Westerville Central senior swimmer Kiah Smith continues to impress coach Ron Staab as she juggles her training and meet schedules between the Warhawks and the New Albany Aquatics Club.
Smith is looking to close her prep career on a high note by qualifying for her fourth Division I state meet.
“She’s a wonderful young lady,” Staab said. “Of all the club swimmers that we’ve had, she’s the most assimilated in practice with the rest of our kids and just generally cares a lot about friendship-building. She does a great job when she’s at our practices being with the kids and really connecting.”
Smith is looking forward to a return trip to state, which will be held Feb. 23-26 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
“Nothing is ever a guarantee, so just because I made it last year doesn’t mean I’ll make it this year,” she said. “I’m just going to try my best and hope for a good result. That’s all I ever ask for. I’m always grateful to make it to state, make it to district. I always try. I treat every meet like it’s the most important one, even if it’s just a dual meet.”
Last season at state, she finished fourth in the 50-yard freestyle (23.21 seconds) and sixth in the 100 free (51.25), setting program records in both.
As a sophomore, Smith finished seventh in the 50 free (23.65) and 14th in the 100 butterfly (56.92). As a freshman, she was ninth in the 50 free (23.76) and 23rd in the 100 fly (58.09), and was part of the 10th-place 200 free relay (1:36.92) and 20th-place 400 free relay (3:36.94).
She also holds program records in the 100 fly (55.72) and as a member of the 200 free relay (1:36.92).
“(Staab has) supported me along the way and I’ve really appreciated that,” Smith said. “Although I don’t see him all the time like I do my club coach, he still critiques me and has given me a guide to become a better swimmer.”
Smith will continue her swimming career at Georgia Tech.
“I’m counting down the days,” she said. “I’m super excited. It’s such a great school and then when I actually signed in November it felt more real. As time goes on and I talk to the coaches and talk to my future teammates, everything is getting closer. It seemed just like yesterday that I was talking about going to college and now I am.”
Macey Swearingen, a 2020 graduate who is a sophomore at Marshall, is the last Warhawks swimmer to compete at the Division I college level.
“We’ve only had a handful who have swum Division I and Kiah is one of them, so that’s great,” Staab said. “Georgia Tech is getting a great young swimmer and person.”
While Staab believes Smith is the girls team’s top contender to reach state, he said sophomore Chase Swearingen has a good opportunity to return to Canton for the boys team after finishing fourth in the 100 fly (49.46) and ninth in the 100 backstroke (50.38) a year ago.
He set the program record in the 100 back (50.09) while winning the event at district.
Staab said Swearingen is still deciding on his events for the postseason.
“He’s working through that over the next couple of weeks to determine that,” Staab said of Swearingen, who is the brother of Macey Swearingen. “We have a small boys team. We only have eight swimmers. Chase is good to build around.”
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Swimming & Diving: Westerville Central’s Smith seeks fourth trip to state