Division II Cleveland State District swimming: University in rare form en route to team crown; US' Davis, AOA's Gorski notch impressive doubles

Feb. 16—It is customary on prominent stages for University swimmers to make 'U' with their hands on the podium.

That is to signify the school, of course — a la the Miami Hurricanes — but can also act as a viewfinder. Through that lens frames the arduous work emanating from Hunting Valley, seeking to conclude another campaign with a flourish befitting a state power.

Feb. 16 during the Division II Cleveland State District, the sight through that viewfinder could not have been more aesthetically pleasing.

US rolled to another CSU team crown with 474 points, nine event titles and 14 top-three finishes as it stampeded toward next weekend's state meet.

"We're really excited going into Canton," Preppers senior Ben Davis said. "We only lost a couple swims today, which — that's great having almost all of our swims going into state. Next week, we're looking forward to pushing through prelims and getting into finals.

"But this is really just another accomplishment, and we've got to look past it. We can't dwell on that for too long, because who knows what our competition's going to be at state?"

However that competition materializes, it will be hard-pressed to match the persistence US can deliver event-to-event, with Davis as the linchpin.

He concluded his vaunted Preppers' district career with a 4-for-4, sweeping 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke and turning in outstanding legs on US' victorious 200 medley and 400 free relays.

‍♂️ US' Ben Davis wins 100 breast with a 57.74 (Lane 4, to the right) & Geneva's Nathan Reigle (Lane 3, to the left) takes 3rd with a 58.91 during the D2 CSU District

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

The 100 breast win, as the senior staple transitioned to that as his second individual event in lieu of 500 freestyle, gave IM a run for its money as far as statement of intent. Davis hit for a time of 57.74 seconds, a 2.65 improvement from his prior season best when he took third in a loaded Viking Invitational field.

Of note was a 31.11 closing 50, 1.89 better than Viking and 1.09 better than the D-II SPIRE Sectional.

"I dove in, and I felt the water, and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh.' I just felt so great and powerful going into that," Davis said. "I had a great warmup before that, and going from 59.5 this season to a best time, a 57.7, that is really encouraging for me next week.

"I've never really been too good at breaststroke in my life. I've always been more of a distance swimmer. But sophomore year, something just clicked with my breaststroke. I started watching some more breaststroke video, and I really got down the technique."

‍♂️ D2 CSU District boys 200 IM A heat, won by US' Ben Davis with a 1:51.19

Quinn MacPhail 2nd 1:54.74

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

His IM was a clinic as well, going 1:51.19 and just missing former Chagrin Falls stalwart Austin Quinn's district record of 1:51.18 set in 2013. While butterfly, backstroke and breast were all dialed in, the testament to Davis' quality was free closer. There, he logged a 26.78 split, .75 better than when he was third at the D-II state meet a year ago.

"I can't really say much about it. It took me by surprise, too," Davis said. "I mean, I knew I could go fast. But I wasn't expecting such a big time drop from last season."

‍♂️ University's Paul Moody discusses US' team title & his outstanding 100 fly performance at the D2 CSU District

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

US also got individual-event crowns from Brad Perry (50 free), Paul Moody (100 fly), Miguel Figueroa (100 free) and Quinn MacPhail (500 free). Its 400 free relay put an exclamation point on the proceedings with a meet-record 3:08.91.

Speaking of meet records, Krys Gorski was in rare form, too.

The Andrews Osborne senior went for an individual double in 200 free and 100 back, in both of which he is the returning D-II state runner-up.

In back, Gorski touched in 48.92, taking down the standard at Busbey Natatorium in D-II district competition previously held by former NDCL and University standout Owen Hanna. His 25.25 home was a .19 cut from his second at state last winter.

That was something, but 200 free nearly had an accomplishment perhaps more laudable than a meet record if it's possible.

‍♂️ D2 CSU District boys 200 free A heat, won by AOA's Krys Gorski with a 1:41.03

US' Alex Pesek 2nd 1:42.35 & Miguel Figueroa 3rd 1:43.51

Geneva's Nathan Reigle 4th 1:44.45

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

As Gorski put in a 1:41.03 to capture 200 free, he nearly even split on the final 100, going 25.75 on his third and 25.83 on his fourth. For perspective, when the Ohio State signee was second at state in 2023, he went 26.19 into a 27.44 home and still went 1:40.62.

