Seniors help Quaker Valley girls swim team capture 4th straight section title

Sunday, February 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Nine seniors were recognized Feb. 16 for their contributions and dedication to the Quaker Valley swim program.

Five girls were lauded: Ella Fuener, Zoey Murawski, Emma Smith, Tia Pethel and Hope Linge.

On the boys team, Alex Wagner, Spencer Wiehe, Ashton Ragoowansi and John Shillingsburg were the honorees.

“The goal for every class is to leave the team better than when they started, and this crew definitely did that,” QV coach John Nemeth said. “They each brought a different perspective and led the team in unique ways. It’s a well-rounded group that bought into what we are doing and set the right example for everyone else on the team.

“They’re just a great group of kids that will be missed next year. They each led in their own way, and we were very lucky to have them as our leaders this year. Our program is far better because of them.”

Led by the senior class, the QV girls team won its fourth consecutive section championship this year with a 7-0 record, took first place at the MAC competition and finished 9-2 overall.

The QV swimmers are gearing for the WPIAL Class 2A finals Thursday and Friday, at Pitt’s Trees Pool, followed by the PIAA finals March 15-16, at Bucknell.

Among the seniors on the girls team, Fuener specializes in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly events, while Murawski’s top events are the 200 free, 500 free and 100 breaststroke.

“I am very grateful to my teammates and coaches,” Fuener said. “Their support and encouragement made me a much more confident swimmer than I was as a freshman.

“In addition to my teammates, my family has been one of the biggest influences on my career. My mom and dad both swam for QVSA when they were in high school, and all my siblings are also swimmers. It has been super fun to be able to swim with my brother, Thomas, the last two years, and I am excited to get to watch my sister, Anna, swim for Quaker Valley next year as a freshman. My family has driven me to countless practices and meets, provided lots of pre-meet snacks, and encouraged me every step of the way.”

Smith’s specialties consist of the 200 IM, 100 back and 100 breast; Pethel’s best are the 50 and 100 free.

Linge, a 100 and 200 freestyler, recently returned from an injury.

Fuener, Murawski and Smith are four-year varsity competitors. Pethel and Linge have competed for three years.

“One of my career highlights would be when I swam butterfly on the 200 medley relay at states last year,” Fuener said. “I’ve always been a freestyler, so I was super skeptical when the coaches decided to switch up the relay lineups. However, that meet ended up being one of the best of my career, and swimming on the medley relay definitely made butterfly much less intimidating.

“My fondest memory would be cheering for my teammates at WPIALs. When you’re up on the blocks at a stressful meet, looking down the lane and seeing your whole team cheering you on is one of the best feelings. Our team has always been extremely positive and supportive, and I will really miss it next year.”

The QV girls zipped past Beaver Falls, Central Valley, Blackhawk, Riverside, Beaver, Hopewell and West Allegheny by an average score of 85-61 in section competition.

“The season has been going well,” Fuener said. “Over the last few years, we’ve really shone at the WPIAL and state meets so I’m super excited to see what we can do this season. On the girls side, we have many swimmers with tons of racing experience as well as a strong freshman class that really helped us hold on to the section title this year.

“Next year, I am planning on going to college to study engineering. I have not chosen a college yet but would love to go somewhere out West (Colorado, Washington, etc.) where there are good mountain biking trails and outdoor activities.”

Quaker Valley’s boys team ended up 3-4 in section action, 4-7 overall and placed fourth at the MAC championships.

Wagner’s focus this season has been on the 200 IM and 100 breast while Wiehe’s specialties are the 200 IM and 100 back. Wagner, a state qualifier in the 200 IM as a junior, took first place in the same event at the MAC competition.

“My senior swim season has been more than I could ask for,” Wagner said. “All my teammates are making it a great environment for me and making it a great last year. My QVHS swim career is one that will stick with me throughout my whole life. From my freshman year, it just felt like I was in the right place doing the right things and my coaches and teammates reassured that every year by making me feel wanted and welcome. My most memorable moment would be states last year. The energy and the team bonding that happened there was unlike anything I had ever experienced.”

Wagner said his parents have been a major influence in his swimming career.

“I can dedicate my swim career to my parents,” he said. “They were the ones who got me into the pool in the first place. They have been so supportive and they’ve pushed me to be the best me I can be.”

Wagner plans to attend either Bowling Green or Jacksonville and study aviation science.

“I want to become a pilot and these schools offer exactly what I want,” he said. “While getting all my ratings to become a pilot, I will get an accelerated master’s degree in aviation management.”

Nemeth praised the efforts of a trio of QV swimmers throughout their varsity careers.

“Alex Wagner and Ella Fuener don’t get enough credit for how much they’ve contributed over the years,” the third-year coach said. “They swim whatever the team needs and have qualified for WPIALs and PIAAs multiple times.

“Emma Smith, too. She’s worked so hard this year and competed at a high level and will be swimming a relay at WPIALs. She has come a long way in the pool and took on a big leadership role over the last couple of years.”

Ragoowansi and Shillingsburg are students at Sewickley Academy who compete with Quaker Valley.

The WPIAL recognizes the Quaker Valley swim program as a cooperative effort between QV and Sewickley Academy. The varsity team trains and competes at the Sewickley Valley YMCA.

For Ragoowansi, his best events are the 50 free, 100 free and 100 breast. Shillingsburg’s consist of the 100 back, 100 breast and 100 fly.

“So far, the QVSA swim season is going very well,” Ragoowansi said. “We are preparing for WPIALs and PIAAs. Over the course of my QVSA swimming career, I’ve really noticed how our boys team has grown in terms of numbers and talent. We continue to improve every year, and I expect that growth to continue after I’m gone. The girls team has been dominant all four years.

“My fondest memories have been qualifying for WPIALs with my brother, Aidan, and friends, Navin and Alex, in my freshman year at a last chance meet, and all the team dinners and bonding experiences, and listening to Ice Spice at practice. My mom has been the biggest influence on my career. She has pushed me to continue swimming and has been supportive through every practice and swim meet.”

Ragoowansi will be attending Dartmouth in the fall and majoring in government.

Fuener and QV’s junior standout Emily Connors, a three-time PIAA medalist, are the team leaders for the girls in 2022-23.

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.

“My season is going well. I’m feeling good going into WPIALs based on how I’ve been performing,” Connors said. “I am expecting some time drops from last year’s WPIALs and some good team relays this year.

“I also hope that states will prove to be a little better than last year, just because I added a little in each event from what I swam at WPIALs.”


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