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Quaker Valley swimmers excited to build on last season’s success

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Sunday 19 December 2021 | 11:01 am


The 2020-21 season has proven to be a banner year for the Quaker Valley swim and dive program.

The women’s team QV won their second consecutive section title and finished 7-0 overall, breaking several team records in the process.

And coach John Nemeth is looking for matching results in 2021-2022.

“We have strong teams and we’re excited to see what they can do,” said Nemeth. “The girls would love to be in (playoff) contention again this year. The boys had a small squad last year, but we’ve got a lot more depth this year and have the opportunity to make a statement.

“Like every season, we lose swimmers and divers, but it’s the next person who can make the most of the opportunities available to them. We have a great group and we can’t wait to see what they can do.

The women’s QV team finished second to the WPIAL in class 2A last season, winning gold medals in two relays – the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle – and smashing two school records.

In the United States, they captured bronze medals in the relay competition. The Quakers placed sixth in the Class 2A team standings with 105 points, the best result among WPIAL teams.

Second year students Emily Connors, Rena Gilligan and junior Ella Fuener contributed to WPIAL and PIAA last season and are back in 2021-2022.

Connors, Gilligan and Fuener are exceptional relays in the 200 IM and 400 freestyle.

“All three have big goals and want to improve on what they did last year,” Nemeth said. “And Emma Smith is a junior who we think is going to have a good year and progress in some events for the team.”

Connors’ goals for this season are to finish in the top three in his individual and relay events at the WPIAL Championship competition and to place in an individual event in the United States.

“It would be great to make some of the top teams at WPIAL and hopefully qualify a few relays for the States,” she said. “I’m glad this season is getting back to normal a bit, and I’m looking forward to what it has to bring. We have lost a few key contributors, but we have a strong first year class that will bring a lot of good races this year. “

Connors, who has a GPA of 3.9, began his swimming career at the age of 7. She was also used to diving and competing in track and field and cross country.

“I decided to devote my time and energy to swimming,” she said. “My best event, I would say, is the 50 freestyle. I also tend to swim in the 100 free as well as the 100 butterfly, but the 50 weighs them a bit.

Connors broke the team’s record in the 100 butterfly (58.96) last season and swam one leg in the 200 IM and 400 freestyle relays.

Isabel Huang stood out for three years and broke records at QV, specializing in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke, as well as the 200 IM relay. However, she is not competing for the Quakers this year as a senior.

Some of the top freshmen on the women’s team include Paige Juliano, Margaret Getty, Louisa Webster and Mia Fusco.

“These are freshmen who have the opportunity to contribute from the start,” Nemeth said. “They provide a depth that we didn’t have last year in some events.”

Leading divers include freshmen Ruby Oliffe and Ruby Krotine and sophomore Katie Blackmer. Gia Kuyler, another first-year diver, is also hoping to make an impact.

“It’s a nice, strong group that will contribute to every competition,” said Nemeth.

The Quaker Valley men’s team is led by the junior trio of Alex Wagner, Ashton Ragoowansi and Spencer Wiehe.

“Alex has qualified for the WPIAL,” said Nemeth, “and we would also like to qualify Ashton and Spencer.”

Connors placed third in the 100 butterfly (58.96) and fifth in the 100 freestyle (53.55) and landed general offers for the state competition in Cumberland Valley.

Nemeth is also seeking contributions from freshmen Ryan Steinfurth, Thomas Fuener, Austin Batina, and others.

QV’s sophomore coach fosters team camaraderie and a loyal support system within his program.

“High school is about building a strong team that challenges and supports each other,” Nemeth said. “It’s not about the individual, although swimming and diving can sometimes go that way. You need athletes to step up and contribute at all levels.

“The team only succeeds when each individual buy-in and trust each other. It’s our goal this year, to be a selfless team that trains and competes at a high level.

Under the WPIAL guidelines, Quaker Valley offers cooperative sponsorship with Sewickley Academy in swimming and diving.

Alongside Ragoowansi, South African athletes who practice and compete with the Quakers are seniors Rebecca Glass and Amanda Kerrish, juniors Kaitlyn Hayden and John Shillingsburg, sophomore Wesley Riddle and freshman Jonathan Cheng.

Glass and Kerrish are the only seniors among the 41 athletes on the QVSA team.

Quaker Valley opened the season on December 10 with a non-sectional meet (for swimmers only) at Northgate.

“For early competition we’ve seen some really good races and we want to continue to build on that,” said Nemeth. “Our goal is to train hard and make the most of the early opportunities we have in the water and on the board (diving).

“The season is going by fast, so we are focused on hard work and on optimizing every race and diving opportunity we have.”

Nemeth said boys and girls from Northgate and North Catholic are the top contenders for Class 2A, with boys from Hampton, Riverside and Belle Vernon and girls from Mt. Pleasant, Elizabeth Forward and Laurel Highlands.

QV is a member of Section 2-2A, along with Beaver, Beaver Falls, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Cornell, Hopewell, Montour and Riverside.

The Quakers’ home opener was scheduled for Dec. 16 against Beaver Falls at the Sewickley Valley YMCA.

Tags: Quakers Valley