by Aaron Garcia
The high school swimming and diving season is drawing to an end, and the Western Regional competitions are this weekend at the Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatic Center.
The diving portion is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 3. The swimming portion begins Saturday, Feb. 4, with the Class 4A meet at 9 a.m., followed by the Class 1A/2A and 3A competitions at approximately 4:05 p.m.
Here’s a breakdown of all the Union County swimmers set to compete:
The Marvin Ridge program has quickly built a reputation as one of the top Class 3A squads in the state. The girls team has claimed the previous five Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference crowns, while the boys have won three consecutive. Both teams finished second to Charlotte Catholic last season at the regional.
Mavericks coach Laurie Lester likes the progress the team has made headed into this weekend, especially with a strong corps of year-round swimmers leading the way.
“The ones that have made it into regionals that are non-year-round -swimmers, they’re getting tough practices from me to prepare them for regionals, and I think they’re doing really great,” Lester said.
Many of the boys events will feature several Marvin Ridge swimmers, including the 200-meter freestyle (McKee Christiansen, Kyle Gallagher, Matthew Patetta, Ryan Shirley); the 200 IM (Lane Bretschneider, Irwin Li and Johnathon Paque); the 50 freestyle (Evan White, Kyle Shirley, Jesse Claybo); 100 butterfly (Evan White, Claybo, Li); 100 freestyle (Christiansen, Kyle Shirley, Ryan Shirley, Kyle Gallagher); the 500 freestyle (Patetta, Paque, Daniel Canale, Tyler Briese) and the 100 breaststroke (Bretschneider and Briese).
David Cottrell and Grant Mitro will represent Marvin Ridge in the diving competition. Turner Schwartz is the Mavs lone competitor in the 100 backstroke. The Mav boys also qualified three relay teams in the 400 freestyle, the 200 freestyle relay and the 200 medley relay.
Twenty-nine Maverick girls will participate in the individual events, five of which will feature four Marvin Ridge swimmers. Jacqueline Pennington, Jayne Glanton, Lauren Greenberg and Stephanie Cage will all compete in the 200 freestyle, while Cage will be joined by Kaya Eskind, Hannah Marshall and Lexie White in the 50 freestyle. Abbey House, Shannon Speer, Hannah Connelly and Eskind qualified for the 100 butterfly while Miranda McGaha, Lexie White, Glanton and Connelly will compete in the 100 freestyle.
Marvin Ridge also qualified three competitors in the 500 freestyle (Greenberg, Carly Dean, Pennington), and two each in the 100 backstroke (McGaha and House), the 100 breaststroke (Christina Kresser and Speer) and the 200 IM (Dean, Kresser).
In just its second year of competition, the Mavs diving team qualified four competitors for the 1-meter competition: Alison DeMarco, Katie Latham, Sara Maleski and Raquelle Pollack. The Mavs also will send relay teams in the 200 medley, the 200 freestyle and the 400 freestyle.
Weddington placed swimmers in eight girls events and seven boys events. In the boys competition, Taylor Ayers will compete in both the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke, while Christian Pileggi qualified in both the 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. The Warrior boys also qualified a trio of relays in the 200 medley, the 200 freestyle and the 400 freestyle.
In the girls meet, Laura Carpenter and Abigail Crawford each qualified for a pair of events: Crawford will compete in the 200 freestyle and Carpenter in the 100 butterfly. The two also will compete in the 100 backstroke. Emily Engle and Abbey Holley each will swim the 50 freestyle.
Maria Polizzi is the top returning diver in the 3A competition after finishing fourth last season. The Warrior girls also qualified their 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams.
For the third consecutive year, the top of the Rocky River 1A/2A conference standings looked the same: The Cuthbertson girls team took top honors, followed by Piedmont. In the boys meet, Central Academy of Technology & Arts claimed first, followed by Piedmont.
Given the fact that Cuthbertson is only in its third year of existence, the swim program’s dynastic beginnings have been impressive, even for coach Chris Martin.
“We’ve had some really strong individuals who have continually swam and shown improvement and put us on the board,” Martin said. “A lot of credit has to be given to those individual swimmers.”
In the girls meet, four Cavs will swim two individual events each, including Allie Everhart and Kristen Everhart, who will each compete in the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke; Elle Grier in the 500 freestyle and the 200 IM; and Kimberley Parnell in the 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle. Courtney Meredith and Kristen Pounds each will try for the 200 freestyle title, while Kelsey Johnston will compete for the 100 butterfly crown. Cuthbertson’s girls also qualified in the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.
CATA’s Hannah Humphrey qualified in the 500 freestyle, while Alexandra Leitner is in the 100 breaststroke.
The CATA boys, coached by Jay Niessner, will compete in six different events. Sam Souther will aim for titles in the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle while also joining the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. Alex Ayers qualified in the 100 breaststroke and will join Souther, Montana Papworth and Brandon Chandler on the 200 medley relay. Souther, Chandler, Alex Kearney and Bradley Price are on the 200 freestyle relay. Shane Reich, Chandler, Price and Kearney are the 400 freestyle team.
The Cuthbertson boys program will send swimmers in four events, including Cain Poling in the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, and Gage Poling in the 100 backstroke. The Cavs also have a 400 freestyle relay squad.
Don’t forget about Piedmont. According to coach Remona Griffin, the Panthers recorded their best qualifying times in three years.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Griffin said. “My girls team is as strong as I’ve ever had. I’ve got a fairly young team and a lot of depth, so it makes it even more exciting.”
Which is a sharp contrast from her senior-laden boys team.
“(The boys team) wants it more, and they know this is it – it’s make it or break it,” she said. “That makes them even more hungry.”
Senior Alex Griffin, who has committed to run cross country and swim at Catawba College, qualified in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Trey Rowell will compete in the 100 freestyle, and Charlie Harris qualified for the 100 breaststroke. The Panther boys also will compete in the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.
The Piedmont girls will be led by Cori Burdette and Miranda Seegers in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, respectively. The 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams also qualified.
Union Academy’s 400 freestyle relay team also will make the trip to Huntersville.
The Porter Ridge girls, who finished behind Marvin Ridge and Weddington in the league championship meet, will be represented by Emily Covert in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke; Danielle Sumner in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly; Suzanne Sumner in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle; and Megan Woody in the 500 freestyle. The Porter Ridge and Sun Valley girls teams also will compete in the 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay.
Porter Ridge’s Chuckie Hawes will be the lone county competitor in the Class 4A boys competition but will be joined by the 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. The Sun Valley boys, too, will compete for the trio of relay titles.