PREP SWIMMING: Area swimmers set to dive in

Another season of high school swimming is set to dive in this week.

Area swimmers will begin their quest for what they hope is an extended postseason Tuesday evening at Wheeling Jesuit with the annual Belmont County Kickoff Meet.

The annual Bill Brubaker OVAC Swimming Championship will once again be held at Steubenville High School on Saturday, Jan. 25. For the third straight year, the OVAC will hold qualifying rounds at three sites – Brooke, Linsly and Wheeling Park – to determine who advances to the championship round.

The OHSAA postseason begins on Feb. 8 with sectional action at Steubenville High School. The following weekend is district meet, which is set for Ohio State University and the state meet will once again be held at Branin Natatorium in Canton on Feb. 22.

Here’s a capsule look at area swimming teams:

BARNESVILLE – The Shamrocks program is in its 14th season and head coach Bobbi Jo Johnson has been leading the way each year.

Johnson boasts a roster that consists of 32 swimmers, including 27 of whom that are females. All told, 18 of the 32 earned a letter last season, meaning there’s certainly experience returning.

“The team has maintained its numbers over the past few years with kids coming up through the summer swim program,” Johnson said. “Our team has skill, speed and smarts. I think the feasibility study the village is doing toward the building of a community center with an indoor poll, the interest in swim team is increasing with athletes starting to think more about cross training and the idea of being part of something exciting in Barnesville.”

Gone from last year’s team because of graduation is Christopher Baker, who now swims at Wheeling Jesuit University. Baker was a two-time state qualifier and four-year OVAC medalist.

Also graduated are Gabby Fulst and Hanna Lucas.

The cupboard is far from bare, however.

The Barnesville girls feature six swimmers who took part in last year’s district meet.

“Those girls are anxious to return and their goal is for at least one of their relays to make it to the podium at the district,” Johnson said.

The Lady Shamrocks will be led by senior Carolyn Blattler, junior Myka Gordon, junior Olivia Jones and sophomores Abbey McMillen and Alexis Starr.

Johnson also pointed out senior Shelby Wells and freshman Kasi Castello will be significant contributors.

The balance of the girls squad includes: senior Alexis Vogler, juniors Emily Gallaway, Michaela Stephen, Lauren Lemunyon, Lexi Froehlich, Kiersten Cummings, Alexis Moore, Joy Boehme, Trista Newsom, Vanessa Jefferis; sophomore Karleigh Clouse, Mallory Christman, Samantha Burkhart, Dana Reinth, Rachel Stewart, Blaire Thompson, Fallyn Carpenter and freshmen Shay Butler, Alexis Marovich and Sara Reynard.

On the boys’ side, Johnson is high on junior Brandon Davidson and expects him to make a push toward qualifying for the OVAC finals.

The remainder of the Shamrocks boys roster includes juniors Tim Skinner, Hideki Dec Sakano and sophomores Justin Aldridge and Max Kitatit.

Johnson is being assisted this season by Jonathan Rockwell, John Blattler and Lisa Gallagher.

BELLAIRE – The Big Reds swimming program boasts 12 swimmers, eight of whom are on the female side as Kaye Sechrest begins another season at the helm.

“We have a great group of kids this year and they want to swim,” Sechrest said. “Our goals for this year are for our athletes to lower their times and for them to try new events.”

The girls’ squad features only one senior in Jenna Bellville. She’s joined by juniors Talia Duffy, Mathilde Muzard, Caroline Shaffer and Savana Sims. Two sophomores on the team are Kaycee Tantillo and Olivia Tranovich, while freshman Riley Hoepfner is set for her first season.

On the boys’ side, seniors Brendon Ross and Colin Nolan lead the way. Junior Luc Messenger and sophomore Mitch Parker round out the squad.

Sechrest is being assisted this season by Karen Metz and Sabrina Metz.

MARTINS FERRY – Head coach Nick Levi is always excited when swimming season comes around.

However, there was a different level of excitement when practice began earlier this month.

“I’ve watched a lot of these kids comes up through our summer league program,” Levi said. “As a coach, it’s always rewarding to see the progression of these swimmers. I can’t wait for the season to start and watch years of hardwork pay off.”

The Lady Riders have only nine girls out for the team, but six own valuable experience and are expected to play a key role this season.

“We have a nice mix of experience and youth on this year’s team,” Levi noted. “All of our new swimmers have a background in swimming. Our goals remain the same. We want to continue improving through the course of the season, advance as many people to the district meet and beyond that we can.”

Senior Shelby Poludniak leads the way. She’ll compete in the 200 free, 500 free, 100 back and 200 IM as she seeks her fourth letter. She was an OVAC and district placer last season.

“Shelby continued to build on her prior years’ success last season, qualifying to the district in four events,” Levi said. “She can swim all eight individual events and I expect her to be a major contributor for us both in individual events as well as on the relays.”

Sophomore Tara Fogle put forth a brilliant rookie campaign and is looking to build on that, competing in the 100 fly, 200IM, 100 free and 100 breast. She was an OVAC and district placer.

“Tara swam the fly and IM for us last year at a high level,” Levi said.

“She’s a very versatile swimmer who can swim all eight events. She makes us a stronger dual team because she’s able to swim the tougher events at a high level.”

Sophomore Tyesha Allen also had a strong freshman campaign, scoring in both the OVAC and district meet. She’s a speed swimmer and will enter in both the 50 and 100 freestyles.

