Numbers up, enthusiasm abounds for Baldwin swim teams

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Sunday, February 7, 2021 | 11:16 AM


Baldwin swim coach Kim Klinger basks in optimism, in and out of the pool.

“I am constantly proud of how the athletes are performing this season,” Klinger said. “The season started with conditioning outside with no pool usage. The swimmers loved the cardio conditioning and strength training. We had a few weeks in the pool and were looking forward to our season when, unfortunately, the state shut us all down. That was a long dry spell for swimmers who need to put the laps in the pool.

“The team dove right back in on the fourth of January. So far, the swimmers are posting many personal-best times, and with each upcoming meet, the focus is on dropping their times.”

Thanks to the arrival of a host of freshmen, Baldwin’s swim program is thriving despite covid-19 pandemic issues.

“Both the boys and girls numbers increased,” Klinger said. “The freshmen are fierce competitors. The guidance they’re receiving from our upperclassmen will serve them well in their high school careers.

“The boys team also picked up a few cross country runners, and they have been a valuable asset. They bring an energy to the pool that has us laughing at times.”

Baldwin is led by a small group of team leaders consisting of seniors Allison Schroeder, Leah Revo and Dylan Stokes and junior Kevin Weber.

Stokes is looking to secure a spot at the WPIAL Class AAA championships for the second year in a row.

“My season is going very well,” he said. “Although I haven’t reached my goals yet, I’m inching closer and improving as each week goes by. I’m happy with how much I’ve been able to get in the water and practice despite all the restrictions.

“I am grateful for my coaches and the amount of work they are putting in to get through this season while keeping everyone safe. I’m also proud of my teammates for being responsible and staying healthy.”

Stokes advanced to the WPIAL finals last year in two freestyle sprints and was a member of two relay units that also qualified.

“Dylan has worked extremely hard. He’s getting closer to the automatic qualifying time in his events,” Klinger said. “He worked hard last season to make the cuts and had a great WPIAL meet.

“Dylan is self-motivated. He digs down deep and pushes himself through the long hours and endless yards he swims, focusing on the little things that help with his races daily. Over the past few years, he’s learned his success comes from within. He puts everything he has out on the line every race. It’s nice to have an opponent to push you during your race, but Dylan races the clock every time.”

Stokes is a multiple varsity letter winner. He also competed for the golf team at Baldwin and plans to participate in volleyball in the spring.

“And there is not an event that he could not swim,” Klinger said. “He is a well-rounded swimmer. He has a great butterfly and backstroke. This makes him a good individual medley swimmer.”

The boys 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays — consisting of Stokes, Weber, sophomore Nolan Erimias and freshman Evan Stokes — are looking to advance to the Class AAA championships again this season.

“Dylan, Kevin and Nolan were members of last year’s qualifying teams,” Klinger said. “Evan has caught the wave and is pushing himself daily to help the relays make the automatic cut time.”

On the girls side, Abbey Herrle, an athletic diving specialist, has gained a berth in the WPIAL finals for the second consecutive season.

“Abbey has done a fantastic job of learning new dives while being our only diver,” Klinger said. “She also is on the gymnastics team, so she splits time between sports.”

Despite being relatively new to the techniques of diving, Herrle, a junior, said it quickly has become her favorite sport.

“This is my second year diving, but what interested me to start was actually my gymnastics career,” she said. “Diving is new to me, and there’s so many things I can learn. I never thought I would make it as far as I have, but I feel I still have a range of skills that I can improve on.”

Along with Herrle, integral girls team members this season include junior Ava-Jo Russin, senior Leah Revo, sophomore Paige Smaglo and freshman Kameron Locy. Revo also is a gymnast.

“Ava-Jo, or as I call her ‘Roo,’ has been the constant driving force of the girls team this season,” Klinger said. “She and Leah, Paige and Kameron push each other during every practice. The girls have a lot of talent and show it off every meet.”

The Highlanders have tried to deal with the consequences of the pandemic in a positive manner.

“Baldwin swimming had to adjust on how we approached this season,” Klinger said. “We set a health safety plan in motion, and it has worked well for us. This year, we’ve used both ends of the pool to separate the swimmers. This has made the mandatory social distancing easier to implement. It has diminished the social aspect of the team during practice.

“The swimmers, though, are resilient and have found ways to build upon the family atmosphere we foster. We support each other in and out of the pool. Constant words of encouragement during a set or in a race can be heard daily.”

Klinger has been involved in Baldwin swimming in various capacities since 1989. She coached the varsity swimmers until 2004, retired briefly, became an assistant in 2014, and took over as head coach again in 2018-19.

She also is in charge of the swim program at Harrison Middle School.

“I’m looking forward to the success that each (Baldwin athlete) achieves this season,” Klinger said. “When they finish their race and look up at the clock, the smile that crosses their face is what I look forward to seeing.

“It has been a fun season so far, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.”

Klinger is assisted by her son, Kory, who oversaw the cardio conditioning and strength training practices at the start of the season.

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