Girls relay teams push pace for Quaker Valley swimmers

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Sunday, March 12, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The stars of the show for the Quaker Valley swim program were the girls relay teams. All three relay units were medalists at the WPIAL Class 2A championships March 3-4 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The 200-yard freestyle relay team, consisting of senior Ella Fuener, sophomores Kwilai Karto and Paige Juliano and junior Emily Connors, led the way by finishing second with a time of 1 minute, 38.38 seconds.

The 400 freestyle relay unit, comprising Fuener, Juliano, sophomore Margaret Getty and Connors, placed fifth in 3:40.18.

And the 200 medley team, consisting of freshman Alexa Westwood, senior Emma Smith, Getty and Karto, took eighth place (1:57.02).

Connors reeled in four medals at the meet, two in the relays and two in individual events. She placed third in the 100 butterfly in 56.33 and fourth in the 100 freestyle in 51.79 and holds the school record in both events.

“I thought I had a very good meet,” Connors said. “I was looking for a drop in the 100 fly and the 100 free. While I was only able to accomplish a drop in the fly, I still think I swam right where I needed to be elsewhere. I had my fastest relay splits, as well, and thought that was also very good.

“I am looking forward to states and what is to come for our relays this year. We are seeded high in the 200 free relay, which is very exciting. I think we will definitely show up there. As for the 400 free relay, I think we can make the A final and medal this year. We placed 10th last year, and I feel we can move up in the rankings.”

Connors, a three-time PIAA medalist, also reeled in four WPIAL medals as a freshman and sophomore. She was a medalist both years in the 200 medley relay, 400 free relay, 100 free and 100 butterfly.

Quaker Valley ended up third in the team scoring this year with 189 points behind only Mt. Pleasant (290) and Northgate (198).

“Overall, I’m proud of how our girls swam,” Connors said. “We showed up when it was needed and had some solid swims.

“However, I definitely think we have room for improvement going into PIAAs.

“I think the (QV) boys also had some solid swims. A good majority of them had some good time drops as well.”

Getty was a triple medalist for the Quakers, locking up eighth place in the 500 freestyle in 5:28.05. Getty also finished 12th in the 200 freestyle.

Smith is one of nine seniors in the QV swim program this season, along with Fuener, Hope Linge, Zoey Murawski, Tia Pethel, Ashton Ragoowansi, John Shillingsburg, Alex Wagner and Spencer Wiehe.

“My senior season has definitely been the best season I could have asked for,” Smith said. “I’ve had best times in nearly every event I swam and hit a new level of training where I have been able to see myself work harder than I ever have. This has also been my favorite season because of the connections between everyone on the swim team and our ability to become a family this year.

“I’ve had lots of ups and downs throughout my career, but I would say I have seen a lot of growth throughout my time at QV. As I’ve gotten older, I have focused on what I could do to make sure the girls team was able to win four consecutive section titles. I’ve worked to become a team leader that people can go to.”

In the fall, Smith will be attending William & Mary to study political science and environmental science.

“While in college, I plan to continue swimming on their club swim team,” Smith said. “I will be very sad to end my time with everyone (at QV). Some of my fondest memories are all the times I’ve been able to spend with my closest friends, Paige Juliano, Alexa Westwood, Thomas Fuener and Ryan Steinfurth.

“I would also say getting to the podium at MACs and then winning MACs as a senior after missing my junior year due to food poisoning was very surreal.”

Smith’s biggest influences in her swim career have been threefold: her parents and QV coach John Nemeth.

“My parents have been my biggest supporters for the last 14 years,” she said, “getting me to any swim practice even if it meant they had to wake up at 5 a.m., taking me to every swim meet and always teaching me to believe in myself.

“Coach Nemeth has been my swim coach for the last three years and has always pushed me to be the best I can be, getting me to hit new times during meets and also believing in my abilities as a swimmer.”

Other noteworthy performances at the WPIAL meet were turned in by Juliano (200 free, 500 free), Fuener (50 free, 100 free), Karto (50 free, 100 free) and Westwood (100 back, 100 free).

Karto, Juliano and Fuener were double medalists thanks to their efforts in the relay races, and four QV girls qualified in the 100 free — Connors, Fuener, Karto and Westwood.

The lone medal winner for the Quaker Valley boys team was Thomas Fuener, a sophomore, who took seventh place in the 100 butterfly with a time of 53.22. Fuener also placed 11th in the 200 freestyle.

Other WPIAL finalists for the Quakers were Wagner (200 IM, 200 breast), Ragoowansi (50 free), Wiehe (100 back), Ryan Steinfurth (100 free, 100 back) and junior Wesley Riddle (100 free).

The QV boys placed ninth in the 200 medley, 10th in the 400 freestyle and 19th in the 200 free relay.

Steinfurth, Wagner, Fuener and Riddle swam in the 200 medley relay. The Quakers missed out on a medal spot by less than five-tenths of a second.

Wagner, Steinfurth, Riddle and Fuener competed in the 400 free relay, while Wiehe, freshman Austin Young, junior Jack Szuba and Riddle represented the Quakers in the 200 free relay.

QV’s boys team finished 13th in Class 2A.

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