Girls swim and dive earns state runner-up finish

Andrew Little | Editor-in-Chief

The Mason girls swim and dive team entered CT Branin Natatorium looking to make a splash, and left as state runners-up.

The Comets have been on an upward swing for the past three seasons, finishing in 16th place at the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Division One finals in 2022 and seventh place last year. 

The team entered the 2023-24 season with an experienced lineup. In the postseason, the girls earned Greater Miami Conference, Sectional and District championships. After winning the Southwest district meet, the girls entered the state meet seeded second behind eventual champion Upper Arlington.

Ten of the eleven girls who qualified for the state team were returning qualifiers, including seniors Olivia Hastings, Megan Schoenlein, Addison Soehnlen and Kaitlyn Weitz. The only athlete without state experience, Lucy Rhoten, is a freshman.

Sophomore Bella Teply was on the state team last year, qualifying in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events. She placed 18th and 13th respectively last season. This year, Teply returned to the state meet in both events, placing second in both. She also raced on the team’s 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays, which were both state runners-up. Teply cited the team’s collective experience as a major boost this season, allowing them to lean on each other and succeed.

“I think this year as a team we did better helping each other out [at state],” Teply said. “Last year we were all kind of nervous, but I think we dealt with it better as a team. I think we’re all really close to the upperclassmen so I didn’t see that gap.”

Teply entered the state finals as the second seed in the 500-yard freestyle, third seed in the 200-yard freestyle, was the third-leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay and the anchor of the 400-yard relay. At state last year as a freshman, Teply felt like she put too much pressure on herself. This year, Teply worked with head coach Mark Sullivan to focus on each race at a time to not burn herself out and contribute to the team as much as possible.

“I knew I had to score as many points as I could,” Teply said. “I was trying not to put too much pressure on myself and just go one race at a time. I focused on my swimming rather than the after effects.”

Sullivan was named the state’s Coach of the Year for his team’s performance at the state meet. Sullivan has won two state championships with the girls program, in 2018 and 2019. The team was also state runners-up in 2017 and 2021. The current swimmers were starting in the program as middle schoolers during that stretch of success. He said that after two years of improvement at state, he is proud to see the team get back to the podium and establish the next generation of Mason swimming.

“They’re starting a new legacy,” Sullivan said. “It’s been great to see and it’s just a testament to them. Hopefully [by] coming up and watching that group a couple years ago be successful, they want to share that same success.”