Some might have considered him a long shot, but Hank Siefert thought differently.
Seeded seventh out of eight swimmers in the final heat of the 200-yard freestyle at the boys Division I district meet, the Xenia junior wasn’t in an ideal position in an outside lane. Or, was he?
“I think it’s fun to be in the outside lane,” Siefert said. “I’ve been racing these guys for a long time. Being seeded seventh didn’t bother me.”
The Buccaneers swimmer started strong and finished strong, bringing the crowd at Miami University to its feet, and winning his first district championship.
“Some might say ‘you don’t have a shot,’ ” Siefert said smiling. “But, towards the end, I thought I had about a half body length lead and I just knew I was going to pull it off.”
Siefert edged defending state champion Grant House, of St. Xavier, 1:37.84 to 1:38.27 for the win. The Xenia swimmer’s personal best time was also the top time heading into the state meet,, which opens with D-II preliminaries today at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
“I think he has a really, really good chance to win this,” Xenia coach Cari Higgins said.
Higgins has noticed a change in her three-time state qualifier this season.
“The difference is his maturity and his self-reflectiveness,” she said. “And then there’s this little glint he tends to get in his eye, as if to say everyone needs to watch because it’s going to go down. He has all the earmarks of a champion.”
Siefert will also be in the running for a state championship in the boys D-I 500-yard freestyle. He tied for second with Mason’s Joel Thatcher in the 500-yard freestyle at the district meet with a time of 4:28.44. House took the district crown in 4:28.21.
While being a frontrunner is new to Siefert at the state meet, it doesn’t faze the 17-year-old.
“Going in as a top seed, I feel more confident,” he said. “People are expecting me to do well but they also want to take me down.”
Ones to beat: Siefert isn’t the only Dayton-area swimmer heading to Canton with the top time in the state.
Vandalia Butler’s Tommy Cope has the fastest time in the boys D-I 100-yard breaststroke (:55.27). The senior is the second seed in the 200-yard individual medley (1:47.66).
Springboro senior Hannah Whiteley is seeded first in the girls D-I 100-yard backstroke (:53.38) and third in the 100-yard butterfly (:54.69).
In Division II, Bellbrook’s Cody Bybee posted the top time in the 200-yard freestyle (1:38.82). The sophomore is also the top seed heading into the 100-yard butterfly preliminaries (:49.76). Xenia Christian junior Eric Knowles has the time to beat in the 200-yard individual medley (1:51.51); Tippecanoe senior Elias Jay Bell is the top seed in the 50-yard freestyle (:20.95) and Carroll junior Dominic Harry earned the top seed in the 100-yard freestyle (:46.32).