Girls must replace grads
The Emmaus girls swimming and diving team is coming off one of its better seasons in years.
Last season, the Hornets beat Parkland to complete an 11-0 season and win the East Penn Conference championship. Then they took team gold in districts and went to Bucknell University and put on a good showing in states. Unfortunately, that team was senior-laden and lost a lot of talent, leaving some holes for this year’s squad to patch up.
“When you look at the number of points that we graduated from our district team from last year, it’s a scary number,” said Hornet head coach Tim O’Connor. “It’s a large, large number. To try to do what we did last year is almost sort of disrespectful to the group that graduated, to think that we could do that again and it’s not right to put that expectation on the young team that we have. We only have two girl seniors and not many juniors either, so when we look at upperclassmen we’re thin, but we have really, really good athletes.”
O’Connor takes a no excuses sort of approach with his teams and isn’t anywhere near ready to label this season as a rebuilding year. Instead, he’s excited about how the young swimmers on the team have adapted and how the fewer upperclassmen are taking hold of their leadership roles. He is also looking to make his team more flexible by having swimmers challenge themselves at other events than what they’re used to handling.
Seniors Lexi Shuryn and Olivia Timmins have always been good swimmers, but were somewhat in the shadow of swimmers who were ahead of them in past years. This year is their year to shine and O’Connor believes they’ll grab the opportunity. He also points to junior Kera Reinhard, who as a freshman two seasons ago was voted the Player’s Player as being the girls swimmer who epitomized teamwork and a strong attitude.
The combination of those swimmers and Peyton Rautzhan gives O’Connor a strong unit for relays and in individual events.
“We still have Lexi Shuryn to be a big point-scorer for us and you couple her with junior Peyton Rautzhan, who since her freshman year was always on relays and always did a really good job,” said O’Connor. “Now, she’s pushing herself to be one of those go-to swimmers on the relays and to be a team leader.
“As for Reinhard, I have never had a freshman get that kind of respect from teammates. This year, it suits us well to have her along with Lexi and Peyton and Olivia Timmins on relays. They know what they need to do individually and as a group.”
The team also has a sophomore class that put up some points for the team as freshmen last season and looks to continue the trend. Lauren Sharp has been putting in extra work. O’Connor can also point to Chloe Vlaeminck and Avery King from last year’s freshman class and uses Mya Puentes as an example of someone looking to branch out to other events to help the team. Puentes started her emergence last season in districts when she had to switch to the 200 freestyle from her usual 50 freestyle.
“Mya was primarily a butterfly and 50 freestyle swimmer for us, but she’s gotten to understand that she can help the team by branching out a little, because in districts, those are back-to-back events,” said O’Connor. “She flipped from the 50 free to the 200 free in districts and did very well, so we’re trying to stretch her out into other events.”
Last season, Morgan Belisle came onto the scene as a freshman and qualified for districts. This season, she looks to get back to districts and move up the list of finishers. She’s also got five other divers on the team who can compete and provide depth among divers.
“It was a big thing for us that Morgan Belisle was able to compete at districts,” O’Connor said. “I was really pleased with her development and she looks ready for this year. We have five or six girl divers rostered and I would like to see that transition into three or four who could make it to districts. I think it’s really interesting that we have so many girl divers who work so hard for us and it gives us a lot to like for the future, especially since Morgan is still only a sophomore. That’s tremendous.
“One of the things that we did during the offseason is focus less on a boys team and a girls team and just focus on being one team. We always try to spread out that responsibility and it’s worked out well for everybody and makes the transition easier for the younger kids and makes it really conducive to learn rather than just forcing them to perform and I think that’s been really, really positive and the vibe has been very, very good.”