Mikayla Dostall had a choice. After battling knee problems for most of her prep career, the Brunswick junior had to choose between blaming pain for not fulfilling some of the goals she set or working to leave a legacy.
Good news for the Blue Devils: She picked the latter.
Dostall strung together one of the best second halves of any area swimmer, allowing her to lock up her first career state berth and earn Gazette MVP honors in the sport.
What changed for the backstroke specialist was a simple conversation with older sister and former Brunswick freestyle specialist Danielle, who was home on holiday break from swimming for the University of Akron.
“She just told me I had to be more motivated,” Dostall said. “It was tough to hear, but after that something clocked in my head and I knew she was right.”
The 5-foot-9 Dostall came out of Christmas break and recorded her best swim of the season to date while having a hand in two event wins at the Northeast Ohio Conference Championships.
That performance helped Brunswick capture the River Division title for the second straight season and gave way to a postseason run that landed Dostall a spot in the state championships in Canton.
“I’ll give a lot of credit to Danielle,” Blue Devils coach Erin Crabtree said. “During the holidays, Mikayla sat out due to her knees and — I wasn’t there — Danielle told her that she basically had to get in the pool and suck it up.
“I’ve known Mikayla for a long time, but that’s something only a sister can say. From there, everything changed and she had a great swim at conference.”
Dostall won NOC titles in the 100-yard backstroke and as the lead leg of the 200-medley relay beginning a postseason that Brunswick fans will be talking about for a while.
“My freshman and sophomore years, I was just a couple of spots from state (in the backstroke) and once I did what I did at the NOC, I was really confident,” the 17-year-old said. “I felt I was getting a lot stronger. It really hit me around sectionals and that motivated me more.”
The result was something no other Brunswick female swimmer had done — a sectional championship. Dostall destroyed her school record in the event at the Akron North Division I Sectional by breaking the 60-second mark, clocking 59.84.
Dostall was far from done, however. She broke the record again a week later with a 59.12 to place fourth at the Cleveland District and earn an at-large bid to state.
“With Mikayla, it’s almost like flipping a switch,” Crabtree said. “She’s nowhere close in practice to what she does in meets, but we just know that when she gets in the pool and gets in a meet situation, it’s game on.”
Along with her prowess in the backstroke — she placed 24th at state — Dostall was a key cog on the area’s best 200 medley relay. She swam the lead leg for a group that included Jenna Vance, Nikki Eyssen and Lizzy Gehlmann, helping the team advance to districts and crush the school record with a 1:51.17.
“She has a beautiful kick and she has focused a lot on her legs this season,” Crabtree said of Dostall, who also advanced to districts in the 200 freestyle. “She just has a beautiful stroke.”
Now that Dostall knows there’s very little that can stand in her way, including knees that have seen better days, she is hungry for more: She wants to get back to Canton and this time get on that podium.
“I was nervous, but it was great,” Dostall said of the state meet. “It has motivated me more to do better next year.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.