Motivation is easy after coming up short of a goal. Taylor made its mark in the pool last season, and the Yellow Jackets know they can improve, especially after falling just short of having its relay teams fail to qualify for state last season.
The relays are inspired, but Taylor as a whole is confident considering juniors Isabelle Murray and Abby Rapien both return this season after qualifying to state in a pair of individual events.
Murray, who was first team in the Cincinnati Hills League last year, finished fourth at the Division II state meet in 100 butterfly and eighth in 100 backstroke. Rapien, who was second-team All-CHL last year, missed the podium with ninth place at state in the 200 freestyle and 13th in the 500 freestyle.
Taylor coach Steve Meyer said the state experience left Murray and Rapien, “hungry and working even harder.” Murray was “within a second and a half of winning (state) in fly; Abby would like to get back (to state) and improve. I’m sure she was happy (with qualifying), but she wants to be in the top eight and make that podium.”
The Yellow Jackets have two seniors, four juniors and eight freshman. Meyer said the age balance, particularly the young talent, is “exciting and nice to have for the future.”
Also returning to the starting lineup will be senior Sutty Godar, a sprinter and strong leg on the relays that just missed qualifying to state from the district last season. Senior Abby Neyer is another experienced leader. Meyer said Neyer’s a good all-around swimmer that can help in a variety of strokes. Juniors Lydia Wasserbauer and Holly Wanek round out the returning starters. Wasserbauer’s solid across different events, and she qualified to district in the 100 freestyle last year. Wanek, solid in the butterfly and backstroke, adds depth and scoring power.
Murray and Rapien will push for state again, and Meyer said the “big goal is to get one of the relays to the state level; I’d like to get two (to state).”
Oak Hills sophomore Elizabeth Cron returns to the diving board this winter in search of an encore performance following her freshman season in which she finished fifth in the state at the Division I diving competition.
Cron was the first Oak Hills diver to make state since 1992, and she also broke the Greater Miami Conference dive record, as well as the six and 11-dive Oak Hills records.
Oak Hills swimming coach Katie Hunter said Cron has been working more in the deep water pool, and the Highlanders have added a competitive schedule, which should help Cron in an effort to return to state.
In the water, the Highlanders lost their only district qualifier from last season to graduation. Senior Candace Sheehan swims the backstroke and will attempt to make districts for the first time in her career. Senior Jen Peters is a dynamic swimmer who can do a bunch of different strokes. Senior Samantha Savard is a freestyle sprinter with experience. Senior Bonnie LaGrange excels in the 500 freestyle and the breaststroke.
Freshman Sydney Pelzer and Maggie Grote have been impressive early in their high school swimming careers, said Hunter.
Hunter added that she expects several other girls to contribute throughout the season.
“They work really well together,” Hunter said. “They’re a hard-working group. They all started together new as a freshman; they’ve really supported each other and grown as a team and individuals.”
At this point in the season, Hunter is trying to impress on her team that they’ll “get out of it what they put into it.”
Mercy has a big team boiling in the waters of Westwood. And the Bobcats could be in for another run to the state meet.
“At 26 swimmers, this is the largest swim team Mercy has had in recent years,” said fourth-year coach Kim Hogue.
The Bobcats will have to replace last season’s state qualifier, Megan Buse, who graduated. Luckily, Mercy is loaded with returning swimmers. Senior co-captains Amanda Scola, Rosie Knight and Olivia Bley will lead the way. Scola is a three-time district qualifier who specializes in distance freestyle and backstroke. Knight swims backstroke and butterfly, while Bley competes in distance freestyle and backstroke.
Also keep an eye on junior Lauren Buse, sophomore Julia Bley and freshman Katy Elson. Buse was a district qualifier last season and swims breaststroke and individual medley. Elson can swim freestyle, backstroke or butterfly, and Julia was also a district qualifier last season in freestyle and breaststroke.
The Bobcats also got contributions from seniors Bailey Wills, Grace Mazza, Maria Freudiger, Sierra Bellissemo; juniors Maria Busken, Lamia Dixon, Emily Corso; and sophomores Allison Moellinger, Claire Busken and Morgan Cunningham last season.
“We have a very spirited group and a lot of fresh faces this year,” said Hogue. “We’re looking to keep improving and look forward to a fun, productive and fast season.”
The Seton swim team will go as its seniors go. The Saints are led by seven seniors, described by third-year coach Anne Hayhow as “great leaders, hard workers and really good examples of student athletes.”
Swimming in the Girls Greater Catholic League, with many of the state’s perennial powerhouse programs, means the Saints will rely on working together. They don’t have big-time, show-stopping swimmers who bring the rest of the natatorium to a pause when they race. It’s like it always is at Seton, it’s about the team.
The senior leaders are Allie Bihl, Mia Bianco, Mackenzie Dugan, Jessica Hayhow, Sydney Hoffmann, McKenna Moehring and Isabella Timon.
Coach Hayhow said of her seniors, “They’re all involved in multiple extracurricular and service clubs at Seton, as well as being dedicated swimmers.”
The work ethic is also a constant at Seton. This season, Hayhow and her staff have employed some different techniques to have the Saints in the best shape possible.
“We have challenged the girls with dryland and more yardage (training) already this year, and we’ve seen improvements in both the experienced swimmers and in the girls who are new to the sport,” said Hayhow. “The seniors are great examples and teachers to the younger girls.”
Hayhow also said the plan is to work through the season and “hope to build towards qualifying individuals and relays for districts this year.”
Seton will compete in the Best of the West meet on Dec. 10 at Gamble Nippert YMCA.