By Ryan Kaczmarski
The winter sports season is just about upon us, and that means Westshore high school swimming and diving teams are already hitting the pools.
Many local teams have state qualifiers returning from last season. In Division II diving, Fairview returns junior Alice
Clark and senior Sara Fountain, and Bay returns senior Bridget Keane. Clark, the West Shore Conference runner-up in the 2010-11 season, placed fifth at districts last season. Westlake returns senior Sammie Sposet, who finished eighth in districts last year.
In Division II swimming, Rocky River returns senior Daniel Parris, who took sixth at districts last year in the 200m IM. Bay has sophomore Elizabeth Auckley, who qualified in two events at states last year, returning to the team.
Many of the schools had relay teams make it to the state competition last year at the C.T. Branin Natatorium on the campus of McKinley High School. Here is a look into what the local schools are bringing into this year’s swimming and diving season.
WESTLAKE had a tremendous season last year. They will have to recover from graduating five state qualifiers (Joe Craven- 2011 state champion in the 100m butterfly, Jack St. Marie- 2010 state qualifier, Heather Smith- relay state qualifier 2010-11 and Nate Renkel- 2011 diving state qualifier).
“They came together as a team to make the postseason very exciting,” said Demons head coach Jessica Dye.
The Demons girls team return seniors Lauren Choban (two-time state qualifier), Sposet, Renata Beyer, Megan Duffy, Beth Durst, Stephanie Maciag, Madison Maher and Liv Prexta. The underclassman to watch is junior Nora Lee, who was a 2011 state qualifier.
“Dedication in the offseason will make her (Lee) someone to follow this year,” Dye said.
On the boys side, Westlake returns seniors Sean Phillips (2011 district qualifier), sprinter Keith Astler (2011 district qualifier), utility man Chris Boardman and diver Phil Papajcik. Junior backstroker and sprinter Alex Lamorgese will be worth watching also.
“This year’s group of seniors remembers their freshman year, and how great those seniors made their season,” Dye said. “Their goal is to attempt to make their last year just as great, in regards to swimming performance, as well as team chemistry.”
The big meets on this year’s schedule are against Amherst for the boys, and against Brecksville for the girls.
“The team’s strength is their commitment to the tradition of Westlake swimming and diving,” Dye said. “They feel a commitment to keep that tradition going strong.”
Westlake has many young swimmers this year who are working to acclimate to high school swimming.
“They will exciting to watch throughout this year and over the next few seasons,” Dye said.
Both the boys and girls have a goal of winning the Southwestern Conference meet and perform well at larger invitationals and relay meets against competition outside of the conference.
The BAY girls team finished last year with an overall record of 8-1 and an undefeated 4-0 in the West Shore Conference. The team had a strong season in 2010-11, winning the WSC and finishing high at sectionals and districts.
The returning state and district qualifiers are Auckley, Marlee Berlan, Katie Bricmont, Bridget Durham, Kayla Eland, Kristine Johnson, Audrey McDonald, Jennifer Norehad and Rachel Ritzenthaler (a total of 15 letter winners returning).
Auckley is seeking to better her two top-8 finishes at states last year.
Other returning seniors are Kristen Coffin, Jaimie Kerka, Devon Meaney, Maureen Piccirilli and Kaylee Steckel.
The key meets this season are against Hathaway Brown, Magnificat, Westlake and Rocky River.
The team’s strengths are its depth and top-end talent, while its weakness is the tough schedule. The girls’ goals are to win the WSC and have more than five state qualifiers.
The boys team finished last year with an overall record of 5-4 (3-1 in the WSC) and finished in second place in the WSC.
The team has four returning letter winners, including district qualifiers Duncan and Brogan MacMillan and Alex Repenning. Freshman Trevor Lake is looking to make an immediate impact on this year’s squad.
The weakness of the boys team will be the pure numbers of them on the team (10), limiting effectiveness in meets.
The ROCKY RIVER swim teams both had great conference seasons last year (girls 3-1, boys 4-0). Those were a couple of the best seasons in Pirates’ swimming and diving history, and they are looking to repeat the success this season.
The key returning girl swimmers are seniors Megan Auzenbergs, Katie Perez and Jessica Goepfert, and junior Hallie McCue. Auzenbergs qualified for the state meet in her sophomore and junior years, while McCue qualified for the state meet in her sophomore in the 100m backstroke and holds the school record in the event.
The key returning boys are seniors Danny Parris, Michael Henry and Andrew Goecke. Parris qualified for the state meet last year in the 200m IM. Senior Danny O’Callaghan had a great season last year, almost qualifying for state in diving.
Freshman Emma Flynn will be a newcomer to watch in the sprint freestyle events, the 200m IM and the 100m butterfly.
The biggest meets this season are against Westlake and Bay.
“The rivalry between Westlake and Rocky River has been around for years and it has grown even stronger because my sister is now the head swim coach for Westlake,” said Pirates head coach Kali Dye. “Both teams look forward to the meet and it is always a very competitive meet as well.”
Dye point to the depth of her teams as its biggest strength.
“There are several swimmers and divers on both the girls and boys teams that have spent the offseason training with various swimming and diving programs in the area,” Dye said. “Their offseason dedication to the sport has allowed them to enter the season well prepared.”
The team goals are to win the WSC on both the boys and girls sides, and to both have undefeated seasons.
The FAIRVIEW swim team will be competing in the Patriot Athletic Conference for the first time this year. Last year, the girls had an overall record of 5-7 (1-3 in the WSC) and the boys had a record of 3-9 (1-3 in the WSC).
The key members of this year’s squad are seniors Brennan Kilbane, Jessica Field and Sara Fountain; juniors Iven Chaqueco, Connor Gibbons, Alice Clark, Matt Hadsell, Kaitlin Kerchenski, Geno LaValle, Leighanne Main, Nate Seelbach and Alejandro Rincon, and sophomore Mike O’Grady.
“This year we will have an extremely deep and good diving team,” said Warriors head coach Sean Hicks. “With the girls, we have two returning state qualifiers and a few other girls that round out the team. For the boys, we will have five solid individuals, all young and learning.”
Kilbane, Fountain and Field are the team captains.
“These individuals bring quiet leadership,” Hicks said. “They are hard workers and set an example for the others to follow.
“We have a solid group of young men and women that work very hard to improve themselves,” he added. “There is no one single individual that will blow others away, but as a group, they will both be strong teams.”
Fairview looks to return its divers to the state meet and have more swimmers make it to districts this season.
The MAGNIFICAT team has already seen some improvement in practice over last year by the coaching staff.
“This year’s squad has improved and exceeded beginning of the year expectations,” said assistant coach Heather Schwager. “They came into day one prepared and ready to work hard this season.”
The Blue Streaks return seniors Colleen Carroll, Emma Kete and Emily Reinmann; junior Colleen Hutchinson and sophomore Ellen Hutchinson.
The team is expecting tough competition from Strongsville, Bay and at the Blazer Invitational.
“We have many talented girls that are strong swimmers in every stroke and distance across the board,” Schwager said. “The leadership from our captains (Kete, Reinmann and the Corrigans) and upperclassmen is inspiring. They are proving to be excellent role models for the underclassman and new swimmers, both in and out of the water. With many strong swimmers, our hope is to qualify as many girls for the state meet as possible.”
NORTH OLMSTED has a new coaching staff this season and declined to comment for this article. OLMSTED FALLS was not able to be reached for this article.