Coach: Cougars program jelling, getting healthy at right time

[cleeng_content id="561204925" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]SHEPHERDSTOWN – Fresh off a sweep of the Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference championships, Jefferson’s boys and girls swimming programs haven’t seemed to miss a beat, taking consecutive dual meets including one out of state.

But as nice as those victories over James Buchanan in Pennsylvania and later conference rivals Martinsburg, Hedgesville and Spring Mills may have been, Jefferson coach Glenn Edwards is most optimistic about his program’s prospects as some of his veteran swimmers return to health, while their younger teammates who have helped carry the mantle continue improving.

Jefferson freshman Nicholas Mazaleski swims to victory in the 100 freestyle Saturday at Shepherd University.

Jefferson freshman Nicholas Mazaleski swims to victory in the 100 freestyle Saturday at Shepherd University.

On Saturday during a four-way meet against Martinsburg, Hedgesville and Spring Mills, Kaley Hoffman won the 100 backstroke and Mia Holland claimed the 100 and 200 freestyles, helping Edwards shrug off any lingering doubts he may have had about their ability to perform at top-level following early season arm injuries.

“We didn’t know if we’d have them at all this season,” Edwards said. “You never know though with illnesses and injuries what’s going to cut into your lineup. But they’re coming along and we have some depth in the girls, and the boys now.”

With two regular season meets remaining before regionals – scheduled for Feb. 15 at Shepherd University – the Cougars boys’ program has built an unblemished 13-0 record in duals competition, while the girls hold a 12-1 mark. On Saturday, Feb. 8, Jefferson is scheduled to face county-rival Washington and fellow conference member Hampshire during a three-way meet in Shepherdstown.

For the boys, Bryan Wiercioch, Nicholas Mazaleski and Bailey Pitcher continue to swim well, each racking up a pair of victories Feb. 1 in individual competition during the four-way meet. Wiercioch won the 200 and 500 freestyles, while Mazaleski won the 50 and 100 freestyles and Pitcher the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.

The Cougars boys team also secured relay victories in the 200 medley, as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Wiercioch, Mazaleski and Pitcher factored into those collaborative efforts, as did teammates David Orr, Weston Goodell and Justin Sharp.

Edwards said he plans to continue to shuffle his lineup a bit for another week – on both the boys and the girls sides – before settling on a roster of entrees for regionals.

“We’re mixing the pot a little bit to see what’s in the stew and see what comes up,” Edwards said. “This group never ceases to amaze me. The chemistry is really good. The times are so close among the different teammates.

“We’re going to leave all the doors open and look at all the split times from the relays and the individual events and see what comes down,” Edwards added.

As for the girls, in addition to the victories earned by Hoffman and Holland during the meet Feb. 1, Kaelyn Gardner claimed the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyles in individual competition. The Cougars also experienced team success in the 200 medley relay, as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

Gardner, Holland and Hoffman contributed to those relay victories, along with Destiny Hoffman, Kaitlyn Orr and Emma Alquist.

Edwards said he is especially proud of the girls team and what they have achieved.

“In the preseason, the girls team was expected to finish among the middle of the EPAC, at best,” Edwards said. “Then we had two key girls out the first month of year with injuries and we didn’t know a whole lot about these ninth graders. They stepped in and we were in some big meets early in the year.

“Kaelyn Gardner stepped right in as a key swimmer,” Edwards added. “Now we’re getting some of our veterans back and some of the younger kids, who we really can’t call rookies anymore because three-quarters of the season is over, are doing well. They’re starting to blend well.”

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