CLEVELAND: Firestone senior Mark Belanger continued his prep work for the Division I state swim meet by rounding into form at a district swim meet Saturday at Cleveland State University’s Busbey Natatorium.
Belanger placed first in the 200-yard freestyle in a meet-record time of 1 minute, 39.93 seconds and won the 100 freestyle in 45.61.
Hudson proved to be the top team and earned a district title with sophomore Ross Palazzo winning two individual events and senior Ryan Hutcheson one.
The Explorers scored 297½ points to finish first among a field of 31 teams.
“We knew that the team race would be a battle with Solon [275 points], North Canton Hoover  and Mayfield ,” Hudson coach Matt Davis said. “You look at it on paper, and you knew it would come down to whoever swam well. Those other teams swam well, but some of the boys that we really needed to step up, stepped up. … Our team depth is what won us this meet. It wasn’t just Ross or Ryan, it was all 19 boys.”
The top two in each event automatically qualify for next weekend’s state meet at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Belanger, an Ohio State recruit, will be seeking his first state title.
“I felt like I should have been a little bit faster today, but I am all right with my times right now,” Belanger said. “I am just happy that I won.
“My 200 puts me in a good spot going into the state meet. I definitely have to clean some things up and be a lot faster next week. I am happy overall.”
Palazzo won the 200 individual medley in 1:52.83, just ahead of Wooster sophomore Matthew Dyer (1:57.89). Palazzo also won the 100 breast stroke in 56.43.
“I put the most pressure on myself because I want to be at a certain point getting ready for next week,” Palazzo said. “The most important part was getting the district team championship though. We have been trying to go for that for the past three years.”
Hutcheson won the 500 freestyle in 4:38.25.
“I am just really excited to finally get a first-place win,” Hutcheson said. “I have been swimming against [Mayfield senior] Zack Milenius and [Solon senior] Mark Lippert in that event since I was a sophomore. Last year, I got out-touched by both of them, and in a long event like the 500, getting out-touched is like a slap to the face because it is that last little bit. They almost got me again, but I was like, ‘I am not letting that happen again.’ ”
Cuyahoga Falls senior Andrew Appleby, an Ohio State recruit, won the 100 backstroke in 50.10 seconds and took second in the 100 freestyle in 46.04.
“I honestly wanted to be a lot faster,” Appleby said of the backstroke. “I am kind of disappointed … but I am not rested yet. I am excited to swim at state against the best of the best, and see what I can do.”
Hoover junior Stephen Watson won the 50 freestyle in 21.17. Wooster junior B.J. Graham was second in 21.20.
The Vikings also set two meet records in relays — the 200 freestyle relay in 1:24.61 and the 400 freestyle relay in 3:07.94. Watson joined seniors Drew Bercaw, Robert Tolson and Brian Giannetti in the 200 freestyle. Giannetti, Watson, Bercaw and Tolson teamed to win the 400 freestyle.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.