Hampton boys swim team primed for strong season

Thursday, December 12, 2019 | 5:07 PM

If last year’s 15th-place team finish at WPIALs was any indicator of what this small team can do in a pool of big fish, Hampton’s last year in Class AAA could be one of its best.

Having lost no major senior contributors and returning all of its swimmers that participated in top 15 relay teams, the Talbots are primed to send more than just one competitor to Hershey for PIAAs.

“I’m excited for the relays,” said fourth-year coach Morgan Zweygardt. “There’s just a lot of options I have right now as to who can be on what relays. A lot of the guys swim two individual events and you’re only allowed two relays.

“I would love for a relay to make states. I think we’re right on the cusp. I have such a good group of boys. I definitely think it’s possible”

Zweygardt is watching her first freshman class come full circle, and they have not disappointed. Senior Drew Scheib has already established himself in the WPIAL swim ranks, having qualified in states for the 200 freestyle (third in WPIALs) and the 100 fly (seventh). Senior Matt Belch has been a regular on the WPIAL qualifier scene on everything from relays to distance and sprinting events since his freshman season.

“We’re just trying to build on what we did last year,” Zweygardt said of Scheib. “I just keep going back and remember how Drew barely made one individual event his freshman year”

One issue Scheib will need to solve involves scheduling. The freestyle and fly events are held on the same day at the state championships, which presented a challenge earlier this year.

Belch competed in the 500 freestyle, as well as the 100 fly, where he finished 13th.

“He’s definitely gotten stronger,” Zweygardt said. “One of the major things he’s needed to work on for his butterfly is his underwater. That’s where he loses ground. I would love to see Matt make states in the 100 fly. It’s going to take work, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

The leadership contingent provides a solid foundation for the team’s underclassmen. Without senior captain Joe Fish, Zweygardt said, the team atmosphere “would not be the same.”

A top underclassman is sophomore Will Retsch, who made a splash on the scene as a freshman, qualifying for WPIALs in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke. He finished 17th in both.

“He reminds me of Drew with the intensity he trains a lot of the time. … You can have such a good freshman year and you can get, not complacent, but, ‘OK, I know what I’m doing.’ You can lose that edge, and he’s focusing on not. He wants to make sure he’s finding new ways to work hard.”

Zweygardt said Schieb has been a “wonderful mentor” to Retsch.

“You can just see that in how he trains,” she said.

Juniors Ethan Apaliski and Richie Donato bring back WPIAL qualifier experience in relays and individual events. Donato is aiming for a podium in the 200 IM, where he finished 20th last year, and improvement in the 100 breaststroke.

“That kid is determined,” Zweygardt said. “He’s looking at where other people are in the field are, their strengths, his strengths and weaknesses. He really wants to break a minute in the 100 breaststroke, and I don’t see how he couldn’t do it.”

Apaliski splits his time between diving and swimming.

“He’s a wonderful teammate and competitor,” Zweygardt said. “He is just as happy for his teammates reaching their goals as he is himself. He’s always encouraging, and it’s just fun to see. I think he’s going to keep improving on diving with a year under his belt.”

Sophomore Davis Gindlesperger looks to qualify at individuals this year after participating in relays last year, while freshman Ben Sheets, whose father David is head swimming coach at Duquesne University, should contribute immediately.

“He’s going to add depth, and I look to him making WPIALs in several events,” Zweygardt said. “He’s coming in a strong swimmer and I think doing the new practice schedule, more than he’s ever done before, I’m excited to see how that helps him improve.”


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