Quaker Valley swimmers off to strong start, look forward to championship meets

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Sunday, January 22, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Two up and two down.

Both the Quaker Valley boys and girls swim teams opened the season at 2-0, defeating Beaver Falls and Central Valley.

“We’ve had a great start,” QV’s third-year coach John Nemeth said. “The kids are training hard and are in a better place compared to last season, so we are excited to see what they can do at MACs, WPIALs and PIAAs.

“We want to keep training hard over the next couple weeks to set us up well for the championship season, especially WPIALs and PIAAs. Our goal continues to be growing as a team and improving each year, which they are doing. We just want them to show progress and continue enjoying the sport.”

The Quakers are gearing for their first big meet in February, the MAC championships. Diving is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 3 at West Allegheny, followed by swimming at 10 a.m. Feb. 4, also at West A.

“The overall work ethic of the team has improved significantly and it’s a much tougher group in the water,” Nemeth said. “We have more depth on the boys side which gives us more flexibility with the lineup, too.

“It’s been a fun group who have really bought in and I’m amped to see them perform as champs.”

QV’s “leader of the pack” is none other than junior standout Emily Connors, a versatile, hard-working athlete. Connors has had an outstanding high school career thus far and is continuing that trend in 2022-23.

“Emily continues to impress and can do any event for us,” Nemeth said. “She has big goals this season and has worked really hard over the past 12 months. She is one of the top swimmers in Western Pennsylvania and is having an awesome season.

“She’s continued to step up when her team needs her, and she sets the tone for everyone else.”

Connors finished third in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle at last year’s WPIAL finals. She set new team records and advanced to states in both events.

A three-time PIAA medalist, Connors and senior Ella Fuener are the team leaders for the Quaker Valley girls.

“Ella is one of our most experienced swimmers who is working really hard in the water,” Nemeth said. “She has been to WPIALs and PIAAs more than anyone else on the team.”

Other returning state qualifiers for the girls team include sophomores Margaret Getty (200/500 free) and Paige Juliano (500 free).

Fuener’s younger brother, Thomas, also is a sophomore and one of the top athletes on QV’s boys team.

“Thomas had a great first year as a freshman and should take a big jump this year, as well,” Nemeth said. “His training has been excellent over the last couple of months, and he is putting in work that will pay off down the line.”

The younger Fuener sibling said the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle are his best events.

“My goals this season are to swim a sub-1:50 in the 200 freestyle and hopefully break the school record in the 100 butterfly,” he said. “I would like to offer a shout-out to John Nemeth for being a great coach and for helping to foster the growing Quaker Valley swim team.

“Also, a shout-out to the rest of the team, and to my sister Ella for driving me to be faster (in the pool) and to practice.”

Another leading performer for the boys is senior Alex Wagner, who qualified for the PIAA finals last season in the 200 IM.

“My main goal is to make states in both the 200 IM and the 100 freestyle,” Wagner said, “as well as in two relays. I want to drop below a 46 in my 100 free and beat the record on the board.

“I think our teams are hungry for improvement and this will be a good year for both boys and girls side.”

Wagner’s strongest strokes are the 200 IM and 100 free. He advanced to states last year in the 200 IM.

“But I am an all-around swimmer who will swim whatever event my coach puts me in,” Wagner said.

Nemeth agreed with Wagner’s assessment of himself.

“Alex is versatile as always,” Nemeth said. “I’m excited to see what he does his senior year.”

Ryan Steinfurth, a sophomore, advanced to the state meet a year ago in the 100 backstroke event.

“We are excited about the potential on the boys side,” Nemeth said.

Two outstanding freshman prospects in the QV swim program are Alexa Westwood for the girls and Austin Young for the boys.

“Alexa is a workhorse and does whatever we need. She’s such a great addition to the team,” Nemeth said. “Austin is completely new to the sport but has impressed with how quickly he has contributed, especially in the freestyle events.”

The three leading divers on the girls team last year — sophomores Ruby Olliffe and Ruby Krotine and junior Katie Blackmer — are back again in 2022-23.

Olliffe, the WPIAL Class 2A runner-up as a freshman, placed sixth at the state competition a year ago.

“Qualifying three divers for the (WPIAL) meet is beyond impressive,” Nemeth said. “They set the girls team up really well heading into the swimming events.”

The QV girls have placed second and third in the WPIAL team scoring the past two years.

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