By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Shelly Zelnick is not like some other elite athletes in ways.
“She’s very personable and is willing to help out others, and she likes to tell funny stories,” Troy swimming coach Brian Hall said. “Where a lot of elite-level athletes that are so focused on one sport are concerned, sometimes you don’t see that. She sets a good example for the rest of the team with her leadership and by just being personable.”
“I always try to be supportive of my teammates,” Zelnick said. “When I see someone else doing well or happy with how they’re swimming, it helps me a bit, gives me more confidence in myself. It’s nice to see everyone accomplish something that they’ve worked hard for. Supporting them helps me become a better athlete, too.”
And this weekend, the Troy junior will make her third consecutive trip to the Division I state meet at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, qualifying in a pair of events — the 200 IM and 100 backstroke. She placed in both events as a sophomore, and this year she’s got a chance to do even better.
“I never really have any goals set in stone,” Zelnick said. “I just take it as it comes. I’m hoping to do a little better than I did last year.”
“In the 200 IM, I think she has the possibility of taking first,” Hall said. “Watching throughout the season, there’s probably four or five girls that have a shot at winning it — but that’s not to say someone could surprise and come out of the middle to take it.”
Zelnick was an automatic qualifier in the 200 IM, finishing second at last weekend’s district meet at Miami University. She swam a time of 2:03.53, the fourth-best time in the state entering the event.
And the girl that won the district race, Ursuline Academy’s Sydney Lofquist? Zelnick knows very well.
“Lofquist will be her biggest competition to win it, I think. And they’re both really good friends,” Hall said. “Lofquist used to swim at Oakwood.”
“Yeah, we’re really good friends. We used to train a lot together — but at the same time, we’re also the biggest competitors,” Zelnick said. “We push each other whenever we go up against each other, but it’s a friendly rivalry.
“We only swim against each other maybe three meets a year now that she moved, but we used to swim against each other a lot more. It will definitely help motivate me this weekend to stay up there at the front.”
Zelnick also qualified in the 100 back, swimming a time of 56.5 seconds — seventh-best in the state. Last year, she placed seventh in the 100 back at state and fifth in the 200 IM.
Troy had a number of other district qualifiers that had good showings, too. Senior Joel Evans finished 13th in the 100 breast (1:00.83) and 18th in the 100 free (49.69 seconds), and Matt Roetter finished 24th in the 50 free (22.95 seconds). The boys 400 free relay was 16th (3:29.9), the boys 200 free relay was 17th (1:34.67) and the girls 200 free relay finished 24th (1:46.78).
“We took four relays, where last year we had maybe two,” Hall said. “Most of our swimmers moved up place-wise, too. The boys 400 team dropped six seconds, the 200 relays dropped a couple seconds apiece. Matt swam a personal best in the 50 free, and Joel swam personal bests in the 100 free and breaststroke — and broke the school record in the 100 breast. He’d already set the school record in the 200 breast earlier this season. Plus Shelly broke her own record in the 100 back.”
Zelnick will swim in the preliminaries Friday morning, with the finals set for Saturday afternoon.
Tippecanoe, meanwhile, will get things rolling at the D-II state meet at 5 p.m. today.
On the girls side, junior Bailey Cahill will swim in the 100 fly and 200 IM, where she enters with the seventh-best time (57.33 seconds) and 24th-best time (2:14.93), respectively. Freshman Arielle Arnett also qualified in the 500 free, where she has the 12th-best time (5:13.83) coming in.
The 200 medley relay team of Bailey and Cameron Cahill, Sidney Roemke and Samantha Williams also qualified for state, swimming the 17th-best time (1:53.48), and the 400 free relay team of Roemke, Williams, Arnett and Bailey Cahill comes in with the 23rd-best time (3:45.91).
And on the boys side, sophomore Elias Jay Bell qualified in a pair of events, the 50 free (15th, 21.95 seconds) and 100 free (48.45 seconds).
There were plenty of other strong performances at the district meet, as well. The Red Devils’ Cameron Cahill was 13th in the 500 free (5:26.25) and Williams was right behind in 14th (5:26.59). Cameron Cahill was also 14th in the 100 breast (1:11.37), and Williams was 14th in the 200 IM (2:18.18). Roemke was 18th in the 100 free (56.82 seconds), Arnett was 18th in the 200 free (2:01.55) and the 200 free relay team was 12th (1:45.83).
For Tippecanoe’s boys, the 200 medley relay team (1:46.61) and 400 free relay team (3:32.1) both finished 11th, Evan Stapp was 14th in the 200 IM (2:06.79) and Michael Taylor was 15th in the 100 breast (1:05.33).
Troy Christian’s Gabriella Fulton finished 15th in the 200 IM (2:20.02) and 18th in the 100 back (1:04.32), and the Eagles’ 200 medley relay team placed 17th (2:06.01) and 400 free relay team placed 18th (4:12.78). And on the boys side, Matthew Moebius was 19th in the 100 fly (56.89 seconds) and 24th in the 100 back (1:00.95).
Miami East freshman McKenna Bollinger finished 19th in the 500 free (5:37.96) and 22nd in the 200 free (2:05.59). And on the boys side, the 200 medley relay team finished 22nd (1:57.83). The five swimmers were the first district qualifiers in the Vikings’ program history.
Bethel’s Benton Wright finished 16th in the 50 free (23.21 seconds) and 20th in the 100 free (51.11 seconds).
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.