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Lakota West High School's McKenzie Rice to swim at nationals

Rice won 1,650 freestyle event at Classic
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Posted at 10:42 PM, Jan 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-16 05:57:19-05

SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- McKenzie Rice wasn’t expecting to swim the race of her life Sunday night, but the Lakota West junior shocked the packed house at St. Xavier’s Keating Natatorium when she ran away with the girls' 1,650 freestyle event from Lane 1 in 16:55.41 during the final night of the 34th Annual Southwest Ohio Swimming and Diving Classic.

It was her best time ever in the long-distance swim, besting her previous top time of 17:38.

She was still all smiles 20 minutes after the race.

“I was really surprised by how well I did,” Rice said. I never expected to go best time.”

Lakota West junior McKenzie Rice poses with her awards after swimming her best time ever Sunday. Rice won the girls' 1,650 freestyle event during the final night of the 34th Annual Southwest Ohio Swimming and Diving Classic. Photo by Tom Ramstetter, WCPO.

Rice built an early lead and easily out-touched Centerville sophomore Liz Quarin’s second-place time of 17:09.21.

Centerville freshman Nicola Lane was third in 17:12.31. Seven Hills junior Lucy Callard, who had the top seed time of 16:56.34 in qualifying, was fourth at 17:30.88.

“I just tried to go in with a good attitude,” Rice said. “I always try to take things out fast and then try to hold on. Once I heard that bell ring, I kind of knew for sure. I was just shocked. I wasn’t expecting to do this well.”

It was Rice’s first win at an event like the Classic, which officials say is the biggest high-school meet in the country.

“It means a lot to me,” Rice said. “I’ve been working really hard this year with my coaches at Countryside and Lakota West.”

Rice will compete at the YMCA Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, later this year and would like to drop more time. The 1,650 is not a regular high-school event in Ohio, so Rice will focus on the 500 and 200 as the postseason meets loom in February.

Mariemont sophomore Cora Dupre put an exclamation point on a strong weekend for her with a meet record in the 100 freestyle in 50.52. That swim broke Cincinnati Country Day alumna Allie Wooden’s 2015 meet record of 50.61.

“I was kind of nervous because I was coming right from the 200 IM, but it actually helped warm me up,” Dupre said. “I tried to get ahead on the first 50 and I tried to hold my lead on the second 50 and not die off.”

Mariemont sophomore Cora Dupre holds her trophies after competing in the Southwest Ohio Swimming and Diving Classic Sunday. Dupre broke the record in the 100 freestyle with a time of 50.52. Photo by Tom Ramstetter, WCPO.

Dupre said she did not know what the record was until she learned that it belonged to her.

“I was just excited when it was flashing on the board,” Dupre said.

On Saturday, Dupre won the 200 freestyle in 1:50.27 and then the 50 freestyle in 23.38. She was also part of the Mariemont team that won the 400 medley relay in 3:51.87 Saturday, joining sophomore Kate Overbey, junior Brooke Woellert and sophomore Lainey Newman in the win.

That foursome opened Sunday’s events by winning the 200 medley relay in 1:47.28 and closed the night for the girls with a win in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:31.27.

“I was just expecting to at least get close to my best times, which I did,” Dupre said. “So, I was really happy about that. I was trying to make it in top eight in all of my events, so I was really excited that I won some of them.”

Cincinnati Christian senior Payton Keiner was also a meet record breaker Sunday in her final event ever at the Classic, winning the 200 backstroke in 1:59.30 and besting Troy alumna Shelly Zelnick’s 2015 time of 2:00.36. Keiner had won the 100 backstroke in 55.62 on Saturday night.

“I swam it really well,” Keiner said. “My splits were right where I wanted them to be. I was nervous going into it. I was tired because I already had the 100 free earlier and this was the last event of the Classic for me. I think that having a positive attitude and a grateful and thankful attitude in my final event really helped me push through.”

Cincinnati Christian senior Payton Keiner was also a meet record breaker Sunday in her final event ever at the Classic, winning the 200 backstroke in 1:59.30. Photo by Tom Ramstetter, WCPO.

St. Ursula senior Josie Grote won the 200 individual medley in 2:06.44. Kettering Fairmont junior Maggie Berning won the 200 butterfly in 2:02.19 and Centerville senior Nora Fullenkamp won the girls' 100 breaststroke in 1:04.27.

Mason won the girls’ team title with 357 points, well ahead of Centerville’s 311. Mariemont was third with 298.

Boys events: St. Xavier picked up where it left off Saturday, beating its own meet record in the 200 medley relay in 1:31.93 to open the evening. The team of junior Justin Grender, seniors Charles Leibson, Luke Sobolewski and Grant House beat the 2016 record of 1:33.86.

That foursome closed the night with a meet record in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:00.52, blowing away the program’s 2016 record of 3:07.53.

St. Xavier cruised to the boys’ team title with 980 points, well ahead of Seven Hills’ second-place total of 276. Bellbrook was third at 251. The Bombers have won the boys’ team title in each of the 34 years the meet has been held.

In all, swimmers set five boys’ meet records Sunday after nine were set Saturday. St. X owned eight of the 14 boys’ records this weekend.

St. X junior Justin Grender won the 1,650 freestyle in a meet-record 15:19.54 during a swim Sunday Morning. St. X senior Christian Imbus was second Sunday night in 15:37.99 and Bombers junior Sam Fallon was third at 16:03.03. Grender’s time beat Springfield Catholic alum John Koehler’s 2004 record of 15:19.63.

Bellbrook junior Cody Bybee won the 100 freestyle in a meet-record 44.91, beating Edgewood alum Zach Apple’s 2015 time of 45.22. Bybee later won the 200 butterfly in 1:49.86. Bellbrook junior John Sampson set a meet record with a time of 1:48.06 in the boys' 200 backstroke, beating Seven Hills alum Matthew Marquardt’s 2016 time of 1:48.29.

Legacy Christian senior Eric Knowles won the 200 individual medley in 1:50.34 and the 100 breaststroke in 56.59.

Diving: Oak Hills junior Elizabeth Cron won the girls' diving competition earlier Sunday at the University of Cincinnati with a score of 430.95 Indian Hill junior Noah Vigran won the boys' diving competition with a score of 539.05.