Hampton boys head into WPIAL swim championships with great expectations

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Saturday, February 13, 2021 | 9:01 AM


It’s official. The WPIAL swim finals will take place March 6-7.

Hampton’s boys swim team has the dates circled on its calendar.

“Everything is gearing up for us to have a great showing at WPIALs,” coach Morgan Zweygardt said. “Now that the date has been confirmed, the boys are even more excited. I expect we are on our way to swimming best times at WPIALs and being strong competition as a team.”

Hampton placed third at the WPIAL Class AAA championships last season. The Talbots have dropped to Class AA and are expected to be a serious title contender.

By the end of January, Hampton had a host of swimmers set to compete at the WPIAL meet, led by Will Retsch and Ben Sheets.

Retsch, a junior, has qualified in the 100-, 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, along with the 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 200 intermediate medley.

“I’m quite happy with how well my season has gone and where I’m placed going into WPIALs, considering the difficulty we had getting consistent practices early this season,” Retsch said. “I think my strongest event this year will be my 200 IM after seeing how my time has dropped since last season.

“I would like to note we have a lot of new swimmers on our team and coming into a new sport in a year like this is difficult, but they have handled it amazingly and continue to improve at every meet.”

Sheets, a sophomore and the son of Duquesne University swim coach Dave Sheets, has qualified for WPIALs in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke and 200 IM.

Three other individual qualifiers for the Talbots are seniors Richie Donato (100 breast, 200 IM) and Ethan Apaliski (100 breast) and sophomore Koda Carslaw (diving).

Carslaw, the only diver on the squad, placed ninth in Class AAA last season.

Sheets, Retsch and Donato also have propelled the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay units to WPIAL berths.

Sheets, Apaliski, Retsch, Donato are 200 medley relayers; junior Davis Gindelsperger, Sheets, Retsch and Donato team up in the 200 freestyle event; while Gindelsperger, Sheets, Retsch and Donato are 400 freestyle relayers.

“We’ve had a few ups and downs this season with closures in the beginning,” Retsch said. “I’m most surprised and excited by our 200 medley relay. We are currently first in the state and consistently doing great times in meets.

“I’m hoping to see a few more WPIAL cuts from the boys, and I think we are all looking forward to a great championship meet. We are looking good to put people on the podium for many individual events, as well as relays, and we have a chance at placing first as a team.”

Another potential WPIAL qualifier for Hampton is junior Michael Belch in the 100 butterfly event.

Although the Talbots will participate in the Class AA championships, their regular-season dual-meet schedule has remained in AAA against Butler, Mars, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley.

“I am really proud of how (well) the team is doing this year,” Zweygardt said. “We’ve had a really intense meet schedule and the boys are giving it their all.

“We’ve had some freshmen boys really step up and will be great additions to one of the relays at WPIALs. Zach Sutterlin and Vitaliy Pikalo have been swimming their best times and are proving to be vital in our scoring in dual meets.”

Zweygardt said the Talbots have been extra health-conscious in 2020-21 because of the severity of the covid-19 pandemic. Their game plan is highly structured, meticulously detailed and all-encompassing.

“We have several protocols in place,” Zweygardt said. “For practice, we have placed hooks all over the pool deck with names on the hooks for the swimmers. We have our kids starting at six different places in the pool so they are never within six feet of each other. We have restricted locker room use, and if the kids come (to practice) from home, they must change there. If the kids are in school, they maintain social distancing in the locker rooms. We work out in the weight room in shifts so there are no more than 15 people in the room at a time. We wipe down the equipment between every use.”

“When the kids get to practice, we take temperatures and ask questions about symptoms, close contact or out of state travel. If they answer ‘yes’ to any of them, they are not permitted to attend practice. It is a different year but the kids are embracing it and are incredibly resilient.”

Parents of seniors are the only spectators allowed at Hampton’s home meets.

“Our team and the visiting team spread out in the stands when they are not swimming,” Zweygardt said.

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