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DLN girls swimming previews: Local teams looking strong again

Chester County high school girls swimming teams did well on a statewide basis last winter, as a trio of local teams finished among the top 15 squads at the PIAA 3A girls’ swimming state championships last winter – Conestoga (second place), West Chester Henderson (fifth) and Downingtown East (13th).
Here’s a look at the local high school girls swimming teams as they begin the 2022-23 season:
Conestoga: “Our team’s strength continues to be depth at every stroke,” said Pioneer girls head coach Rob Kirkby. “We have a dedicated group of talented swimmers returning from our Central League and District 1 3A championship team.”
One of the Pioneers’ key returnees is senior Lily Robinson, who finished fifth in the girls 50 free and eighth in the girls 100 free at States, placed third in both events at Districts, posted an automatic All-American time in 50 free and was part of 400 free relay that placed third at States and 200 medley relay that was seventh. Another key Pioneer is senior Naomi Furman, who finished third in the 100 breast and seventh in the 200 IM at States, was District 1 champion in 100 breast. (2:06.25), and was part of 400 free relay that placed third at States and 200 medley relay that finished seventh at States.
Other key swimmers for Conestoga include senior Audrey Laganelli (200 free and 100 free, junior Mackenzie Nagel (500 free) and two divers, sophomore Avery Hillier and junior Grace Gallagher, who finished third and fifth at the state meet last winter.
West Chester Henderson: Although the Warriors lost a trio of top swimmers last spring to graduation — Krista Marlin, Katie Simpson and Rylee Kelly – they still return a solid corps this season, led by senior Shannon Gamble (free, IM, breaststroke) and junior Natalie Krauss (free, fly, IM).
Other returnees for Henderson include sophomores Meghan Denney (free, breaststroke) and Gabrielle Daltry (fly, back), juniors MaryKate Stepchuk (breaststroke, IM, free) and Danielle Hana-Hung (IM, breaststroke) and seniors Lauren Cotellesse (backstroke, free) and Hannah Fielding (diving). Another Henderson swimmer to watch is sophomore Paige Fisher (breaststroke, free, IM).
Henderson head coach Jeff Bott said, “We’re looking forward to watching this group develop over the course of the season. This team has some of the necessary experience, talent, and depth but again this is always something to continually assess. Overall, we are a younger group this year and with that said it’s always exciting to see which swimmers and divers will improve and do their best for the team.”
Downingtown East: The Cougars are led by the 2021-22 Daily Local News Girls Swimmer of the Year, senior Alexa Fulton, who was Girls Swimmer of the Meet at the PIAA 3A state championships for each of the past two winters.
Fulton finished first in the 50 free at the PIAA 3A state championships last winter for the second year in a row, this time in a meet record 22.66. She also won the gold medal in the girls 100 free at States with a personal-best clocking of 49.04.
The Cougars have a couple of other key returning 12th-graders in Victoria Maki (freestyle, backstroke) and Cady Kiebort (fly, freestyle), both of who received second team Daily Local News All-Area swimming honors last winter. Two other key returnees are juniors Finley Mulhern (breaststroke), and Reya Petrick (backstroke, freestyle).
Other Cougar swimmers to watch are sophomore Sydney Greene (freestyle), freshman Hayley Heckler (freestyle) and freshman Lucille Obenski (backstroke).
“Our biggest strength is our returning swimmers and our strong freshman class,” said Downingtown East girls swimming coach Sean Wyatt. “We added six new strong additions to our team and we did not have any seniors last year, so we have a full return of our veteran swimmers, led by our senior trio of Alexa Fulton, Victoria Maki and Cady Kiebort.”
Avon Grove: Key returnees for the Red Devils are sophomore Kaitlyn Burk, a district and state qualifier, whose key events are 200IM, 500 free, 100 fly and 100 breast; and a couple of juniors who were district qualifiers last winter, Lily Perrin (key events back and fly) and Ava Pfaff (all frees and fly). Two freshmen to watch are Anna Hammerschmidt (breast, IM, sprint free) and Cailin Maley (IM, 200 and 500 free, breast).
Coach Kelly Burk said, “Our team this year with the addition of Anna and Cailin is very versatile with our veterans, Kaitlyn, Lily and Ava. We hope to qualify several relays to Districts as well as more individual qualifiers.”
Bishop Shanahan: The Eagles have a couple of key returning swimmers in senior Kerry Stewart (100 back, 50 free, 200 IM), who has qualified for Districts each of the last three years, and junior Julia Taylor (100 back, 200 IM, 200 free), who like Stewart is looking forward to advancing to Districts and States. Other Eagles to watch include sophomore Katherine Kolimago (100 breast), senior Sylve Lynch (100 fly, 50 free), junior Lauren Ruggeri (100 fly, 50 free) and junior Isabelle Sawicki (50 free, 100 free, 500 free).
Coatesville: The Red Raiders have a new coach in Dustin Gibb, who used to swim for Coatesville and LaSalle University. One Coatesville swimmer who made her mark at Districts last winter was Macey Speakman, who finished 12th in the 100 breast at the PIAA District 1 3A swim championships, posting a time of 1:07.40. Speakman, a junior captain this season, received Daily Local News all-area honorable mention last winter and her main events are 100 breast and 100 free. Two other Red Raiders to watch are freshman Sarah McGann (100 fly, 200 free, 500 free) and junior captain Anna Hillman (50 free, 100 free).

