Prep swimmers ready to dive in

Another prep swimming campaign is under way.

The Ohio Valley season got going this past week and gets into full speed this week.

Several area schools are sponsoring a swimming program this winter.

The OVAC Swim Championship will continue with the same format it began last winter. There will be three qualifying sites with the top finishers earning the right to swim at the Steubenville High School Natatorium on Jan. 26

The Ohio postseason will commence two weekends later with sectional action. It, too, will be held at Steubenville. The district will once again is set for Ohio State University on Feb. 15 and 16. The state swimming championship is the next weekend at Branin Natatorium in Canton.

Here’s a capsule look at the teams which returned information:

BARNESVILLE – The Shamrocks have boasted a swimming team since 2000 and as Bobbi Jo Johnson begins another season at the helm, she’s taking a team of 19 girls and four boys to the pool with her each meet.

That’s not bad considering the Shamrocks lost 11 swimmers to graduation, including standouts Hunter Yevincy and Theresa Gallagher.

“We had a great senior class,” Johnson said.

However, the Shamrocks’ cupboard is far from bare. Barnesville features two-time state qualifier Christopher Baker. He’s the defending OVAC champion in the 200IM and 500 freestyle.

“Christopher has put a lot of extra work in swimming over the past years,” Johnson said. “He has his goals in life and swimming, and I expect nothing less of him other than achieving them. It’s hard to know that this is his last season with us.”

Sophomore Brandon Davidson also earned a letter last season. He’ll see time in the short freestyle races.

Two new faces in the boys’ program are senior Kyle Yaquinta and sophomore Timmy Skinner.

The Lady Shamrocks feature the always impressive combination of depth and talent.

Senior Gabby Fulst leads the way for the Lady Shamrocks in the freestyle. Junior Carolyn Blattler will be one of the top entrants in the 200IM.

Johnson is also high on sophomores Olivia Jones and Myka Gordon, who will both see time in the 50 and 100 freestyles. Junior Shelby Wells (breaststroke) and sophomore Emily Gallaway (500 free) are also expected to play a big role.

Other returnees for the Lady Shamrocks include: senior Hanna Lucas (breaststroke), juniors Alexis Vogler (backstroke), Rachel Wehr (200IM) and sophomores Lexi Froehlich (freestyle), Lauren Lemunyon (breaststroke).

“These returning swimmers are an amazing group of kids,” Johnson said. “Their technical skills are great and they are just a fun group to be around.”

Newcomers to the girls squad are: sophomore Kiresten Cummings, frosh Abbey McMillen, Alexis Starr, Mallory Christman, Samantha Burkhart, Dana Rienerth, Karleigh Clouse and Rachael Stewart.

BELLAIRE – The Big Reds’ swim team doesn’t have the biggest numbers, but head coach Kaye Sechrest believes her team will make up for with that with “enthusiasm and determination.”

Sechrest begins her fifth season at the helm with a squad that features seven boys and eight girls.

The Big Reds’ boys lost just one swimmer to graduation in Timmy Martin and return three lettermen in Brendon Ross, Colin Nolan and Luc Messenger.

“They will help build a solid foundation for our team,” Sechrest said. “All of them know the strokes and are willing to participate in any event. I am looking forward to their leadership.”

Ross will handle the 50 freestyle and relays, while Messenger jumps in the water for the breaststroke and relays. Nolan is a backstroker and will also see time on relays.

New to the boys’ squad are foreign exchange student Aurelien Bernard, juniors Dakota Gabel and Jeff Nelson along with freshman Mitch Parker.

“These guys have been working hard in practice and are willing to do what it takes to get better. In addition, they are great guys and fun to coach,” Sechrest said.

The Lady Big Reds, meanwhile, must find a way to replace the graduated Shana Pramik, who re-wrote the Lady Reds’ swimming record book during her career.

“We will miss Shana’s success in the pool, but we will also miss her competitive spirit and leadership,” Sechrest allowed.

Other graduation losses include: Haley Dyer, Paige Hyatt, Ally Martin and Brooke Masters.

This year’s Lady Reds’ squad features eight competitors and is led by senior Dani Vitale, who will swim the breaststroke, freestyle and relays. Other returning letter winners include: junior Hunter Eden, and sophomores Talia Duffy and Caroline Shaffer.

“With these girls, we have a strong base on which to develop our team because they can swim all strokes. Like the guys, the girls are eager to learn and work hard in the pool,” Sechrest said. “

Eden expects to see time in the free events and relays, while Duffy is proficient in fly, freestyles and will swim on relay teams. Shaffer will be entered in the breaststroke, butterfly and relays.

Looking to make an impact on their first seasons out for the team are: Jenna Bellville, Danielle Stoner, Savana Sims and Olivia Tranovich.

Sechrest is assisted by Karen Metz and Sabrina Metz.

EAST RICHLAND CHRISTIAN – The Lions’ swim program is still in its infancy stages as the school competes in the OVAC for the second year.

The Lady Lions have just one competitor out for the team, but she’s a quality one in senior Katie Albert. She burst onto the scene last season and was a district qualifier as well as OVAC placer.

Albert has been slowed some in the pre-season, however, this season as she’s battled her way back from a shoulder injury sustained during volleyball season.

According to her head coach and mom, Beth, Albert has been undergoing physical therapy “in hopes she will be fully recovered soon.”

Albert’s main strokes are the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly.

“We have high hopes for Katie’s final season,” Beth said. “She’s had to limit the distance and types of strokes she might be able to accomplish this year due to the shoulder injury.”

MARTINS FERRY – The Purple Riders have become one of the area’s most consistent and successful swim programs over the course of the last several years.

