Hempfield swim teams looking to rebuild roster
By: Sean Meyers
Monday, December 18, 2017 | 7:21 PM
After two years of tremendous success, the Hempfield boys swimming team doesn't have quite the same expectations for this season.
The Spartans, who finished fourth in WPIAL Class AAA in 2015-16 and tied for third last season, graduated a strong senior class that included four All-Americans.
“The last two years, our team was ranked in the top 10 nationally, so we're probably not going to be there at this point,” Hempfield coach Kevin Clougherty said.
Gone are Zane Wilson (Naval Academy), Zack Rulli (Pitt), Alex Hervol (Villanova) and Dan Whirlow (St. Vincent).
“That just gives some of the younger kids a chance to step up,” added Clougherty, now in his 20th season guiding the program.
Among the swimmers he expects to make a splash are Adam Toth and Gavin Mayo, both of whom could rank among the five best competitors in the WPIAL in the 50-yard freestyle.
In the first meet of the season last Thursday, the Spartans defeated Derry, 86-80. In addition to Toth, who won the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, and Mayo, who won the 50 freestyle, other individual boys winners included Todd Wilson (200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Brian Wilson (200 IM), Nolan Steeley (100 butterfly) and Mike Whirlow (500 freestyle).
Additionally, diver Grant Drexler, who learned from scratch last year, could make significant strides in his sophomore.
While Clougherty believes Penn-Trafford is the team to beat in Section 1-AAA, he thinks the Spartans have a good shot at second place, and also could finish in the top five in the WPIAL.
On the girls' side, the Spartans weren't as successful last season, as they finished 15th in the district. However, the team has a chance to improve significantly this campaign.
“The girls are getting stronger year by year. Some of our seniors we think can provide the leadership to help us move to that next level,” Clougherty said.
Among those seniors are sprinter Taylor Dahl and distance swimmer Emily Smith, and freshman Maddy Cisco has impressed.
Against Derry, the girls' team prevailed 88-78. In that meet, Smith captured the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, Cisco prevailed in the 50 freestyle, Francesca Nemetz won the 200 IM, Zoey Wilson took the 100 freestyle, Jessica Hervol won the 500 freestyle, Shannon Geer captured the 100 backstroke and Lexi Katchur finished first in the 100 breaststroke.
Also, diver Amber Shuey returns after establishing the school record in the previous season.
Similar to the boys side, the girls team aims to compete with frontrunner Penn-Trafford. Latrobe and Norwin also should be in the mix for section supremacy.
“We should have one of the better sprint relays in the WPIAL,” Cougherty said. “We're going to have speed this year. We're going to wait and see how everything else plays out.”
With the boys and girls expected to be competitive, and with a bevy of young talent improving daily, Hempfield's outlook has Cougherty feeling optimistic.
“Now, we're just working through the process of restocking the talent and building up,” he said. “We think the future looks bright.”
Sean Meyers is a freelance writer.