Mason Swimmers Capture State Championship
‘18 State Champs: The leadership factor
Bloebaum, Thomas lead Comets to elusive title
Senior swimmers Allison Bloebaum and Lauren Thomas.
Joey Deaton | Staff Writer
Seniors Lauren Thomas and Allison Bloebaum had stood on the state podium with their team twice before. However, they were displaying a different color: silver.
After finishing runners-up in 2016 and 2017, Thomas and Bloebaum led the 2018 squad, one loaded with underclassmen talent, to a first place team finish at the state meet.
Thomas said she and Bloebaum began interacting with the team long before the season started.
“Allison and I brought them to my house way back in September and we told them what we wanted the season to look like and how much we needed them,” Thomas said.
“And I think after last year it really showed that we needed strong leadership and building upon what Ashley (Volpenhein) and Caroline (Wolf) had done, and that was really instrumental to our win.”
Bloebaum added that she believed the team chemistry had to be outstanding in order to put together a state title team.
“Our team camaraderie last year was good but it wasn’t great and we knew to be state champions we had to be great,” Bloebaum said. “I think that and keeping a really positive attitude throughout the whole year no matter the adversity.”
Bloebaum said that it was crucial to reinforce to the team that this was a team sport, and not like club competitions.
“I knew that we were really going to have to drill it into them that this is a team season,” Bloebaum said.
“This is not something like club where you’re just focused on your times and your place. You’re trying to get your hand on the wall so you can get those points for the team and I think trying to get that into their head was really what we were trying to do and I knew that every single one of those girls on this team, no matter what age, could get to state in all of their events. It was just getting that mindset into them that they could.”
‘18 State Champs: The coaching factor
From no pool to a state championship for hall of fame coach
When head coach Mark Sullivan came to Mason High School there was no pool. Fifteen years later Sullivan led the Comets to a state championship.
Eric Miller | Sports Editor
Mark Sullivan has been the girls swimming coach at Mason high school for 15 years, but when he first started coaching the Comets in 2003 there was one glaring thing missing from the Mason aquatics program. There was no pool.
Before coaching at Mason, Sullivan was the head coach at Sycamore High School. The competitive dynamic between Mason and Sycamore has changed quite a bit since Sullivan was leading the Aviator swim program.
“The biggest issue at the time when I was at Sycamore and we were competing against Mason, was that our JV at Sycamore used to compete against Mason’s varsity,” Sullivan said. “They had a couple really strong kids but not the volume of kids that we currently have. Mainly it’s due to the fact that we developed the pool. It’s Kevin Costner. If you build it, they come.”
With the development of Mason’s Natatorium, Sullivan said the growth of the program took off from there.
“It’s really been crazy,” Sullivan said. “When I first came here I joked with the kids that I used to take my own van to transport the kids up to State. Now between the boys and girls we’re taking between 15-18 kids per year. Within the last ten years or so we’ve been top ten in the state, so obviously the program has grown incredibly over that time.”
Sullivan guided the Sycamore girls team a state championship in 1992, so he knew what it took to be a state championship contender. All the way back in 2003, he didn’t think the Comets program could get there.
“There was no way,” Sullivan said. “I was very happy to be offered the job here, because my kids all went here. To say at the time 15 years ago that we were going to be this competitive and win there was just no way. I knew we’d be competitive, but to have that dream of winning down the road was pretty amazing.”
Sullivan said every Mason swimmer and coach from the past 15 seasons has played a vital role in the program capturing their first State championship.
“The win goes back to the Ashley Volpenhein’s, the Zoe Thatcher’s, the Maureen Sullivan’s, the Danielle Jansen’s of the world. I feel like every alum has played an important role in stepping in this direction. I’ve heard from a lot of alumni that are pumped. I think each one of those kids and the coaches that have been a part of the program for those years should all have a piece of that championship.”
‘18 State Champs: The motivation factor
Runner-up finishes in back-to-back years leads Comets to State title
Eric Miller | Sports Editor
For the Mason girls swimming team, the third time truly was the charm. After finishing as State runner-up to Upper Arlington in 2016 (by 10 points) and 2017 (by 16 points) the Comets captured their elusive first team State championship by 45.5 points over North Canton Hoover.
Juniors Leanna Wall and McKenzie Grau both swam on the runner-up team in 2017 and helped the Comets get to the top of the hill in 2018. Grau said capturing the team title in 2018 is even more satisfying after coming up short a year ago.
