OVAC?Swimming qualifying gets under way Tuesday

The second of a five-week stretch of OVAC Championships gets under way Tuesday afternoon.

The qualifying swims in the Bill Brubaker OVAC Swimming Championship will be held at three sites.

The teams are divided into the qualifying rounds based primarily on geography with Brooke, Linsly and Wheeling Park all hosting.

The following teams will compete at Wheeling Park: Bellaire, St. Clairsville, Parkersburg South, St. John Central, Martins Ferry and John Marshall.

Linsly, Cambridge, Wheeling Central, Barnesville, Morgantown and University will dive in at Linsly.

Brooke, Steubenville, Steubenville Central, East Liverpool, Edison, Beaver Local and Toronto will compete at the home of the Bruins.

Here’s a capsule look at area teams top entrants:

BARNESVILLE – The Shamrocks have enjoyed a strong early season and are looking to take the “next step” this week.

After finishing as small-school runnerup in 2013, the Lady Shamrocks have 27 swimmers entered in the meet and have a solid group that are just one or two seconds behind the fastest swimmer, which leads to cautious optimism for head coach Bobbi Jo Johnson.

“We have had depth and we’re filling the events with two or three people per event,” Johnson said. “We hope to improve on last year’s performance.”

The Lady Shamrocks are led by freshman Kasi Castello in the 50 free and 100 butterly. Seniors Carolyn Blattler and Shelby Wells have also had productive early seasons.

The likes of Olivia Jones, Myka Gordon, Abbey McMillen, Alexis Starr, Alexis Moore, Kiersten Cummings and Alexis Vogler are all looking to make an impact this week.

Junior Brandon Davidson has been a pleasant surprise for the Shamrocks in the 50 and 100 freestyles.

Johnson also singled out Justin Aldridge, foreign exchange students Dec Sakano and Max Kitatit and Tim Skinner also other Shamrocks to keep an eye on.

MARTINS FERRY – The Purple Riders have been one of the area’s busiest teams and their times have been dropping as they’ve gained more and more pool time.

“We have several girls who are currently in the top 16 in both of their individual events,” said head coach Nick Levi. “We hope to use this meet to spring board us into a strong finish. We’re looking to swim up from our seed times and continue to improve.”

Freshman Alyssa Kalinski has been impressive in the long freestyle races. She’ll be amongst the top seeds in both events.

Sophomore Tara Fogle is another Lady Rider to keep an eye on.

Brandon Bliss has been dropping time steadily this season.

Levi also believes Abbey Ecker, Shelby Poludniak and Alex Meigh could make some noise this week.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Red Devils will enter just eight girls and seven boys into this week’s meet, which immediately puts them behind the 8-ball in terms of the team chase.

“I try to place my swimmers into the events that I think that they will have the best chance of making the finals for some and, for others, I try to find the event where they’ll have the best chance to place at finals,” said St. C. head coach Melanie Eaton. “

The Red Devils’ boys will be led by senior standout Michael Eaton. Eaton is seeking to add to his conference championship resume and will be out to defend his 100 breast and 100 freestyle titles.

He’s top ranked in the OVAC in both events by several seconds.

Junior D.J. Beck, sophomore Christopher Blackwell, Quentin Clark and Dylan Krone also are in position to score well.

The Lady Devils will be led by senior Carly Falcone.

Senior Alaina Fasola, sophomore Delainey Banks and Hanna Vera should also fare well.

ST. JOHN – The Irish will take just two swimmers into the conference meet.

Junior Karlee Vostatek is the lone girl. She’ll swim in the 50 free and 100 backstroke. She narrowly missed a trip to the OVAC finals last season.

Freshman Austin Schramm is the Irish boys’ representative.