Hampton girls swimmers get up to speed quickly in preseason

Sunday, December 13, 2020 | 1:54 PM

With most swimming pools shut down for much of the offseason, Hampton coach Morgan Zweygardt was unsure what to expect from her girls team when practices began.

To her pleasant surprise, they’ve made a big splash.

“I had no real expectations for this year,” she said. “I just wanted to get them in and swim. I wasn’t even worried about times or competition. These kids love swimming. To me, it was more important mental health-wise for them to get in because you can’t replicate swimming, and it’s so important to them. I have been really surprised and happy to see how quickly they bounced back into it.”

The Talbots return four WPIAL qualifiers: seniors Catie Kress and Julia Adamczyk, junior Belle Donato and sophomore Rita Khoury.

While the boys are dropping to Class AA because of the enrollment-based realignment, the girls team will remain in Class AAA. Hampton has the third-smallest enrollment among the 31 schools in WPIAL Class AAA swimming, ahead of only Plum and Woodland Hills.

Because the WPIAL isn’t expected to release qualifying times until January — much later than normal — Zweygardt said the swimmers must approach each race with a sense of urgency.

“Nothing is guaranteed this year,” she said. “(I told) all the kids … you can never have an easy day. We have to do our absolute best every single race. This year, every meet counts, every race counts.”

The 200 IM relay team, which placed 15th at last season’s WPIAL Class AAA championship, returns Kress, Adamczyk and Donato while adding Khoury to the quartet.

Kress has placed in the top 20 in the 500 freestyle at the WPIALs each of the past two seasons. Donato reached WPIALs last season in the 100 backstroke and Adamczyk in the 200 freestyle.

Other top swimmers include junior Danielle Sutterlin and sophomore distance freestyler Emma An.

“I’m really excited about Emma,” Zweygardt said. “She is a big one. She had so much fun her freshman year, and she has really committed herself to training, and it shows.”

Junior diver Annelise Craig is back after placing 25th in the WPIAL last season. “She looks great,” Zweygardt said. Craig is joined by a pair of up-and-coming divers, junior Riley Howard and sophomore Kayla Berkebile.

Numerous safety protocols are in place for the swimmers — both boys and girls — to reduce the chance of a covid outbreak. Each team is limited to 18 swimmers and three divers.

At practice, the Talbots start workouts at six socially-distanced points in the pool, using orange cones to separate the pool into sections. There are hooks on the wall around the pool with swimmers’ names on them to hang their masks when they are in the water.

At dual meets, the visiting team will swim in lanes 1-3 and the Talbots in lanes 4-6. When swimmers exit the pool, the visitors go left into the stands and the Talbots go right into their own area to maintain separation.

“The protocols we have in place are really going to minimize any kids crossing paths without masks on,” Zweygardt said. “It’s an incredibly safe environment.”

Kress was unable to swim “for multiple months” during the spring and summer because of covid restrictions, so the former middle-school cross country runner turned to trail running and strength work on land to stay in shape. She eventually was able to participate in a few workouts with the Hampton Dolphins club team at Hampton Community pool.

“I got a couple practices here and there,” she said, “but not nearly as much as I have in the past.”

Still, Kress is encouraged by the energy and camaraderie at early workouts.

“The chemistry is really great this year,” Kress said. “We have a positive outlook for this year, and we’re just going to make the best of it, even with all of the challenges. Our team is looking good and looking strong at practice. I’m looking forward to what is going to happen with everybody on the team.”


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