“It took much more work,” Grau said. “We really had to try harder, train harder, we really had to step up our game. We had to be excited and get everyone pumped up.”
Wall said the loss to Upper Arlington at the end of the 2017 campaign helped motivate the Comets for their State championship season.
“Because we were runner-ups and we worked so hard to win last year,” Wall said. “We were extra motivated to win this year.”
Grau said that the feeling of standing on top of the podium with her team was unmatched.
“It’s pretty amazing (to be a state champion),” Grau said. “It didn’t really hit me at first until later. And I was like ‘Oh my gosh we’re state champions.’ It just feels amazing.”
Wall echoed Grau and said that finally capturing the state title was a great feeling.
“It was just amazing,” Wall said. “And it showed that all of the hard work that we did finally paid off.”
‘18 State Champs: Unfinished Business
Swimmers (from left to right) McKenzie Grau, Allison Bloebaum, Leanna Wall, Lauren Thomas and Harna Minezawa were all members of the Comets 2017 state team that finished runner-up to the Upper Arlington Golden Bears. All five returnees played a key role in leading the Comets to their first team state title.
‘18 State Champs: The replacements
Two Comet swimmers step up when late scratch forces them into emergency mode
Junior Harna Minezawa and freshman Tiana Anchrum.
Joey Deaton | Staff Writer
When junior Leanna Wall was scratched from the State finals due to an ankle injury, freshman Tiana Anchrum and junior Harna Minezawa were ready to replace her at the 2018 OHSAA State Swimming and Diving Championships.
Wall, a regular competitor in four events, played a vital role in the Comets’ regular season and postseason success. Anchrum found out she was replacing Wall less than 24 hours before state.
“When we went to (state), Leanna was already hurt,” Anchrum said. “We had a general plan of what was going to happen if she couldn’t swim, but it wasn’t until the day before until Coach Sullivan told me that I was going to replace her.”
According to Minezawa, replacing a swimmer of Wall’s caliber fueled her in her performance at the state meet.
“I felt like I had a job to do just as well as Leanna or even better,” Minezawa said. “I felt a lot of pressure and nerves but I think that helped me succeed at the end.”
Ever since the start of the season, Minezawa and the Comets had an all-or-nothing mindset.
“The team effort that we put in this season was tremendous,” Minezawa said. “We did a lot of team bonding and preparation to have our focus on winning the state title. I also think because our team right now is so close like a family, it helps us get through the tough times and push each other when we need it. That’s what helped our team grow and do what we did at state.”
After finishing in second place consecutive years, Minezawa was relieved after earning Mason’s first state championship in school history.
“It honestly feels so amazing,” Minezawa said. “I just remember all of us crying last year and I could just feel the devastation in the girls voices from getting state runners up for the 2nd year in a row, but this year we had different tears. It was the best feeling ever.”
‘18 State Champs: The young guns
Freshman step up to score valuable points to propel Comets to championship
(Left to right:) Freshman swimmers Kiana and Tiana Anchrum and Reese and Ashley Lugbill were immediate varsity contributers for the state champion Comets.
Bryan Hudnell | Staff Writer
The 2018 Comet swimmers were lucky enough to have four freshmen swimmers, two sets of twins in fact, to contribute for them at the state meet.
Reese Lugbill said that the freshmen wanted to come in and help the team as much as possible.
“We just wanted to help our team out,” Lugbill said. “We knew they were so close to winning (last year), so with four of us, we knew we could help them be the best we could, so we went in with a good attitude.”
Tiana Anchrum said there was an expectation of a title, but that she wasn’t expecting to be part of it as a freshmen.
“Coming in, we all knew we were just going to do fine and were probably going to be state champs,” Anchrum said. “Freshman-wise, we were all just trying to support the team. We weren’t expecting to do much, but then after, knowing we did really well, it was great. The seniors have helped a lot. They were always supportive; they were always rooting for us.
Senior Lauren Thomas said having freshmen was an advantage, as they came in with a fresh perspective.
“I think we had the upper hand with having freshmen because they came in with not a lot of pressure,” Thomas said. “After being state runners-up the past two years and having these fresh faces coming in and not knowing what it was like to get second and just to have an expectation to win was so crucial. Every meet it was just like ‘I’m going to touch the wall first; I’m going to get my hand there before the girl next to me’, and it wasn’t about what we were at the end of last season and it was just about that meet.”
Photos by Staff Photographer Tanner Pearson.