Led by 2 relay titles, Quaker Valley girls swim to 2nd at WPIAL championship meet

Monday, March 15, 2021 | 1:03 PM

In his first year at the helm of the Quaker Valley swimming team, John Nemeth led the girls to a second-place finish at the WPIAL Class AA championships March 6.

The Quakers finished with 199 team points, 55 points behind champion Northgate. They also earned gold medal finishes in both the 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.

“We were ecstatic about the way we performed, and they all stepped up,” Nemeth said. “It was a goofy year so we didn’t know how it was going to play out. We knew we had a talented group of girls at the meet, and they stepped up and raced hard across the board. I think that’s the highest finish for us on the girls side in a long while. So, we were really excited about that.”

The 200-yard medley relay team of Isabel Huang, Rena Gilligan, Emily Connors and Ella Fuener started the meet strong and swam a 1 minute, 48.75 seconds, which was under a second faster than the second-place finisher. Nemeth said their finish was a big momentum boost for the rest of the meet.

With two freshmen, a junior and a sophomore in the race, the relay also broke the Quaker Valley school record for the event.

“We knew we wanted to get started quickly and just set the tone for the meet and they stepped up and broke the school record by almost three seconds which was awesome,” Nemeth said. “It set the tone and we were able to set the tone off of that.”

The Quakers also won the last event of the meet. The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Connors, senior Halle Wagner, Fuener and Huang cut nearly seven seconds off their seed time to capture WPIAL gold and set a new school record.

“We swam that relay in January against Moon, but we didn’t really swim it again so we knew that there was going to be potential to drop our time but not seven seconds,” Nemeth said. “I think it was just everybody kind of stepping up and fulfilling their potential and absolutely everybody did that. It was almost a two-second drop for every swimmer on that relay team which was awesome.”

Quaker Valley also had some impressive individual performances. After winning WPIAL gold medals last season in the 200-yard IM and 100-yard backstroke, Huang finished as runner-up in both events this season.

She cut two seconds off her seed time in the 200 IM to finish in 2:05.08. First-place finisher Ella Menear from Mapletown cut more than seven seconds.

In the 100 backstroke, Menear again slipped by Huang to capture WPIAL gold with a time of 54.58, just over a second faster than Huang (55.92).

“Those were lifetime best swims for her by a longshot so you have to be happy with the swims,” Nemeth said. “The girl she swam against just had a fantastic meet as well, and you’ll see that at meets like the WPIALs where swimmers just step up and drop a ton of time. She raced hard and it was just a tough competitor that she went up against.”

Connors also stepped up for the Quakers. Along with producing top times in the relay events, she placed third in the 100 butterfly (58.96), coming in just over a second slower than first-place finisher Brittney Carmazzi from North Catholic. She also placed fifth in the 100 freestyle (53.55).

Nemeth said the freshman rose to the occasion.

“She did and that can go either way for freshmen going to WPIALs,” Nemeth said. “I think the one positive with WPIALs this year is that it was a lower-key meet and it wasn’t like a normal year where it was kind of intense and almost intimidating for a lot of freshmen that go into a meet like that. So I think that was a benefit. But Emily has stepped up and just handled that really well, and we were excited with the way she raced and the way she performed at a big meet like that.”

The two QV champion relays earned an automatic bid to the PIAA championship meet March 19, at Cumberland Valley. Huang (200 IM, 100 back) and Connors (100 fly, 100 free) earned at-large bids to the state meet.

The Quakers put together a solid season this year and an even better performance at the WPIAL championships. They are a young team and have even more swimmers coming up through the system. So, Nemeth and his staff are excited about the future.

“Especially if we can get a normal training routine and just get that group training together on a consistent basis and build that team camaraderie and just kind of work in supporting each other,” Nemeth said. “That’s what high school swimming is all about and we’re excited about it.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


More High School Sports

Willochell looks to join impressive list
Trib HSSN WPIAL wrestling rankings for Feb. 28, 2024
A-K Valley high school basketball playoff preview capsules for Feb. 28, 2024
Westmoreland high school basketball playoff preview capsules for Feb. 28, 2024
Worthy challenger awaits No. 1 Greensburg Central Catholic in WPIAL finals