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First-place finishes bolster Fairmont swimmer’s state hopes

Fairmont senior Margaret Berning was adamant that she was a sprinter. That is, until her coach sent her to the distance lane to train.

“Her sets are pretty brutal, but I love training and I love working hard,” Berning said. “Everyone wants to be a sprinter — I used to want to be a sprinter — but not anymore.”

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The Firebirds senior — who has been swimming competitively since she was 5 — made her mark at the Southwest Ohio Swimming & Diving Classic last weekend in Cincinnati with a pair of first-place finishes at St. Xavier High School. Berning won the 500-yard freestyle (4:56.67) and the 200-yard butterfly (2:00.56).

The Classic, the largest invitational of its kind in the country, serves as a midseason gauge for swimmers with state aspirations.

“Especially with Division I and II swimmers there, you really see where you’re at,” Berning said.

Standing atop the Classic podium was a welcome reward for her hard work, but the 18-year-old has her sights set a bit higher.

“I want to make the podium at state in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyle,” Berning said. “I think I have a chance to win the 500.”

Berning wasn’t the only local swimmer who earned a spot on the top of the podium at the highly competitive Classic as several others beat out competitors that numbered close to 3,000 in the two-day event.

Area swimmers took control in the backstroke events as Bellefontaine junior Amy Fulmer won the 100 with a time of :55.97. Springboro sophomore Maggie Clough dominated the 200-yard backstroke final in 2:01.50 — more than five seconds ahead of second-place finisher Madeline Kenyon (2:07.17) of Oakwood.

Centerville junior Lauren Lampe won the 100-yard breaststroke (1:05.34) while Vandalia Butler senior Sydney Baker sprinted to the title in the 50-yard breaststroke (:32.08).

The individual medley events were a strong suit for local swimmers. Butler junior Abbey Burton won the 100-yard IM with a time of 1:04.33. Alter sophomore Katie Lair dominated both the 200 (2:05.86) and 400 IM (4:26.42) finals with first-place finishes in both events.

Boys’ champions: Bellbrook senior Cody Bybee has found success at the Classic and this year was no exception. The Golden Eagles state champion won both the 100-yard freestyle (:44.84) and the 200-yard butterfly (1:48.78).

The boys likewise led the pack in the challenging individual medley events with local swimmers sweeping the three events. Northmont senior Justin Parrett swam to a first-place finish in the 100-yard IM (:55.28) while Carroll senior Connor Blatt did the same in the 200 IM (1:52.15). Waynesville sophomore Owen Conley had a bit more breathing room in the 400 IM, edging runner-up Nicholas Perera, of St. Xavier, by more than 5 seconds with a time of 3:55.04.

Diving in: Centerville’s Austin Flaute posted the best performance among Miami Valley divers with a second-place Classic finish with a score of 495.60. Miamisburg’s Kyle Campbell placed fifth with a score of 369.75.

Fellow Elks diver Kaitlyn Stacy was the top local placer in the girls diving final in seventh place (377.35) as Cincinnati-area divers dominated the competition.

Team results: There were few surprises on the team leaderboard as St. Xavier won its 35th Classic team championship in commanding fashion with 926 points. Seven Hills finished second with 236 points. Centerville (230) and Beavercreek (180) were the top area boys teams, placing third and fourth, respectively. In the girls division, Mason notched its third consecutive team title with 515 points. St. Ursula (311) and Centerville (302) rounded out the top three.

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