Spreading their wings

[cleeng_content id=”433865298″ description=”Read it now!” price=”0.49″ t=”article”]Jefferson, Washington swimmers excel during conference championships

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Glenn Edwards has been tinkering with his lineups all season long, and for the most part the Jefferson coach’s choices of who will swim in which events have served the Cougars well.

Add a sweep of both the boys and girls Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference championships on Saturday to the list of accomplishments this year and Jefferson seems to have found its latest recipe for success.

Bryan Wiercioch won the 200 and 500 freestyles and Destiny Hoffman won the 200 individual medley and Kaley Hoffman claimed the 100 butterfly as Jefferson swept the league championships at Shepherd University, setting the stage for a number of compelling races Feb. 15 during the regional meet in Shepherdstown.

County rival Washington, led by Shawn Gee and Derek Carson for the boys and Cameron Payne and Mikaela Payne for the girls, finished second in both meets, followed by Musselman. Martinsburg, Hedgesville and Spring Mills also competed.

In addition to the Hoffmans, the Jefferson girls also earned individual victories from Mia Holland (200 freestyle) and Kaelyn Gardner (500 freestyle), as well as collaborative efforts in the 200 and the 400 freestyle relays.

Wiercioch was assisted on the boys side with individual victories by Nicholas Mazaleski in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and team efforts in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

“Overall we’ve got a lot of depth,” Edwards said. “These kids who are swimming for us now have good chemistry and they support each other and believe in the word ‘team’.” These kids know that sometimes you might move swimmers around to help your team score.

“Maybe your second-best swimmer could move over and win the 200 free against another opponent,” Edwards added. “They know that it’s all about the team.”

Gee swam to victories for the Patriots in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, while Derek Carson won the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley. A Washington relay team consisting of Ian Macleod, Carson, Gee and Jacob Mood also combined to win the 200 medley relay.

Cameron Payne collected the Lady Patriots lone individual victory in the 100 backstroke, while Mikaela Payne (200 and 500 freestyles) and Jill Goben (200 IM and 100 butterfly) added individual seconds.

“This year the boys team has just been on fire,” said fourth-year Washington coach Brian Bauer, who earned boys coach of the year honors in the league. “Shawn’s been our fastest swimmer since he was a freshman. He’s already broken all of his team records for the season, so we’re looking for strong performances from him as well at the regional and state meets.”

Bauer said that Washington’s boys team, led by Gee, Derek Carson and his younger brother, Daniel Carson, is 9-0 in dual meets and on the cusp of sending all three, and hopefully a few relay teams as well, to the state meet later this year in Morgantown.

“We’ve moved Derek from the 500 into the 100 breaststroke and he’s currently ranked 11th in the state in that event, so we’re looking for a good performance from him at the regional meet and the state meet as well.

“Every season our biggest rival is Jefferson and we’re always pushing to be able to compete with them,” Bauer added. “Some of the Jefferson swimmers push some of our swimmers to meet our best times. The boys, especially in being undefeated, are going after Jefferson.”

On the girls side, Washington is 7-2 in dual meets, with losses coming against Musselman and St. Maria Goretti. But there have been steady signs of improvement and Bauer said the Lady Patriots should continue to compete as the season winds down.

“We lost a lot of our veteran seniors last year,” Bauer said. “But Mikaela Payne and her sister, Cameron, they’ve really stepped up as the fastest swimmers and leaders of the team, pushing other people in practice and hitting some good times. Cameron is already ranked in the top-10 in the state in some of her events, so we’re looking for her to place well at regionals.”

A year removed from state champion Keegan Simmons rewriting the Jefferson record books and winning the 200 freestyle title in West Virginia, the Cougars boys program doesn’t appear to have missed a beat. Jefferson is off to a 9-0 mark in dual meets and the strong showing they put forth on Saturday bodes well for their future prospects.

In addition to the individual success enjoyed by the likes of Wiercioch and Mazaleski, the Cougars have depth and field a pair of successful relay teams. Wiercioch and Mazaleski were joined by Bailey Pitcher and Justin Sharp to win the 200 freestyle relay on Saturday, while Weston Goodell, David Orr were joined by Wiercioch and Mazaleski to win the league title in the 400 freestyle relay.

“Our depth really helps as even our ‘B’ relays are in there scoring points against other teams’ ‘A’ teams,” Edwards said. “So even the younger kids that are right behind the first-string are biting at the bit to move up and get their turn at bat, so to speak.”

As for the girls, Jefferson is 8-1 in dual meets, following its lone defeat by St. Maria Goretti. Edwards is also high on their prospects to advance during the coming weeks.

“We’ve got a lot of swimmers who have been contributing on a regular basis,” Edwards said, who nabbed girls coach of the year honors. “Destiny Hoffman since the beginning of the year has held us together. Kaley Hoffman is coming back from injury and she’s starting to look like her old self.

“Mia Holland was one of our outstanding swimmers last year and she’s coming back from and injury, too,” Edwards added. “And we’ve had an up-and-coming freshman Kaelyn Gardner come out of the woodwork and she’s probably one of the top three or four swimmers in this program.”


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