Led by 5 college recruits, Hempfield swimming optimistic

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021 | 10:22 AM


Hempfield’s swimmers, like so many across the state and country last season, had to deal with continual disruptions and unknowns due to covid-19.

But now, Kevin Clougherty, entering his 22nd season as head coach, feels that those obstacles could lead to his group being mentally tougher as it enters the 2021-22 schedule.

“Last year, the kids we’re amazing,” Clougherty said. “We were obviously facing a massive disruption in what we do, the way we train, the way we compete. And the kids were just so strong.”

Hempfield will have to replace some talented swimmers. A pair of all-state picks on the boys side, Will Falcon and Anthony Peila, graduated in the spring. Leaders on the girls side, Maddy Cisco and Callysta Fontanazza, have also moved on to swim in college.

“With those kids gone — and I know it’s an overused cliche — but it’s next guy up, next girl up,” Clougherty said.

“But we’re excited. We have a pretty strong group. Our guys look like we’re in pretty good shape. Our girls look strong, but our girls are young.”

Pacing the way are five college-bound swimmers.

On the boys side, Jake Dzurica is committed to Saint Vincent and Hunter Cooper to St. Joseph’s in Ohio.

Cooper was part of the 200-yard medley relay team last season that finished third in the WPIAL meet. Dzurica performed well last season in the backstroke, helping the Spartans’ boys team to an eighth-place finish at the district competition.

Emma Martz and Chloe Fontanazza — Callysta’s sister — are both female swimmers who will compete next year at Saint Vincent, and Jordan Crupie will swim at IUP.

Martz is a talented sprinter in the pool, qualifying for the WPIAL meet in the 50-yard freestyle and was part of the girls’ 200-yard medley relay team and 200-yard freestyle group.

Because of the nice amount of talent, the Spartans are optimistic about the season ahead.

“The kids have some pretty strong goals,” Clougherty said. “On the guy’s side, the No. 1 goal is to win the section. That is always the primary goal. And I think there’s a pretty good opportunity. There will be a big challenge coming from Penn-Trafford, but we’ll see how that works out.

“And we have some kids who have some high (individual) goals and are looking to compete at the WPIAL and state meets.”

Clougherty admits that the girls team is thinner in talent and experience than the boys side, but that presents an exciting challenge in itself.

“The top end, especially (Martz) and (Crupie), they have a good opportunity to do well at the WPIAL meet and compete at the state level,” Clougherty said.

“We have a chance to have a number of kids up on the awards podium.”

No matter the results, and through fluctuating times and wins and losses, Clougherty keeps coming back to a core philosophy with his program that he feels can propel his swimmers in and out of the pool.

“We’re trying to teach kids how to be leaders,” he said. “We use the sport as a vehicle. We teach them discipline, the ability to work as a team, be self-reliant. … The sport is just trying to set you up for life, and teach you life lessons.

“We work on the ability to have delayed gratification, which is so absent today. You’ve got to work hard for a long time to be successful. If we can teach those kids those things now, they’re going to move on in life and be successful.”

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