary Williams and junior Dylan Thirion finished in 1:29.52, good enough for second place and the last automatic qualifying spot from the Division I Akron South sectional on Friday. The four finished .7 seconds behind the winning team from Wooster and just .3 ahead of the team from Jackson.

“They were relieved,” Harding coach Steve Lukco said. “As bad as it was last year and as much as they were using that for motivation, it was a good thing to have happen. I had full confidence that they would swim a good race, and they did. We got second right behind Wooster – kind of where we figured we’d be if everything went right.”

To go along with the 200 relay, a pair of divers put themselves in contention for district spots.

Harding’s Corey Butts and Teddy Welke finished third and sixth places, respectively, in the 1-meter dive. With the top 22 combined from the Akron North and South sectionals moving onto the Cleveland State University district next weekend, Lucko said he would be shocked if both Raider divers won’t compete at districts.

“We’re real excited for them both to be going back,” Lucko said. “They were both there (at districts) last year – came just short of making state. So, we’re hoping another year of experience with them being seniors that they’ll step up to the boards and do what they got to do in Cleveland to make it down to Canton.”

Other Raiders looking for at-large bids, which will be decided on Sunday are: the 200-yard medley relay, which finished in fourth with a time of 1:42.5; Miller and Thirion in the 50 freestyle, as the two finished in third (22.2 seconds) and fourth (22.31); Thirion (third with time of 49.19) and Marchek (ninth with time of 50.58) in the 100 freestyle; and Marchek in the 100 breaststroke (12th place with time of 1:06.49).

In Division II, Howland senior Brandon Sekanick won the 100-yard breaststroke with a season-best time of 1:02.16. He beat second-place Michael DiDomenico of Canfield by just less than one second. He also raced in the 200 freestyle and finished in the top 15 with a time of 1:58 .3, also a season-best time.

Howland coach Greg McAtee said this performance will give Sekanick confidence going to the Cleveland State University district.

“When you go to a meet like that and race some pretty good competition and do as well as he did, it has to give you some confidence going into next week,” McAtee said. “There’s still going to be a lot of really good competitors that he’s going to be swimming with next week, but going out a week before he’s ready to swim really fast and doing season-best times in both of his events, that’s got to feel pretty good.”

As a team, Canfield ran away with the sectional title, beating second-place Rocky River, 423-191. The Cardinals won six races, including Connor Brady’s two titles in the 100-yard backstroke and 10-butterfly, Drew Bennett’s 500-freestyle win, Kyle Anderson’s title in the 200-individual medley and the 200- and 400-freestyle relay teams of junior Brady and senior Bennett, DiDomenico and Daniel Bogen.