"Naturally, your second half is going to be a little bit rougher, just because you're going to be a little bit more tired and you won't have that easy speed," Gorski said. "So my goal is to take out that first section of the race with a nice, comfortable easy speed. Coming off the start, I've got fresh legs and fresh arms. I'm fresh for the race.

"And that second half, I explode and use that energy that I've got to dig for. And that will help me carry it on. I'm super happy that it splits that way. I've learned that from (2023 D-II 200 free state champion) Lucas Lane. He's at OSU doing his thing right now. But I learned the key to back-half speed and making sure you've still got something left for that back half from him after I got blown away at state. I'm super excited to develop that more."

‍♂️ D2 CSU District boys 100 back A heat, won by AOA's Krys Gorski with a meet-record 48.92

US' Paul Moody 2nd 50.80

Perry's Brody Hicks 4th 52.92

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

Gorski heaped praise on his younger contemporaries taking over the reins soon in 100 back, which will be featured in a separate story in the coming days.

Perry's Brody Hicks, as he will do often over the next two-plus seasons, took some school history back to Success Boulevard. The promising sophomore was second in a hot 100 fly final with a 51.05, as well as taking fourth in 100 back in 52.92.

That 100 fly runner-up is the highest finish by a Pirates' swimmer — boys or girls — in the last 25 years. The last top-three for Perry in a swimming event was Brianna Cain's third in 100 breast as a freshman in 2008.

"It's very meaningful to represent my school in a good way and put a good name to Perry," Hicks said. "It's nice to accomplish a lot, and it's pretty good for the school."

Other News-Herald coverage area swimmers bound for Canton as individual automatics are Hawken's Sarah Pophal (third, 200 free and second, 500 free) and Nina Newton (second, 100 breast), US' Alex Pesek (second, 200 free), Figueroa (third, 200 free), Quinn MacPhail (second, 200 IM), Jake MacPhail (second, 500 free) and Moody (second, 100 back), Gilmour's Laina Collis (second, 50 free and 100 free), PJ Koerwitz (third, 50 free and second, 100 free) and Maddie Sammut (third, 100 breast), Beachwood's Derek Fan (third, 100 fly) and Geneva's Nathan Reigle (third, 100 breast).

The Lake Catholic boys (173.5 points) and Hawken girls (324) were team runners-up.

‍♂️ Here are NH area top-15s from the D2 CSU District

(Going to start on editing race video now, & as always, not going to personally share my story until everything has been embedded in it)

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ Gilmour's PJ Koerwitz discusses his encouraging 100 free runner-up at the D2 CSU District

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District girls 200FR A heat

Hawken 2nd 1:37.58

Beaumont 3rd 1:42.62

Lake Catholic 5th 1:42.84

(Have to share BTW: I was petrified because I was holding out for Beaumont/Lake to finish, but initially thought Lake/Carley was out of frame; upon further review, no )

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District girls 100 free A heat

Gilmour's Laina Collis 2nd 52.19

Hawken's Nina Newton 4th 52.22

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District girls 100 breast A heat

Hawken's Nina Newton 2nd 1:05.56

Gilmour's Maddie Sammut 3rd 1:06.36

Chagrin Falls' Alexandra Scharpf 4th 1:06.90

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District girls 50 free final heat

Gilmour's Laina Collis 2nd 23.80

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District boys 200MR, won by US with a 1:35.28

Beachwood 3rd 1:39.57

Lake Catholic 4th 1:40.32

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District boys 100 free A heat, won by US' Miguel Figueroa with a 46.93

Gilmour's PJ Koerwitz 2nd 47.54

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District boys 100 fly A heat, won by US' Paul Moody with a 50.20

Perry's Brody Hicks 2nd 51.05

Beachwood's Derek Fan 3rd 51.09

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024

‍♂️ D2 CSU District boys 50 free A heat, won by US' Brad Perry with a 21.39

Gilmour's PJ Koerwitz 3rd 21.78

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 17, 2024