Downingtown West: The Whippets will be led by seniors Sydney Martin (100 and 200 backstroke), Chayse Nunciato (100 breaststroke), Callie Ritter (100 fly and free) and Anya Zebluim (100 breast). Junior Caroline Cusack and Leah Lacovara have posted good times in the 50 and 100 free as well as 100 back and are focusing on qualifying for districts and states. Returning sophomores Cooper Jones and Abby Harlan, both IMers, are also looking to make District cuts in, respectively, the 100 and 200 free and the 100 fly.
Whippets coach Stacy Vansant said, “Our swimmers are a talented group with diverse strengths and a willingness to train hard to achieve both personal and team goals.”

Great Valley: The Patriots have a new swim head coach in Ashlyn Marabella, and she is assisted by Alex Venarchik. One key returning swimmer for Great Valley is junior Molly Foltz, who finished 25th in the girls 500 free at the PIAA District 1 3A championships last winter, also placing 37th in the 200 free at Districts. The Patriots have some seniors they will be relying on — Nicole Garcia (100 breast, 50 free, 100 free), Zena Ibrahim, Iris Jung, Caroline Oswald, Katie Starke (50 free, 100 breast) and Ayla Steinberg.
“We have a young team and new coaches, in addition, we have a lot of newer swimmers,” said Marabella. “This year we are building our foundational skills and our team community. Both myself and Coach Venarchik have been so impressed with the positivity and willingness to help each other that this team has shown so this early in the season.”

