Swimming & Diving: Coach excited about Westerville South's prospects
Westerville South swimming and diving coach CJ Morabito hopes her program has the opportunity to show off its offseason progress and development.
The Wildcats return several key swimmers on the boys and girls teams in addition to adding some talented freshmen.
“It’s been awesome so far,” said Morabito, who is in her third season. “It’s an absolutely phenomenal team this year. The freshmen that have shown up are just a super capable group of kids. There’s a lot to work with over the next four years.”
The start of the season has been delayed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, with all OCC competition postponed until Friday, Dec. 18.
South is scheduled to open an abbreviated regular season Jan. 11 against Marysville.
“It’s a completely different ballgame trying to manage all of the other stuff that’s going on with trying to keep everybody safe through all the communication,” Morabito said. “It’s a very different set of circumstances this year.”
The girls team should be led by junior Emily Ellsworth, who was the program’s lone state qualifier last season. Competing in her first state meet, Ellsworth finished 19th in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 6.42 seconds.
“Emily has had phenomenal training,” Morabito said.
Other key returnees include seniors Inioluwa Oyewusi (individual medley), Maeve Stacey (breast) and Abigail Williams (breast), junior Caroline Bowling (distance freestyle) and sophomores Leanne Ngo (diver) and Gwen Stacey (breast).
Morabito also expects contributions from senior Carissa Schroeder (backstroke), who is an accomplished synchronized swimmer, and freshman Melania Randall (free).
South is now competing in the realigned OCC-Capital Division with Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, Westerville North and Worthington Kilbourne.
A key returnee for the boys team is senior Riley Andrews, who specializes in the distance free events and backstroke.
“I know the restrictions that we’re going to have if we’re able have a season,” Andrews said. “We have to limit the amount of people that go to practice. Another big thing is we can only have dual meets, so one-on-one, which is a big change from last year. … I’m just hoping that we can get meets in, because right now I don’t have a lot of hope that we’ll actually have a season.”
Other key returnees include seniors Jack Kielmeyer (breast) and Dom Schoenherr (sprint free) and sophomore Jack Secrest (back, butterfly), all of whom competed at district last season.
Smith expected to
lead Warhawks girls
Central coach Ron Staab is feeling optimistic but realizes his program faces obstacles with the pandemic.
“This is a once-in-a-coach’s career phenomenon,” said Staab, who is in his sixth season. “It’s uncharted waters for the kids as well as us, but we have the life experiences to help navigate the path for them. For kids who are 14 to 18 years old, our team is doing a phenomenal job in taking care of themselves on the pool deck and coming into the water and coming into the (Westerville) rec center.
“We told them if you want the season to keep going, we have to go by these policies and rules. They’ve done a good job embracing it.”
Junior Kiah Smith is expected to lead the girls team after finishing seventh in the 50 free (23.65) and 14th in the 100 fly (56.92) at the Division I state meet a year ago.
“Kiah is looking like she’s picking up right where she left off,” Staab said.
Also back is senior Ashley Hockstok (free), who joined Smith at state as a member of the 200 free relay with 2020 graduates Macey Swearingen and Sophie Antonetz.
Swearingen was a four-time state qualifier and is swimming at Marshall.
Other key returnees are seniors Lauryn Chapman (IM, breast) and Chloe Stefan-Adams (free, IM),
The Warhawks have moved to the OCC-Ohio, where they join Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westland.
The boys team will be led by senior triplets Evan Radecki (free), Grant Radecki (free) and Luke Radecki (fly, free).
Other key returnees are seniors Luke Burky (distance free), Nick Van Allen (free, back) and Kaden Riley (diver), and Staab also expects freshman Chase Swearingen (IM, fly, free) to contribute right away. He is the brother of Macey Swearingen.
“We’ll figure this out,” Staab said. “We’ve given the kids dry-land workouts to do while they’re home, and for those who can get to a pool if they’re non-club, we’ve given them water workouts. Hopefully we don’t miss too much by being gone, but everybody in the OCC has the same distraction we have, so there’s no excuses.”
Dew takes reins
North’s Rob Dew has moved up from his position as assistant coach to take over for Whitney McClellan, who left after one season.
Dew, who competed at Cincinnati Oak Hills and Ohio University, said his familiarity with the athletes will help during the pandemic.
“It’s definitely been challenging, but the kids have been awesome,” said Dew, who is the athletics director at Brookside Country Club and cross country coach at Blendon Middle School. “They’ve taken everything in stride and are much more resilient than expected.”
The boys team has seven seniors returning led by Hayden Yeager, who placed 19th in the 100 fly (51.63) at the Division I state meet.
He is joined by classmates Paul Buckley, Josh Dewey, Colin Hudnell, Malcom McCown, Taylor Stanford and Sasha Stephens.
Juniors Gabe Charles, Sam Downey, Alex Hendon and Paul Loeser also will figure prominently in the boys scoring.
“We have depth and a strong boys team,” Dew said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what they can do this season.
"We’re strong all-around, but our only weakness might be in the backstroke. We have a strong freshman in Marco Archambault, but Hayden and Gabe can swim in pretty much any event. Colin Hudnell has put in a lot of work in the offseason in the 500 (free) and 200 (free).”
Seniors Allison Bolen and Allie Thompson will lead the girls in the sprint free events, and sophomore Kayla Simashkevich excels in the distance free races. A strong freshman class includes Madelyn Bosler (breast), Annika Colvin (back) and Jayci Kacsandi (fly).
“The strength of the girls team is that we’re really well-rounded,” Dew said. “We’re pretty balanced, but maybe not as deep as the boys. I’m really excited to see how good they can be.”
The Warriors have seven divers in seniors Madelynn Beck and Emma Weisgerber, juniors Delaney Roush, Iliona Thaci and Bonnie Wu, sophomore Alexis Absalom and freshman Connie Wu.
•Coach: Ron Staab, sixth season
•Top athletes: Boys — Luke Burky, Evan Radecki, Grant Radecki, Luke Radecki and Nick Van Allen; Girls — Lauryn Chapman, Kiah Smith and Chloe Stefan-Adams
•Key losses: Boys — Noah Palozzi; Girls — Sophie Antonetz, Macey Swearingen and Lucy West
•2019-20 OCC-Buckeye standings: Boys — Olentangy Liberty (688), Westerville North (315), Olentangy Orange (268), Olentangy (245), Westerville South (175), Westerville Central (173); Girls — Liberty (466), Orange (312), Olentangy (296), Central (295), North (284), South (271)
•2020 postseason: Boys — 10th at sectional, did not score at district; Girls — Fifth at sectional, eighth at district, 28th at state
•Coach: Rob Dew, first season
•Top athletes: Boys — Paul Buckley, Gabe Charles, Josh Dewey, Colin Hudnell, Taylor Sanford and Hayden Yeager; Girls — Allison Bolen, Abigail Bosler, Kayla Simashkevich and Allie Thompson
•Key losses: Boys — None; Girls — Alaina Bernsdorf, Emma Bolen, Christy Harper and Ariana Sanabria
•2020 postseason: Boys — Eighth at sectional, 18th at district, did not score at state; Girls — Seventh at sectional, 14th at district, did not score at state
•Coach: CJ Morabito, third season
•Top athletes: Boys — Riley Andrews, Dom Schoenherr and Jack Secrest; Girls — Caroline Bowling, Emily Ellsworth, Maeve Stacey and Abigail Williams
•Key losses: Boys —Dakota Kivel; Girls — Lauriel Richards
•2020 postseason: Boys — 10th at sectional, did not score at district; Girls — Eighth at sectional, 16th at district, did not score at state