The start, the strokes, the turn and the touch. In the 50-yard freestyle, everything has to be perfect.
In an event that takes less than 30 seconds, there is no room for error. That suits Catholic Central swimmer Ragen Engel just fine.
“The 50 free is one of my favorite events because you leave it all out there,” Engel said. “There’s no holding back.”
The Irish junior doesn’t just enjoy the challenging sprint freestyle, she excels at it. She is the top-seeded 50-yard freestyle competitor in the girls Division II Southwest District Swimming and Diving Championship, which gets underway Saturday at Miami University.
“Ragen is pretty relentless,” Catholic Central coach Bret Miller said. “She does everything she can do to excel.”
After spending hours in the pool, it can all come down to a tenth of a second or, sometimes, one hundredth of a second. Engel edged Oakwood’s Ally Mayhew :24.38 to :24.45 for the No. 1 district seeding and Irish teammate Stephanie Lohnes was close behind at :24.86. The three are more than competitors, they swim together at the Springfield Family YMCA.
“I think swimming against your friends is actually easier,” Engel said. “They make you work hard in practice as well as in competition.”
Engel, who placed at state last season in the 50 freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke, is hoping to do the same this year. She is seeded No. 2 in the breaststroke to Oakwood’s Lydia Pocisk. The top two district placers in each event receive automatic bids with 16 at-large bids also available.
Like Engel, Lohnes will compete in a pair of individual district events. The junior qualified in the 50 freestyle and 100-yard backstroke. Irish sophomore Abigail Thompson qualified in the 100-yard butterfly.
Other area district qualifiers include Springfield Shawnee’s Grace Seibert and Kenton Ridge’s Annelise Gibson in the 100-yard breaststroke. Seibert will also compete in the 200-yard individual medley.
In Division I, Springfield’s Madelyn Shaffer qualified in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly while teammate Blaire Cain qualified in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle.
On the boys’ side, Springfield’s Chandler Vandiford qualified in the 100-yard backstroke and Trevor Keriazes will compete in the 100-yard breaststroke. Both will vie for state berths in the 200-yard individual medley.
In D-II boys, Catholic Central’s Matt Pettit qualified in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke. Irish teammate Ian Collins will compete in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.
Springfield Shawnee’s Justin Crew is seeded second in the 200-yard freestyle and fourth in the 500 free. Shawnee junior Seth Seibert qualified in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard IM.
Kenton Ridge senior Gabe Rastatter will compete in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events.
District Swimming and Diving
Where: Miami University
Diving schedule: Wednesday – Girls Division I, 6 p.m.
Swimming schedule: Friday – Boys Division II, 10:45 a.m.; Boys D-I, Friday, 5:45 p.m.; Saturday – Girls D-II, 10:45 a.m.; Girls D-I, 5:45 p.m.
State qualifiers: Two automatic qualifiers in all Southwest District boys and girls events with 16 at-large qualifiers selected on the basis of times recorded at all district meets.
Diving state qualifiers: Boys D-I – seven; Boys D-II – eight; Girls D-I – six; Girls D-II – six