Emily Connors, Quaker Valley swimmers set goals high

Sunday, December 11, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Emily Connors has experienced much success in her two years in the Quaker Valley pool.

Connors ended her outstanding sophomore season in 2021-22 as a triple medalist at the PIAA Class 2A girls championships held at Bucknell.

She placed sixth in the 100-yard freestyle and eighth in the 100-yard butterfly. At the WPIAL finals, Connors finished third in both events; she holds school records in both (51.69 and 56.76).

Connors also swam the first leg on the girls 200 freestyle relay unit that placed sixth at states. She teamed up with then-freshmen Paige Juliano and Kwilai Karto along with Ella Fuener, who is a senior this year.

“It was my goal to podium in my individual events, and I was able to do that,” Connors said. “And one of our team goals was to get at least one of our relays on the podium, and we successfully did that.

“My personal goals this year are simply to better my PBs from last year, have successful WPIALs and states and have lots of fun.”

Connors, who trains with Steel City Aquatics in the offseason, also qualified for the PIAA finals as a freshman, in the 100 butterfly and as part of the 200 medley and 400 free relays. Both relay units took third place.

“I am looking forward to all of the racing opportunities I have this year and am really excited to see what this season has to bring,” Connors said. “We have three great out-of-section early meets that will provide excellent competition and opportunities for the team.”

QV coach John Nemeth offered praise for the 16-year-old Connors, a National Honor Society member.

“Emily is a tough swimmer,” Nemeth said. “She swims anything we need. She is a versatile swimmer who can swim a lot of different events and always steps up when it matters.

“She steps up when her team needs her, and she sets the tone for everyone else. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

Two other returning individual state qualifiers at QV are sophomore Margaret Getty (200 free, 500 free) and Juliano (500 free).

The girls relays were represented at states last year by Connors, Fuener, Getty and Juliano in the 400 free and Getty, Gilligan, Fuener and Juliano in the 200 medley.

“Ella Fuener competes in the sprint free and fly and contributes on the relays,” Nemeth said. “She has a ton of experience at WPIALs and PIAAs.”

Quaker Valley was represented by 11 swimmers and three divers at last year’s state championships. Nemeth discussed their performances afterwards.

“We took a lot of positives away from the PIAA meet, and it is something our team is going to learn and grow from going forward,” he said. “There is a learning curve that comes with prelims and finals in meets like that.

“Being able to qualify 14 athletes is a huge deal. We are excited about the future of QV swimming and diving.”

Three divers — sophomores Ruby Olliffe and Ruby Krotine and junior Katie Blackmer — represented the Quakers at states. Olliffe, the WPIAL 2A runner-up, zeroed in on sixth place.

“Ruby Olliffe had an impressive performance at WPIALs and PIAAs,” Nemeth said. “She should be a top finisher again this season.”

The QV girls placed second and third in the WPIAL the past two seasons and ended up 10th in the PIAA team scoring last year.

“We want to keep building on the last two seasons and continue to show growth as a team. We saw that last year on both sides, and I’m excited to see what this crew can do,” Nemeth said. “MACs, WPIALs and PIAAs are where we want to perform our best, so we need to establish a strong team culture and work ethic early on.

“It can be a long season, and our goal is to have a close-knit group that supports one another and holds each other accountable.”

The QV girls won their third consecutive section championship last season.

“We had a strong year and showed good improvement as a team,” Nemeth said. “PIAAs were a great learning experience for our crew since so many of them had never been to the meet.”

Connors is looking forward to another successful season-long run for the girls team.

“I would say my early expectations are for the girls is to put together some good relays,” Connors said, “and to gain a few more WPIAL swimmers and have all of our relays make the final and medal at states.

“I also hope we can place in the top two as a team at WPIALs. We have quite a few good freshman additions that I think will score points for our team.”

Turning to the Quaker Valley boys, senior Alex Wagner (200 IM) and sophomore Ryan Steinfurth (100 backstroke) are two of the top swimmers back in 2022-23. Both were state qualifiers a year ago.

“Alex has most experience on the team,” Nemeth said. “He is a strong contributor and leader and is solid in every stroke.”

Wagner, Steinfurth, sophomore Thomas Fuener, junior Wesley Riddle and senior Spencer Wiehe all are returning team members.

“Thomas Fuener has a great freshman year in the 200 free and 100 fly,” Nemeth said. “He has room to improve and looks strong in the water.

“We are excited about the potential on the boys side. We want to just keep building up interest in the program and improving the team as a whole.”

There are 37 athletes listed on the 2022-23 varsity roster at QV, consisting of nine seniors, seven juniors, 13 sophomores and eight freshmen.

“The future is bright with nearly everyone back,” Nemeth said, “which is a huge plus as we continue to build the program.”

Other athletes on the girls team include seniors Hope Linge, Zoey Murawski, Tia Pethel and Emma Smith; juniors Kate Hines and Mia Hrabovsky; sophomores Mia Fusco, Serena Hutchens, Gia Kuyle and Abigail Suhaydar; and freshmen Margaret Burns, Kendra Hines, Makenna Kamnikar, Katherine Linge and Alexa Westwood.

Rounding out the boys squad are seniors Ashton Ragoowansi and John Shillingsburg; juniors Austin Batina, John Szuba and Bryson Williams; sophomore Jonathan Cheng; and freshmen Tyler Bell, Levi Carter, Jayden Juliano and Austin Young.

Cheng, Ragoowansi, Riddle and Shillingsburg attend Sewickley Academy.

The WPIAL recognizes the Quaker Valley swim program as a cooperative effort between QV and Sewickley Academy. The varsity team trains and competes at the Sewickley Valley YMCA.

“The team looks strong,” Nemeth said, “which is great because they are ahead of where they were this time last year.

“I’d say we also have a lot more depth on both sides, which should bode well at meets throughout the season.”


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