Weekly Feature

2018-09-12 / Sports

Youth movement to help continue tradition of girls swimming success


There’s a deeply ingrained tradition of success where Clarence’s girls swimming program is concerned, and with another standout group of seniors poised to give their all in their final season of high school eligibility, coach Joe Zwierzchowski is confident that the underclassmen on this year’s squad have what it takes to pick up that torch and carry it into the future.

Fortunately for him, those younger athletes are also ready to contribute to the Lady Red Devils’ successes this fall as well.

“With a talented group of proven seniors about to graduate, it’s a great feeling to know there are girls in line to carry on a winning tradition,” Zwierzchowski said. “The tradition of excellence does matter to the girls, and they want to see it continue on to the next team. It will be fun to watch the senior kids mesh with the younger swimmers. There are definitely a few areas of uncertainty, but hopefully our strong early season practices will provide some positives as we begin our dual meets.”

Leading the charge among that group of younger athletes who are looking to solidify the program’s strength this season and beyond will be eighth graders Katherine Cartenuto and Samantha Hughes, freshmen Gabby Basile, Sophia Cronk, Sara Swenson and Julia McLaughlin, and sophomore Olivia Palmeri. Cartenuto, a distance freestyle specialist, and Hughes, a breaststroke specialist, “have an outstanding work ethic,” Zwierzchowski said, to where “it will be fun to see how that translates to meets.” And between them, Basile, Cronk, Swenson, McLaughlin and Palmeri can cover every stroke as well as the diving board.

As a group, they’ll play a part in trying to help replace the eight seniors — including two who had been state meet qualifiers since their freshman year — who graduated off a squad that finished 7-2 in 2017.

“The common thread between them is a commitment to hard work and getting better with each practice,” Zwierzchowski said. “Having a first-year group like them come along is one of the biggest reasons for optimism for a coach.”

Showing those new swimmers the ropes will be senior co-captains Maddy Panus, Ella Costich, Isabelle Lange and Lindsey Scanio. With a huge roster of 53 competitors — the most in a while, Zwierzchowski said — this year, having four reliable veterans to help run practices smoothly and efficiently will be a huge plus on top of their in-the-pool performances. Panus, Lange and Costich in particular “are the major reason we have a chance to reload our relays and make it back to the state meet,” Zwierzchowski said, as all three made the state meet last season.

Panus is Clarence’s sprint freestyler, Lange is the team’s top butterfly swimmer, and Costich “can literally provide a quality swim in every event in our meets,” Zwierzchowski said.

“Depending on our opponent, all three will be asked to swim different events to give us our best chance,” Zwierzchowski said. “Ella was a sectional finalist in the 500 free as an eighth grader, and she’s relentless in the pool. She still has the potential to add the shorter events and breaststroke to her event list as well.”

Returning freshmen Charlotte

Costich and Sofia Hall will also be very important to Clarence’s success this year. Hall, whose top strokes are the butterfly and distance freestyle events, had “a super eighth-grade year and scored points for us at championships,” Zwierzchowski said, adding that “she, like Charlotte, is a bundle of energy in practice and in meets.”

Senior Lindsey Scanio should once again be a big contributor in the middle and distance freestyle events, Zwierzchowski said, and has scored points at sectionals since her freshman year. Junior Ashley Felber is a very talented swimmer as well; she swam backstroke on the Lady Red Devils’ medley relay at states and was a sectional finalist in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke in 2017. Another junior, Marielle Quinones, gives Clarence versatility in the IM, butterfly and backstroke events.

Underclassmen Annie Erbacher, Ellie Erbacher and Alaina Mazurkiewicz, meanwhile, are multi-sport athletes who show up every year and swim fast for the team, Zwierzchowski said.

“Ashley has four beautiful strokes and will be moved around in her events,” Zwierzchowski said. “She has the ability to help get our free relays back to states for sure. And though Annie, Ellie and Alaina are not year-round swimmers, they are proof that the part-time swimmer can have a big impact on a team’s success. Once the season starts, they’re all in.”

On the diving board, senior Meaghan Bray and junior Nicole Spiegel “have worked hard in the offseason” and “have the tools necessary to make a huge difference for us in every meet,” Zwierzchowski said. Zwierzchowski also gives credit to diving coach Kelly Neth for helping that contingent be as strong as it is. Neth herself is a former NCAA diving champion who brings “an incredible knowledge base to the diving program.”

“Having Kelly back to coach five girls who have the potential to score points for us again when it counts is huge,” Zwierzchowski said. “Our first four divers are greatly improved and hopefully can score points for us at the championship meets. It’s safe to say, though, that we have solid depth across all of the events. We don’t have the ‘front-line superstar,’ but we do have the depth that will give us places two through five in a dual, and that usually decides a close meet.”

The Lady Red Devils kicked off league action Tuesday against Hamburg, but information about that meet was not available at press time. Clarence closes out its week by hosting Jamestown on Friday, but then doesn’t compete again until it travels to Orchard Park the following Friday, Sept. 21.

“Like in years past, we just want to continue to improve with every swim, be competitive in all of our nine dual meets — and hopefully come out on top in most — and put in the hard work to be able to contend in the postseason meets,” Zwierzchowski said. “We’ll do what we can to keep practices challenging while also focusing on our next opponent so that we can hit our ultimate goal of swimming fast once championship meets start in late October.

“For lack of better terminology, this year’s team has a great vibe to it,” Zwierzchowski continued. “The girls work hard, but practices are fun. It’s a very challenging sport that leaves the girls fatigued and sore on a regular basis. Knowing you’re going through it with teammates who care about you makes it a worthwhile experience.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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