Two East relays to swim at state

Columbus East’s, from left, Todd Hundley, Misha Machavariani, Judah Nickoll, Cavan Stilson and Keaton Stephenson will compete in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays in this weekend’s Boys Swimming State Finals.

Ted Schultz | The Republic

Judah Nickoll, Cavan Stilson and Misha Machavariani already are a part of two school relay records, and this weekend, they’ll take aim at a third.

The Columbus East trio are a part of two Olympian relay teams that have qualified for the Boys Swimming State Finals, which begin with preliminaries Friday at IUPUI’s Indiana University Natatorium.

“Especially in the 200 medley, I think we have more room for improvement in that relay than we do in the 400 free,” Nickoll said. “Obviously, we haven’t gotten the 200 medley record yet. We’re still a little bit off the record, and I think we certainly have the opportunity to get it.”

Seniors Nickoll and Stilson, along with Machavariani, a junior, swam on the Olympians’ 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams at state last year. Those teams were led by Brady Beyer, who currently is training in California with hopes of making the Olympic Trials and has committed to swim next year at University of Cincinnati.

Replacing Beyer this year are junior Todd Hundley in the 200 medley relay and junior Keaton Stephenson in the 400 freestyle relay.

“I thought it was kind of funny because it’s mostly the same people, but we’ve all gotten faster based off of last year. Last year, Brady kind of carried us into state, I feel like, but thanks to Keaton and our overall performance boost over the past year, it’s kind of fun to see Brady off the (record) board and replacing him with somebody else,” Stilson joked.

Both relay teams had to play the waiting game to see if they would make it to state. Only the sectional champions and those meeting the state qualifying standard in each event are automatic qualifiers. Beyond that, those with the next-best times are added to reach a full field of 32 in each event.

East picked up the next-to-last call-back in the 200 medley relay and the third-to-last call-back in the 400 freestyle relay.

“I personally looked on Saturday evening, and I counted and I saw that we were in the top 12 to be pulled in,” Machavariani said. “We were originally very confident to be pulled in anyway, but it was just a good thing to see that it was for sure.”

The Olympians knew their spot was secure when the IHSAA posted psych sheets and heat sheets for the state finals on Sunday morning.

“Misha texted me Saturday night and told me, but I didn’t know for sure until Sunday morning,” Nickoll said.

“We were pretty confident we were going to get pulled in, so I wasn’t too surprised when I got the message that we were pulled in,” Hundley added. “But I was definitely excited because it just means we have a week of taper ahead of us. We also have another chance to race and drop time.”

East coach Doug Trueblood thought Olympian swimmers had a chance in a few events after looking at times from around the state from Thursday’s sectional prelims.

“Then, once we dropped more time in that medley relay, I felt like were really safe to be in,” Trueblood said. “The 400 free (relay), I was pretty comfortable with that, too. I thought we had a chance in the breaststroke with Misha, and he was just out there, and then of course, the butterfly, and the 50 was close too, with Cavan.”

Stephenson missed by one spot of earning a call-back in the 200 freestyle. This will be the first time competing at state for Hundley and Stephenson.

“I’m glad I get to go,” Stephenson said. “Last year, I got to go as an alternate, and knew I wanted to make it back on the team that goes, so I was definitely happy when I found out.”

The top eight in each event from Friday’s state prelims qualify for Saturday’s finals. Swimmers 9-through-16 earn spots in the consolation heat.

East is seeded 22nd in the 200 medley relay, based on its sectional time of 1 minute, 38.10 seconds, and 21st in the 400 freestyle relay at 3:15.05. Both are within less than a second of the No. 16 spot.

“I think we have a fair shot at making it just because in the past, I’ve known relays to add (time) when they go state,” Machavariani said. “If we can somehow pull ourselves together one last time, we can definitely drop down.”

“You have to be positive, and you have to go in knowing that you have a chance to do it,” Trueblood added. “If you go in thinking anything else, you’re probably not going to do as well as you can. We’re 22nd in the medley relay, and if we can drop a second and some of the other teams are the same as us tapered, there’s an outside chance. These guys are capable. The 400 free is the same. It’s an outside chance. I think we could get a little bit more off some turns and some starts.”