Sewickley Valley YMCA swimmers cut times, advance to state meet

Sunday, April 9, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Three members of the Sewickley Valley YMCA Sea Dragons swim team advanced to the state meet this season after qualifying at the district championships.

All three swimmers — Amelia Suhayda, Logan Monyok and Luke Monyok — are 12 years old.

“All three had amazing swims at districts and cut a lot of time in their events,” said Paula Kwalick, aquatic coordinator and head swim coach, on the team’s website. “I was not expecting them to drop time, but they managed to squeeze a few tenths here and there in some hard-fought swims.”

The district meet was held March 10-12 at Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

Amelia Suhayda advanced to the state meet in six events: 50-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle, 50 butterfly, 100 butterfly, 100 individual medley and 200 individual medley.

Logan Monyok also had an impressive performance at the district meet, advancing to the state finals in six events: 50-yard butterfly, 100 butterfly, 50 free, 200 free, 100 IM and 200 IM.

Luke Monyok was a state qualifier in the 200-yard breaststroke and also was an alternate in the 50 breast and 100 breast.

“All three surprised me with their performances at districts,” said their coach, Michael Monyok, Logan’s and Luke’s dad. “That’s not to say what they accomplished was completely unexpected as I was cautiously optimistic heading into the meet. I knew they had worked hard all year and were starting to look really good in the water the few days prior to districts.”

Sewickley Valley YMCA was represented by 15 swimmers in a total of 50 individual events at the district meet. The remaining eight were part of relays.

“We had 99 swimmers participate in our program this season. That’s the largest number since covid,” Kwalick said. “Seven of the 99 were high school swimmers and because the high school and Y championships are so close, they did not swim districts.

“Twenty-five of our swimmers are novice (8U). They have their own championship meet and typically do not participate in districts, though we had one, Elle Yesenosky, who was part of the 10-and-under relay.

“Out of the 67 remaining swimmers, 34 competed at the silver championships and 24 qualified for the district meet. That is about a third of the kids who could qualify and double the number we had last season.”

The Sea Dragons swimmers who qualified for the district finals were Ella Brackney, Sofia Castagnaro, Elena Cindrich, Michael Fuener, Jack Hank, Luke Kocic, Harper LaLomia, Gavin Lindemann, Celia Meunier, Molly Millet, Gabriella Molina, Grace Molina, the Monyok brothers, Devyn Mouas, Alexander Moyer, Cali Murawski, Emily Ponzo, Felicity Portoulas, Suhayda, Claire Weinberg, Markus Yancheski, Chase and Elle Yesenosky.

“This was a first district meet for many of our swimmers, and it can be a bit overwhelming,” Kwalick said. “But they rose to the challenge and came away with many personal-best times and trips to the podium.

“We tapered the kids for the district meet and, wow, they cut ridiculous amounts of time. Half a second in a 50-yard event or a second in a 100 would be a lot at their level. They consistently cut that and more in nearly every event.

“While the meet itself was the highlight, 45 swimmers and their families gathered for a delicious team dinner. It was nice to have some time to relax and socialize.”

Swimmers advanced to the district meet by hitting a qualifying time at one of their regular-season dual meets. This year’s district meet had 782 entrants.

Each of the Sea Dragons’ three state qualifiers logged a top-15 finish at the state meet. Amelia’s best results were fifth place in the 50 free and 100 IM. She also placed sixth in the 50 fly and 100 free.

Logan finished 11th in the 200 free and 14th in the 200 IM, while Luke placed 15th in the 200 breast.

“These three excel in the more difficult events, such as the butterfly, 200 IMs or 200 breaststroke,” said Monyok, who volunteers as a YMCA coach.

The state championships took place March 24-26 at the Mylan Aquatic Center in Morgantown, W.Va. This year’s YMCA meet was the largest competition ever held at the pool.

“For all three swimmers, states was more about racing well and worrying less about times since it is difficult to beat your times from only two weeks prior,” Mr. Monyok said. “All three did great in this regard. Watching the races live, you could see they were aware of their positioning during the race and raced hard all the way to the finish.

“This is a hard skill to teach young swimmers because this is the first meet of the season where every swimmer in a heat has a similar time and the races are close. I think all three naturally picked up this skill through the many races at districts and states.”

The Sewickley Valley YMCA competitive swim program is for swimmers ages 6 to 18 and emphasizes stroke development, teamwork, endurance, fun, character development and good sportsmanship.

“Swimming is an individual sport, but it is important to have a good training group to help push you and keep things fun during a long season,” Mr. Monyok said. “I couldn’t imagine a better group of kids.

“I’ve had parents who are teachers say this age group of kids can be difficult to teach, but that has not been my experience as a coach. The kids on the team are all hard working, focused, and most importantly, good teammates.”

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