Swimmers aim for WV state meet in regionals at MU’s natatorium Saturday
HUNTINGTON - Swimmers are well known for saying their primary competitor is their own performance times, but not one of them participating in Saturday’s Region IV meet at Marshall University isn’t wondering what it would be like to make the state meet.
The swimmers will take to the Fitch Natatorium pool at 11 a.m. in quest of qualifying for the state meet Feb. 14-15 in Morgantown. The top three finishers in each event in each region qualify, as do the next top 12 finishers from throughout the state. The top two relay teams in each region will be joined by the next 10 fastest relay teams from the state’s four regions.
George Washington won the boys and girls titles in the Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament last week. Patriots coach Kaycee Wheeler said immediately after that victory she and assistant coach Phylicia Pilewski would begin plotting strategy for the regional.
“We analyze the meet and spread the kids around to give us the best chance in all events as possible,” Wheeler said. “We do data analysis and try to put the right kids in the right places. It’s all the kids, though. The kids’ talent is it.”
One of the premier swimmers in Region IV is Huntington High’s Henry Sheils, a freshman who won the 100-yard butterfly regional championship in 55.44 seconds, nearly 3.5 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, Kolton Hoffman of Capital. Sheils also won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:00.20, to edge Hurricane’s J.R. Newman by 0.43 seconds.
“I’m really excited,” Sheils said of competing in the regionals. “I think we can place really high.”
Sheils’ teammates Cameron Hall, Andy Legg, Isaac Sutherland and Garrett Cyfers all scored in the 100-yard freestyle in the MSAC meet, with Hall finishing second in 55.65, just less than 6.5 seconds behind champion David Snider of Parkersburg South.
John Craig gives the Highlanders a contender in the 500-yard freestyle, along with teammates Gus Meade, Austin O’Malley and Carter Matthews, all of whom scored in the MSAC finals. Nathan Edmonds and Khaled El-Shazly give HHS a strong duo in the 100-yard backstroke.
GW’s Ian Adler won regional titles in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley. He said his team is capable of winning the region and the state, but expects a strong challenge in both meets.
“We really want to win them this year,” Adler said. “It’s going to be tough. We have a shot, but we can do it.”
On the girls side, Cabell Midland’s Brooke Blom was the MSAC Swimmer of the Year. The speedy sophomore is favored in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard butterfly.
Huntington High swimmer Ana Carr said she has big expectations for the Highlanders.
“I think both teams can do really well in the regionals,” Carr said. “Looking at the times leading up to them, I think we’ll do well, but it can be hit or miss. We’ve practiced really hard.”