Hempfield swim relays get in the fast lane

Sunday, February 3, 2019 | 1:03 PM

The boys and girls sprint groups are gaining momentum in the Hempfield swimming and diving program.

The girls, consisting of one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen, are ranked third in the 200-yard freestyle relay and fourth in the 400-yard freestyle relay in WPIAL Class AAA.

Relay members include junior Francesca Nemetz, sophomore Maddy Cisco and freshmen Emma Martz and Jordan Crupie.

“They all grew up together in the same age group program in the Hempfield Aqua Club, and they have a chance to medal at the state meet,” Hempfield coach Kevin Clougherty said. “And they’ll all be back next year.

“The girls have a couple of goals in front of them. They can knock down both team freestyle relay records (200, 400), finish in the top six at the WPIAL championships and move on and finish in the top eight at the state meet. That’s a heavy set of goals, but they have an opportunity to meet each challenge. These kids feed off each other and support each other.”

Nemetz agreed, saying the girls enjoy a unique bond in and out of the pool.

“I am so proud of the girls. We have been great friends since we started swimming,” Nemetz said. “I hope the girls can be competitive at the WPIAL meet. We have worked really hard and have definitely impressed ourselves.

“My season has been going very well. I’ve surprised myself at what I’ve been able to accomplish. And I am so proud of my teammates. There is a great depth to the teams this year that has worked to our advantage.”

The boys sprint relay members — the “young guns” as Clougherty calls them — consist of sophomores Will Falcon, Anthony Piela and Brian Wilson, who team up with senior standout Gavin Mayo. They are ranked fourth in the WPIAL in the sprint relays.

“The guys have an opportunity to finish in the top three or four in the WPIAL, and finish somewhere in the top 10-to-12 at the state meet,” Clougherty said. “The fact that these guys are so young and have an opportunity to work with someone as technique-driven as Gavin bodes well for the present, as well as the future.

“Both our guys and girls sprint groups are combining to form one of the best speed groups in the WPIAL.”

Falcon said the Spartans are fortunate to receive invaluable guidance provided by Mayo, a North Carolina recruit.

“All the boys work really hard in practice,” Falcon said. “Gavin is obviously an amazing sprinter and the leader of this relay team. Brian, Anthony and I have all been swimming the 50 this season, trying to make that relay team. Brian’s older brother Todd is also in the mix. But anything can happen; there are still a couple of meets left.

“The three sprint sophomores have been swimming together since club, and push each other during coach’s brutal practices. We are good friends and I love swimming with those guys. We always just want to do the best that we can and put down the best times possible.”

Falcon has battled an illness but is striving to make a strong showing at the WPIAL finals.

“I was sick during the Penn-Trafford and Greensburg meet, which was extremely frustrating,” Falcon said. “But I’ve been able to put down a couple of times that I’ve been pretty happy with. I’ve been able to qualify (for WPIALs) in the back and in diving. Hopefully, I can get another event before the season ends.”

Mayo, a three-sport athlete, set a meet record at the recent Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association championships with a time 21.29 seconds in the 50 freestyle.

“Gavin is probably the best pure sprinter we’ve seen at Hempfield,” Cloughety said. “His raw speed and attention to detail is what sets him apart.”

Mayo eclipsed the previous WCCA record of 21.38 that was established in 2012.

“The county meet was a lot of fun. We had an illness with one of our guys for the 200-yard medley relay,” Mayo said. “Will Falcon stepped in and swam great. He helped lead us to victory.

“We are looking forward to our 200-yard medley and freestyle relays swimming our best times at the WPIAL championship meet.”

Prior to the 2018-19 season, Mayo, a two-time PIAA qualifier, was selected to the All-America prep team by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association of America, thanks to his 50 freestyle time.

Mayo was the WPIAL runner-up in the 50 freestyle last year with a 20.73. He also placed fourth at the PIAA finals in 20.81.

“We’re only about a month away from the WPIAL meet, so I’m focusing a lot on the small, technique-oriented things while still training hard and getting ready to taper,” Mayo said. “I’m also working on my backstroke a lot more.”

Cisco, Martz, Crupie and Nemetz shattered the WCCA girls record (1:40.11) in the 200 freestyle relay event, set in 2017 by Penn-Trafford, with a time of 1:38.80.

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.


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