St. C.’s Eaton splashes way to state finals

CANTON – St. Clairsville senior Michael Eaton finds himself on the doorstep of making Ohio Valley prep swimming history.

Taking part in his third state swimming meet at Branin Natatorium Thursday evening, Eaton qualified for tonight’s ‘A’ Final in a deep and extremely fast 100 yard breaststroke.

Prior to swimming the breaststroke, Eaton finished 14th and qualified for the ‘B’ final in the 100 freestyle. He’ll swim that event again tonight, but won’t have the chance at earning a medal.

“It’s exciting to be in both finals, but I am a little bit disappointed with my freestyle,” Eaton said.

“I was hoping to be seeded a little higher and had hopes of getting into the ‘A’ final, but being in any kind of final in the race in the state of Ohio is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Any frustration from the freestyle dried up quickly after the breaststroke. Eaton swam in the first of the three qualifying heats and was the first to touch the wall at 58.09, earning his spot in the championship swim, but the question became where would he be seeded?

“It was exciting to win my heat,” Eaton said. “I was hoping to be a little bit faster in the prelim. I felt really strong in the final 25 (yards) and I felt like I had a good finish.”

Eaton watched Dover’s Jake Armstrong and Cincinnati Wyoming’s Jonathan Rutter win the next two heats, respectively, posting times of 57.85 and 57.23, meaning Eaton will be the third seed and swim in lane three, right next to Rutter, who is the defending state runnerup.

“I really feel like I can definitely swim faster,” Eaton said. “The little things in the race didn’t go as I had thought, but I believe the atmosphere and excitement of the finals will be enough of an adredaline rush. This (championship) race is the one I’ve been thinking about basically since Christmas time.”

It was at a meet in December in the Branin pool when Eaton defeated Rutter in the breast. If he’s able to do it again along with the other six guys in the field, Eaton will become the first-ever Ohio State Swimming Champion from Belmont County.

“I know (Rutter) will be right beside me, so I have to go out hard, set the tone and try to take control of the race early,” Eaton said. “There’s no way to know what’s going to happen, but I have to trust my training, stay confident and give it my all.”

Along with the three heat winners, Eaton also believes Dover’s Frannie Brogan and Walsh Jesuit’s Ben Boshkos will be in the thick of the chase for the title tonight. They’re tied for the fourth seed at 58.13.

“Michael had decent swims,” said his mother and head coach Melanie Eaton. “I know he would have liked to have been faster in both events, but he’s not that far off from where he’d like to be. We’re hoping for a drop (Friday) and thinking that his training is putting him right where he’s supposed to be. The breast should be a great race and it’s going to be tight.”

Eaton finished eighth in the breast last season. He reached the finals witha time of 1:00.20, which would have been in the ‘B’ final this season.

Despite giving some brief thought to scratching the freestyle to be fresh for the breast, Eaton will swim both races.

“He’s going to use the 100 free as a warm-up race,” Melanie Eaton said. “There’s plenty of time between the races, so he’ll have ample time to recover.”

Eaton will spend much of today relaxing before heading back to Branin at about 4 to begin to get ready for the meet.

“I just have to make sure my mind is in the right place,” Eaton said. “I’ll do some stretching and just get ready mentally to go after it.”