Boys’ and girls’ swim and dive teams dominate the Central League…again

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This year, both the girls’ and boys’ swim and dive clinched Central League titles.

By Gavin Merschel, Staff Reporter

This winter, both the boys’ and girls’ swim and dive teams created some fierce waves in the Central League. On Feb. 15, the boys’ won their fifth Central League title in a row, and the girls won the Central League in addition to completing their third undefeated season in a row. Over the past four years, the seniors on each team have been (44-0). The boys are led by senior captain James Hughes, Aaron Li and Miles Whitaker, and the girls are led by senior captains Louise Hay, Caroline Famous, Allison Yuan and Jamie Semmer.

Twenty-nine Conestoga girls’ swimmers qualified for the Central League this year. During the meet, Famous set a record in the 100-meter backstroke and Famous, Yuan, Naomi Furman, and Lily Robinson set a record in the 200-meter medley. Freshmen Lily Robinson and Audrey Laganelli placed in the top three in the freestyle events along with multiple other swimmers completing podium finishes. Semmer and junior Phoebe Hutton led the team in diving. According to Head Coach Robert Kirkby, the girls “totally dominated” the meet. 

For the boys, performances by sophomores Raymond Welgosh, Gary Wang, Stephen Graver, junior Luke Nagel and senior James Hughes earned them a spot in the state championship.

In addition to the boys’ work and dedication at practice at least five days per week, Head Coach Mark Tirone attributes part of their success to the community surrounding the school.

“I think it’s just the depth and interest within the community here. If you look at the programs in the neighboring areas, there’s so many age-group swim clubs, and then on top of that you have the country club leagues in the summer, so kids in this area have a real big interest in swimming, so it just reinforces our program,” Tirone said.

Kirkby, who has been coaching for 31 years, believes the team’s success has been due to the swimmers’ skills.

“We’ve always been lucky to have a lot of very talented swimmers. The difference this year is that there’s no real weakness on the team,” Kirkby said. “We have great divers, all our strokes are represented really well, our sprint is good, our distance freestyle is good.”

Another factor that played a role in the team’s triumphs this season was the bond between the swimmers and divers that has formed over the years.

“Everyone gets along and encourages each other to do better,” Hughes said. “We’re a very close team and all friends at the pool and outside of the pool.”

The girls’ team also agrees, in addition to the encouragement and input from the community at ‘Stoga.

“I think (we have) such an amazing support system,” Semmer said. “All of the coaches, the teammates and even the parents are so involved in the team, and it makes you want to do well for them. They support us every single meet and motivate us to do the best we can, and the feeling of winning and doing really well is amazing after all of our hard work.”

This year, both the Conestoga girls’ and boys’ swim and dive clinched Central League titles.

 While both teams made a splash this season, their success did not come easily. One of the main challenges for the teams is the lack of a pool at Conestoga, leading them to practice at the Upper Main Line YMCA. On top of the added travel time, they only get about an hour in the pool. Therefore, Tirone encourages his swimmers to swim with their club teams in order to get more time in the water, requiring that students swim a minimum of five days per week, either at his practices or at their clubs.

This requirement pushes the swimmers to work even harder in order to reach their goals, making their success a testament to their motivation and dedication.

“It’s awesome (to see the success), especially because we don’t have a pool, so it’s something that’s just really cool for us — that we’re able to accomplish this without having facilities in the school — and we work so hard, and people are swimming five, six, seven days a week,” Semmer said, “so it’s just really awesome to have our hard work pay off.”

This hard work and relentless pursuit of victory does not go unnoticed from the coaches and is clearly visible  on the stat sheet.

“I’m always happy with how the team coalesces because we don’t have our own pool,” Kirkby said, “so sometimes we don’t get to train together as much as some other teams, but I think (the swimmers) have a really good sense of team, and they all have a good time.”

Despite this inconvenience, the both teams remain optimistic about the future. For the boys, the current sophomore class is extremely accomplished, as well as a strong freshman class coming up through the program. As far as next season goes, junior Yash Ray looks forward to taking back some victories they did not quite achieve this year.

“We’re all looking forward to continuing that undefeated streak in the dual meet season,” Ray said. “I think one goal that some of us have been talking about was trying to get our team strong enough to win districts.”


Gavin Merschel can be reached at [email protected]s.