Kennett: Key returnees for the Blue Demons include junior Julia Banker (distance free) and junior Maddie Skrypzak (butterfly). Another swimmer to watch is freshman Alexandra Scime.
“She (Scime) is exceptional in all events, specifically distance free,” said Kennett head coach Cindy Millison. “We have a couple of athletes coming off of the injured list last year who are eager to make up for lost time.”
Oxford: The Hornets are a young squad and feature several promising freshmen in Claire Livingston, Grace McDermott and Hope McDermott. “We do have a few new freshman girls who are strong in the water,” said Oxford head coach Chrissy Reinard. “We have increased our team numbers this season. We are an even mix of non-club and club swimmers with many who are new to the sport.
“The goal for the team is for each swimmer to become stronger and improve with each practice and meet. We are so excited to have so many new faces join us in the water. We look forward to seeing where this new journey takes us.”
Unionville: The Longhorns will be led by junior All-American Izzy Iwasyk, who finished third in the 50 free at States, and set the District 1 record time in the 50 free, placing second. She was fifth in 100 free at States, and placed fourth at Districts, and set school records in both 200 IM and 50 free. Iwasyk was All-District and All-State in both 50 free and 100 free, and was a member of 400 free relay that placed 15th at States.
“We’re looking forward to a good season,” said Unionville coach Mike Mangan. “We have our All-American, Izzy Iwasyk, and the other members of our state qualifying relay teams – junior Lauren Dobie, senior Delaney Harlan and sophomore Amelia Miller. We have benefited from our depth with solid swimmers in every event and are looking to continue that this year.”
Iwasyk’s main events are the 50 free and 100 free, Harlan’s is the breaststroke, while Dobie and Miller are fine freestyle swimmers.
West Chester East: The Vikings are led by a trio of returning swimmers in junior Taiylor Tegler (IM, breaststroke), junior Samantha Heiland (freestyle, backstroke) and junior Sarah Zeminski (freestyle, backstroke). Other swimmers to watch include sophomore Caelan Ladd (IM, breaststroke) and freshman Grace Herlihy (freestyle, IM, breaststroke).
Coach Bethann Carozza said, “When we combine our existing team members with our new additions, we will have some nice depth and will make our competitive meet season very interesting.”

Villa Maria Academy: The Hurricanes finished third at the PIAA District 1 2A girls championships last winter, and while some of their top performances at Districts were by seniors, they had a couple of freshmen, Keriann Collison and Ainsley Ingram, making their mark there – both received Daily Local News all-area honorable mention and hopefully should contribute to the Villa Maria effort this winter. Collison finished third in the girls 100 fly and fifth in the girls 100 free, while Ingram placed ninth in the girls 500 free and 10th in the girls 100 back. Also last winter at Districts, sophomore Brinley Beck and junior Riley Mulhern finished ninth and 10th, respectively, in the girls 500 free.

West Chester Rustin: The Golden Knights have several key returning swimmers. Senior Flynn Truskett finished fifth in the girls 100 fly (57.41) and placed seventh in the girls 200 IM (2:09.12) at Districts last winter, and finished in the A final at States. She is considered a consistent, well-rounded swimmer and her main events are the 200 IM, 100 fly and 100 back.

Senior Lily Turco was a States qualifier last winter and finished in finals for both of her events at States last year. Her main events are the 200 IM, 100 fly and 100 breast.

Rustin head coach Kiera Callahan said, “Lily had a ‘scratch in’ entry to States in the 100 breast last year, and she fought her way to swim in finals – this girl has grit.”

Sophomore Carly Chapman  unexpectedly qualified for Districts last winter in the 100 back, despite an injury at the beginning of last season. Her main events are the 100 back, 200 IM, 50 free and 100 free.

“We are very excited to see what Carly is able to accomplish with a full season under her belt,” said Callahan.

Sophomore Leah Hilt was a freshman sprinter last winter who came together at the very end of last season.Her main events are the 50 free and 100 free.

“She is emerging as a leader in and out of the pool, it will be fun to see her growth in both areas,” said Callahan.

Sophomore diver Ellie Smith made Districts last season as a freshman.

Another swimmer to watch is sophomore Sloane Reilly, who attended Academy of Notre Dame as a freshman. Her main event is the 100 breast. Freshman Lily Greenwood also bears watching.

Callahan said, “As I am starting my second year with the team, I am learning the strengths of the group a lot quicker this year than I did last year. I am glad that we had a young team last year, and a lot of that talent stayed within the team. Team grit and learning what it means to make an individual sport feel more team-based in high school is super important – and the athletes seem to be catching on to that mentality and carrying it from the end of last year into the beginning of this year. Keeping high spirit and team pride is what makes high school swimming what it is, and can lead to strong outcomes across the board. I am excited to see what is in store for the season.”

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