Quaker Valley swimmers excited to carry on last season’s success

Sunday, December 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM

The 2020-21 season proved to be a banner year for the Quaker Valley swimming and diving program.

The QV girls team won its second consecutive section title and finished 7-0 overall, breaking several team records in the process.

And coach John Nemeth is looking for matching results in 2021-22.

“We have strong teams, and we are excited to see what they can do,” Nemeth said. “The girls would like to be in (postseason) contention again this year. The boys had a small team last year, but we have far more depth this year and have an opportunity to make a statement.

“As with any season, we lose swimmers and divers, but it’s the next person up and who can make the most of the opportunities they are given. We have a good group and are excited to see what they can do.”

QV’s girls squad finished as the WPIAL runner-up in Class 2A last season, earning gold medals in two relays — the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle — and shattering two school records.

At states, they reeled in bronze medals in the relay competition. The Quakers placed sixth in the Class 2A team standings with 105 points, the best finish among WPIAL teams.

Sophomores Emily Connors, Rena Gilligan and junior Ella Fuener were WPIAL and PIAA contributors last season and are back in 2021-22.

Connors, Gilligan and Fuener are outstanding relayers in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle.

“All three have big goals and want to improve on what they did last year,” Nemeth said. “And Emma Smith is a junior who we think is going to have a good year and step up in some events for the team.”

Connors’ goals for this season are to finish in the top three in her individual events and relays at the WPIAL championship meet and to place in an individual event at states.

“It would be great to place as a top team at WPIALs and hopefully qualify a few relays for states,” she said. “I’m glad this season is going to be somewhat back to normal, and I’m looking forward to what it has to bring. We lost a few key contributors, but we have a strong freshman class that will bring a lot of good swims this year.”

Connors, who has a 3.9 GPA, began her career in the pool at age 7. She also used to dive and compete in track and cross country.

“I decided to dedicate my time and energy to just swimming,” she said. “My best event, I would say, is the 50 free. I also tend to swim equally as well in the 100 free and 100 fly, but the 50 weighs them out by a little bit.”

Connors broke the team record in the 100 butterfly (58.96) last season and swam a leg on the record-setting 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.

Isabel Huang has been a three-year standout and record-setter at QV, specializing in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke, along with the 200 medley relay. However, she is not competing for the Quakers this year as a senior.

Some of the top freshmen on the girls team include Paige Juliano, Margaret Getty, Louisa Webster and Mia Fusco.

“They are incoming freshmen who have an opportunity to contribute from the start,” Nemeth said. “They provide depth we didn’t have last year in certain events.”

Leading divers include freshmen Ruby Oliffe and Ruby Krotine and sophomore Katie Blackmer. Gia Kuyler, another freshman diver, also is hoping to make an impact.

“It’s a nice, strong group who will contribute at every meet,” Nemeth said.

Quaker Valley’s boys squad is led by the junior trio of Alex Wagner, Ashton Ragoowansi and Spencer Wiehe.

“Alex qualified for WPIALs,” Nemeth said, “and we’d like to get Ashton and Spencer qualified as well.”

Connors placed third in the 100 butterfly (58.96) and fifth in the 100 freestyle (53.55) and landed at-large bids to the state meet at Cumberland Valley.

Nemeth also is looking for contributions from freshmen Ryan Steinfurth, Thomas Fuener, sophomore Austin Batina, and others.

QV’s second-year coach promotes team camaraderie and a staunch support system within his program.

“High school is all about building a strong team that challenges and supports each other,” Nemeth said. “It isn’t about the individual, even though swimming and diving can sometimes come across that way. You need athletes to step up and contribute across the board.

“The team is only successful when every individual buys in and puts their trust in each other. That’s our goal this year, to be a selfless team that trains and competes at a high level.”

Under WPIAL guidelines, Quaker Valley provides cooperative sponsorship with Sewickley Academy in swimming and diving.

Along with Ragoowansi, SA athletes practicing and competing with the Quakers are seniors Rebecca Glass and Amanda Kerrish, juniors Kaitlyn Hayden and John Shillingsburg, sophomore Wesley Riddle and freshman Jonathan Cheng.

Glass and Kerrish are the only seniors among the 41 athletes on the QVSA team roster.

Quaker Valley opened the season Dec. 10 in a nonsection meet (for swimmers only) at Northgate.

“For an early meet, we saw some really great swims and we want to keep building on that,” Nemeth said. “Our goal is to train hard and make the most of the early opportunities we have in the water and on the board (diving).

“The season goes fast, so we are focusing on putting in the work and getting the most out of every race and dive opportunity we have.”

Nemeth said the Northgate and North Catholic boys and girls are leading contenders in Class 2A, along with the Hampton, Riverside and Belle Vernon boys and Mt. Pleasant, Elizabeth Forward and Laurel Highlands girls.

QV is a member of Section 2-2A, along with Beaver, Beaver Falls, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Cornell, Hopewell, Montour and Riverside.

The Quakers’ home opener was set for Dec. 16 against Beaver Falls at the Sewickley Valley YMCA.


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