Nick Levi begins his fourth season as the head coach of the squad and features 13 girls and seven boys on the roster.

“We have a nice mix of experience and youth on this year’s team,” Levi said. “We return six district qualifiers and we welcome 13 new swimmers into the program. With a vast majority of the swimmers new to competitive swimming, we have been going over all of the skills needed to be a successful swimmer. The kids have been working really hard this year and are receptive to improving and refining their stroke.”

The Lady Riders, who are coming off a 4th place finish in their division of the OVAC swim meet, return four swimmers who earned a letter last season.

Shannon Lewis and Alyssa Smith are both in search of their fourth monograms. Lewis was an OVAC scorer and district qualifier last season. She’ll enter in the 200IM, 100 breast, 50 free, 100 free and 200 free.

Smith, meanwhile, was an OVAC scorer and advanced to district at Ohio State University in three events. She’ll enter the 200IM, 100 fly, 100 back and 200 freestyle.

Junior Shelby Poludniak has enjoyed a strong prep career thus far. She was an OVAC scorer and district qualifier. She’ll take part in the 200 free, 100 back, 200IM and 500 free.

Senior Christina Lattimer also returns in search of her third letter. She was an OVAC scorer and district qualifier on a relay team. She’ll spend most of her season entered in the 100 fly, 200 free and 200 medley.

Levi expects freshman Tyesha Allen to make a big impact on her first season of varsity swimming. She’s been swimming competitively since she was a young kid. She’ll be in the shorter freestyles.

He’s also extremely high on ninth grader Tara Fogle, who has also been swimming since she was very young. She’ll see time in a bevy of events, including freestyle, IM and butterfly.

Senior Kaitlyn Bliss, who is a standout golfer in the fall, is out for swimming for the first time. She’ll be in the freestyles and 100 breast.

Other newcomers include: Megan Bain (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke), Abbey Ecker (freestyle, breaststroke), Rebekkah French (freestyle, backstroke), Macqel Leonard (freestyle, backstroke) and Maria Tracy (freestyle, backstroke).

“We have a nice core of girls,” Levi said. “I expect them to continue to improve and have another successful season. We also think we have several freshmen who can be major contributors for us this season.”

The Riders’ boys squad features just two lettermen, but five others who Levi feels can be contributors.

“We have a nice group of hard-working seniors,” Levi said. “I expect us to have better team placements at invites this season as well as some individual success. We should be much improved.”

Sophomores David Buehner and Jonathan Strawn both lettered last season and took part in the district swim meet on the 400 relay squad.

Senior Zac Riggenbach, who had an impressive golf season in the fall, is out for swimming for the first time and will be in the freestyle sprints and relays.

Sophomore Michael Weir is out for the first time and will see time in the freestyle and backstroke.

Three freshmen, who should have an impact, include: Brandon Bliss (individual medley, freestyle and breaststroke), Michael Weir (freestyle, backstroke) and Alex Meigh (freestyle, backstroke).

Levi is assisted by Susan Levi and Jim Fogle.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Red Devils’ program has been one of the area’s benchmarks and despite losing nine swimmers to graduation and another because he moved, Coach Melanie Eaton begins her fifth season with high expectations and her highest numbers.

“We have 28 swimmers out this season, which is the largest number we’ve had in my five years,” Eaton said. “I am truly excited to see what we can do this year.”

The Red Devils’ boys finished third in big-school OVAC last year and return the first-ever American born male from a Belmont County school to place in the state swimming meet in junior Michael Eaton.

Eaton was OVAC and district champion in the 100 breaststroke and went on to finish eighth in the state in the event, earning all-Ohio.

“Michael has been practicing hard and is hoping for some good outcomes this season,” his mother and coach said. “His breaststroke and freestyle are really looking strong. He can fill in wherever he might be needed.”

He’ll be joined on the deck by senior mainstays Dan Kennon (freestyle), Nick Tobin (freestyle, butterfly) and Codi Eaton (200IM, backstroke).

Sophomores D.J. Beck (freestyle, IM) and Quentin Clark (freestyle, breaststroke) are also expected to make significant contributions.

The balance of the boys’ squad consists of seniors Jacob Mitchell (freestyle), Turner Provost (freestyle), junior Nathan Teater (freestyle) and frosh Christopher Blackwell (freestyle), Haydn Lewis (freestyle) and Chase Wiethe (freestyle, breaststroke).

The Lady Red Devils have a solid core of five key returnees for Melanie Eaton to build around and some others who the head coach thinks could blossom into impressive seasons.

The Lady Devils will be led by junior Carly Falcone, who broke a school record last season in the breaststroke. She’ll also take part in the 200IM.

Junior Alaina Fasola had an impressive season last winter and will look to build on that in the freestyle and backstroke. The lone senior on the squad is Falon Weidman, who is set to take part in the freestyle and butterfly.

Coach Eaton is high on two frosh, who she thinks will make a big impact. Those are Delainey Banks (freestyle, fly, backstroke) and Hanna Vera (free, breaststroke). Junior Anna Kaauamo (medley, freestyle) will also play a key role.

The balance of the Lady Devils’ squad includes: juniors Faith Baldwin (freestyle), Allie Coe (freestyle), Sarah Holtsclaw (freestyle), sophomores Lisa Schwartz (freestyle, breaststroke), freshmen McKinzie Bennington (freestyle, backstroke), Zina Bohach (freestyle), Sierra Coutz (freestyle, IM), Sarah Erwin (freestyle), Alyssa Louis (freestyle) and Sofia Weidman (freestyle, backstroke).