By DAVE HANNEMAN
Jeff Wobser will be losing his spot on the Findlay High School wall of records.
And he couldn’t be prouder of the bunch that bumped him and his buddies off that list.
“Our boys swam exceptionally well at districts. I think we really swam over our heads, quite honestly,” said Wobser, Findlay High’s head swim coach.
“This group didn’t have as much talent as years past, maybe, like back in 2012 when we had Dietrich Hinesman and Nick Topel and those guys. But these guys worked very hard to get what they got and to break those records, including the oldest one still on the books, that 1980 400 free relay record that I was a part of.
“So, I’ll finally get my name off the record board, which is great because at the end of the day my job is to see that they get everything they can out of the program. They’ve done that. They’ve used every bit of talent that they’ve got and they’ve overachieved.”
Seven Findlay High swimmers will be looking to extend their record-breaking ways this week when they compete in the 2020 OHSAA state meet at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Diving competition began Wednesday and continues today. Division II swimming prelims will also be held today, with Division I prelims and Division II finals on Friday. Division I swimming finals will wrap up the 93rd annual boys and 44th annual girls state meet on Saturday.
Swimmers usually do not do a full taper until the week of the state meet. Wobser said necessity altered that schedule.
“We tapered specifically for the district (meet) because the state meet has gotten so fast you cannot take anything for granted,” Wobser said.
“There are very few athletes that are good enough to not (taper) for district and know they can still get to state. The state meet has gotten so very, very fast and times have gotten so compact it makes that almost impossible.”
The decision to taper early paid off well for Findlay, which finished third behind perennial state powers Cleveland St. Ignatius and Toledo St. Francis in the boys team standings.
“We were the first public school behind two very large parochial schools,” Wobser said. “We’re very proud of that, and several coaches around the deck came up and told us the same thing.”
Sophomore Parker Stocker had a hand in four of the school records Findlay set in the district meet, including the 3:11.35 time that he, Selby Wilt, Ethan Spradlin and Zane Laws posted in the 400 free relay. That bettered the mark of 3:11.95 Wobser, Sean Schultz, Ron Sailors and Jeff Layne had on the board since 1980.
Spradlin, Wilt, Stocker and Toby Haas also set a school record time of 1:26.05 in the 200 free relay, erasing the 1:26.39 mark Hinesman, Jeremy Wilson, Aaron Miller, and Topel had achieved in 2012.
Spradlin, a senior who be will making his third trip to the state meet, said in both relays, he and his teammates had a bit of inspiration from one of their own.
“We got motivated by guys on our team,” Spradlin said.
“In the 200 free (relay) Toby Haas, who only started swimming his freshman year, has come a long way with stroke technique, his speed and his attitude. He cranked out a nice 50 for us at district, about a 21.7. Getting another senior in there is not only good for the senior, but their high school swimming career.
“Zane Laws was quite the Cinderella story for us, too, being able to bounce back after having surgery on his arm and shoulder. He was out of the water so long. He was really down, worrying he was going to gain weight, lose that endurance, lose that stamina …
“Zane has been remarkable, though. He came back over the summer with the club team (FAST). He’s worked really hard, in the weight room, in and out of the pool, practicing twice a day, dry-land training. He came back this high school season with a great attitude and wanting to compete. He cranked out a sub 50-time for our 400 free (relay). He put his heart into it, a really gutsy swim, and helped get us there.”
Stocker also set school records in qualifying for state in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. He bettered his own record of 51.16 in 100 back with a time of 50.36, and was a full second faster than Andy Layne’s 1987 record of 50.68 in the 100 fly with a time of 49.61.
As a freshman, Stocker placed 10th at state in the 500 free.
Blood proved thicker than water, though.
“The butterfly and backstroke have been family events, I guess, so I switched from distance (500 free) this season, ” said Stocker, whose brother Tucker and sister Taylor were state qualifiers as well.
“My brother chased the (butterfly) record his whole high school career. I was lucky enough to get it. Heading back to state, I’m going to approach it with the same mentality. You want to improve your best time, but you also want to shoot for a spot in that top 16, maybe podium (top 8) if you can.”
Wilt also qualified for the state meet in two individual events, the 50 and 100 free.
Gracie Smith was the lone member of the FHS girls team to qualify for state. It will be a return trip for the sophomore, who is seeded 22nd in the 50 free but looking to surprise some of the opposition.
“I’m ranked 22nd out of 24 girls, so I don’t feel a lot of pressure,” Smith said. “Throughout the season I’ve felt stronger and stronger. There’s still room for improvement so without that pressure I think I’ll do a lot better and hopefully move up in the rankings.”
When it comes to pre-meet rankings, Wobser says swimmers fall into three groups.
“You have 24 (state) qualifiers in each event,” Wobser said. “Eight of them will get faster, eight of them will basically stay the same and eight will get slower.
“Bowling Green (district) and Fremont (sectional) are the fastest pools in Northwest Ohio. C.T. Branin was fast when it was built in 1972, but not so much anymore. That factor brings everybody a little closer together. It’s kind of an equalizer.
“Our job is to stay the same or get a bit faster, because if we can do what we did at district — plus just a little bit better — it’s going to make a big difference at state.”