“Tyesha saw significant improvement through the course of last season,” Levi said. “Her hardwork paid off. She was our highest individual district placer and I expect her to be a major contributor in the 50 and 100 freestyles. She’s a competitor who loves to race.”

Freshman Alyssa Kalinski is expected to make a big splash in her first season of varsity swimming. Levi believes she can swim all eight strokes well. She’ll see time in the 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 200 IM, 100 breast and 100 back.

“Alyssa has worked extremely hard leading up to this season,” Levi said. “She has put up times in the past/pre-season that would break several school records. She will score a lot of points for us, and I expect her to be a major factor for us on the relays.”

Other returning letterwinners are sophomore Megan Bain, sophomore Abbey Ecker and sophomore Macqel Leonard. Two other freshmen who will provide depth are Paige Phillips and Megan Ritts.

On the boys’ side, just five swimmers are out for the team, but three of those earned a letter last season.

Sophomore Brandon Bliss leads the list of returnees for the Rider boys.

He was an OVAC scorer and district qualifier last season and will see time in the 100 breast, 200 IM, 100 back, 200 free and 500 free.

“Brandon dropped significant time during his last three meets and it inspired him,” Levi said. “The hardwork and dedication during the offseason and commitment to swimming has helped catapult Brandon into one of the most impressive offseasons I’ve seen.”

Sophomores Chris Brown and Alex Meigh both earned letters last season. Both are capable in the freestyle.

Freshman Thomas Singhaus will help in the 50 and 100 free along with the 100 breast. The lone senior in the program is Turkish foreign exchange student Cankut Buyuketi.

“We have a nice group of hard-working swimmers,” Levi said. “Our returning letterwinners will be looked upon to provide guidance and leadership to the new swimmers.”

Graduation claimed Zac Riggenbach, Kaitlyn Bliss, Christina Lattimer, Shannon Lewis and Alyssa Smith.

Levi’s coaching staff includes Susan Levi, Jim Fogle and Rachael Moynihan.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – For the first time in many years, the Red Devils program had declining numbers with only 17 swimmers out between the boys and girls programs. However, head coach Melanie Eaton welcomes back a quality group.

“I am hoping for our returning swimmers to step up and fill in and I am expecting good things from our freshmen,” Eaton said. “We are a small team, but we have some veterans and hopefully our quality will help us where we lack quantity. I am excited to see the kids working hard to improve and I am anxious to see it pay off.”

The Red Devils do boast one of the premier swimmers in the state of Ohio in senior ace Michael Eaton.

A three-time state qualifier, Eaton had a junior season to remember as he claimed two individual OVAC titles and finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke and 12th in the 100 freestyle, which is good for all-Ohio in both.

Eaton owns the OVAC record in the 100 breaststroke at 57.81, which he posted in the district. He also posted a 59.90 to win the 100 breast at the OVAC, which is an OVAC Championship meet and pool record time.

“Michael is an extremely hard-working young man who is on a mission,” said his mother and coach.

Juniors D.J. Beck and Quentin Clark will take on much larger roles this season after strong freshmen campaigns.

Beck will see time in the 200IM and 500 freestyle, while Clark will swim the 100 and 200 freestyles.

“Both D.J. and Quentin have the potential to become very good swimmers,” Eaton said.

Sophomores Chris Blackwell (freestyle and backstroke), Haydn Lewis (freestyle), Chase Wieth (freestyle and breaststroke) will also play a role. The lone freshman out for the team is Dylan Krone (200IM and 100 fly).

The Lady Red Devils are led by senior standout Carly Falcone, who was an OVAC bronze medalist in the 100 breaststroke and swam on two medal-winning relay teams last winner.

Falcone was a district qualifier in multiple events.

“Carly is a team leader who works hard to try to become a better swimmer,” Eaton said.

Senior Alaina Fasola was a district and OVAC Championship qualifier. She’s back to compete in the 100 fly and 100 back. She’ll also be a key contributor to relay teams.

Sophomore Delainey Banks is another to keep an eye on after an impressive first season. She’ll be in the 200IM and 100 back. She’ll also make an impact on St. C. relay teams.

The balance of the roster includes seniors Faith Baldwin (50 and 100 freestyle) and Sarah Holtsclaw (200 free and 100 fly); sophomores Mckinzie Bennington (200 freestyle), Zina Bohach (500 free), Sierra Coutz (200IM), Hanna Vera (200 free and 100 free). The lone freshman is Megan Fasola (freestyle and backstroke).

Eaton is assisted by Ernie Banks.

ST. JOHN CENTRAL – The Fighting Irish only have two swimmers out for the team, but that’s 100 percent growth.

“For the past two years, having only one swimmer competing against 20 to 40 swimmers at every meet can be very intimidating and dampen enthusiasm, but we are confident they can motivate and encourage each other this year as teammates,” said head coach Diana Vostatek.

Junior Karlee Vostatek returns in her two specialties, the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke.

“Karlee has significantly kicked up her training routine this year and we expect a terrific season from her,” Diana Vostatek said.

Freshman Austin Schramm is out for the squad this season. Active in swimming for the YMCA team, Schramm will be entered in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle.

“Austin has set a high bar for himself to achieve and we look forward to watching him progress throughout the season,” Coach Vostatek said.