Columbus North didn’t start out Saturday’s boys swimming sectional final in optimum position to win the team title.
Thanks to a disqualification in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, in Thursday’s preliminaries, the Bull Frogs knew they would likely have to build at least a 40-point lead on Bloomington South going into that final event since that’s how many points the winner of that race would earn.
As it turned out, North had plenty of cushion. The Bull Frogs had a 56-point lead and held on to outscore the Panthers 418-402 to capture their first sectional title since 2014.
“We knew going into it, we were going to at least be 40 points behind, and we needed to make up ground other places,” senior Sam Russell said. “So we told the boys, ‘Each person is going to have to step up and push a little bit harder and dig a little bit deeper. A lot of boys really showed up and did that, so I’m proud of everyone. We just did what it took because we knew we’ve been working our tails off all year, and we just wanted to come out the way we did.”
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Russell qualified for state in four events. He won the 100 breaststroke and swam on the winning 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams.
In his other event, Russell finished second behind Bloomington South’s Seth Glasscock in the 200 individual medley. Glasscock finished in 1 minute, 51.92 seconds to Russell’s 1:52.19, which was under the state cut standard.
“I’ve been racing Seth my whole life, and it’s always fun that we go back and forth,” Russell said. “I don’t think without him being in that race, he could have pushed me to the time that I wanted. That was a three-second drop from what I’ve been for two years in a row, so I’m always happy, and I’m even happier when I have the state cut.”
Russell, who earned his third consecutive trip to state in the 200 IM, came back to win the 100 breaststroke in 58.20. He edged Milan’s Fernando Gomez by 37-hundreths of a second.
“The whole race, I could see he was right in the corner of my eye, so I decided to drift down and go a little bit harder for my team,” Russell said. “It’s always really fun to have everyone cheering for me, and a win is a win, so I’m happy.”
Sophomore Christopher Lee will be making his first state appearance after winning the 50 freestyle in 21.78. He was seeded second coming in, but edged Bloomington North’s Jacob Mumper 21.78 to 21.81.
“I just put my head down and trusted all my training and trusted my teammates and just swam my heart out and didn’t worry about anything except my own race,” Lee said.
Junior Nick Green will make his second consecutive trip to state in the 500 freestyle after winning in 4:47.07. Like Lee, Green was seeded second going in, but Green won by nearly three seconds.
“At the beginning of the season, I set a goal to win that 500,” Green said. “I’ve been gunning for that all season. I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked, and I’ve never been more proud of all the boys on this team and all the coaches. I owe everything to all of them and my parents. I set the goal, and I got it, and I’m happy that we came out on top.”
Lee and Russell teamed with seniors Jared Carroll and Rafael Spear to win the 200 medley relay in 1:53.53. The same quartet took the 200 freestyle relay in 1:26.79.
Carroll also finished second in the 100 butterfly (53.34), and Lee took second in the 100 backstroke (53.52). Green was third in the 200 freestyle (1:45.13), Paxton Rush finished third in the 200 IM (2:01.92) and Aiden McAlister took third in the 500 freestyle (5:59.90).
“We had to swim well due to our circumstances from Thursday,” North coach Logan Schaefer said. “We controlled what we could control, and we gave it everything that we had. We’re set up to swim even faster next weekend and have a great state meet, so we’re very excited.”
So is Russell.
“It’s always fun, and it’s really good to see team camaraderie,” Russell said. “I don’t think we could have done this without changing the team attitude, and I think really this whole year, a lot of people came together and decided, ‘Let’s go do something that hasn’t been done in a long time.’ So I think it’s really a team atmosphere that really changed a whole lot of things.”
Columbus East, meanwhile, finished fifth as a team with 196 points. The Olympians did not have any state qualifiers, but did qualify senior DJ Rhodes to Tuesday’s Bloomington North Diving Regional.
Rhodes was in sixth place after both the prelims and semifinals before climbing into the fourth and final qualifying spot with 329.80 points.
“Today was a little rough for me,” Rhodes said. “I didn’t do too hot at the beginning, but the last few dives, I did a lot better.”
The Olympians’ Ryan Singer finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.04) and sixth in the 200 IM (2:06.67). East finished fourth in the 400 freestyle relay (3:28.97) and sixth in the 200 medley relay (1:46.22).
All four of those times rank in the top 10 in school history in those events.
“We had a whale of a meet,” East coach Dave Fribley said. “Everything they did today and all the times they swam, they earned by their hard work since the beginning of November, which is when most of them started. These guys had more adversity and more roadblocks than any other team I’ve ever coached, and they just kind of pushed it aside and said, ‘OK, we’re going to swim through this.’”