Southern Regional Swim Teams Make Strong Statements During Opening Wins Against Central

Dec 12, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

According to Hannah Skimmons, her teammates on the Southern Regional High School girls swim team are the best group the program’s ever had.

“In my four years, we’ve always had some fast swimmers come in the program,” said the senior after the Rams cruised past Central, 104-66, in the team’s opener on Dec. 7. “I noticed from the first day of the season that this was a special group. Everyone is really determined and motivated, even from the first day of tryouts. We have a lot of depth, power and motivation. I’ve seen that every day for the past month leading up to today, and it was evident in the way we swam this meet.”

Of course, as one of the leaders of the crew, she’s almost expected to say something like that. However, in the case of this year’s squad, Skimmons seems to be spot on with her assessment.

Southern utilized its depth to create separation early – when Skimmons anchored the 200-yard medley relay behind Jacquelyn Kilcommons, Mia Amirr and Kaylyn Iusan to finish in 2:09.99 – and simply poured on the points from there. After the third event, the 200-yard individual medley, the Rams held a six-point lead, 26-20, but it quickly ramped up.

In the 50-yard freestyle, Mya Pierson and Skimmons delivered first- and second-place points, while Jessica Paulillo scored fourth-place points, before Iusan, Pierson and Kady Patterson finished first, second and fourth in the 100-yard butterfly, as the Rams outscored the Golden Eagles, 24-8, to create a 22-point margin. In the 100-yard freestyle, Kilcommons and Veronica Ruoff placed first and third for another 10 points, and the contest was just about over at that point.

After the 200-yard freestyle relay team of Skimmons, Summer Davis, Olivia Auge and Abigail Malandro took first in 1:48.61, followed in third by teammates Jillian Middleton, Nathalie Rodriguez, Gianna Antinora and Brooke Boyd, the Rams had a 30-point lead, which increased to 34 after Kilcommons easily won the 100-yard backstroke with Mohini Jani swiping third. The 400-yard freestyle relay of Phoebe Sprague, Pierson, Boyd and Iusan capped the victory with first-place points in 4:08.67.

But now for the scary part about the Rams’ opener – head coach Bill Entrikin didn’t utilize most of his top swimmers in their best events, so there’s no doubt his group has much more in the tank than it showed against Central. There was at least one other coach from another team in the building trying to get a read on the Rams, after all.

“Our depth is really what’s special about this team,” Entrikin said. “We had none of our top girls swimming in their top events tonight. Most of them who placed top-two in any event tonight might not be the top two in those events a month from now. We might have 9, 10 girls who can swim the fly, and so many of our girls can swim multiple events. Our depth is crazy, and that’s exactly what we like.”

Skimmons said the victory over Central is just the beginning of what the Rams expect to be a special season.

“Everybody on our team is very supportive of each other, and we’re pushing each other every day,” she said. “We’re working really hard, and we expect to keep winning.”

Entrikin has similar expectations.

“We had 52 girls come out for the team, and we had to make a lot of cuts to get to 36,” he said. “And with the 36 girls we have, I say to my assistants every day that this is the fastest group, as a whole, that I’ve seen in 19 years. I’ve been here since the beginning, and top to bottom, this group is the best one I’ve seen.”

As for new head coach Patrick Craig’s boys, their 92-78 opening victory over Central is not necessarily the start of a rebuilding year for the program, but more of a reshaping of the mindset within it.

“At the outset, I saw a bunch of kids who were kind of defeated, a bit down about things,” Craig said following his first victory as the coach. “We wanted these kids to bring the joy back to swimming, and I had to find a way to get them to be a happy-go-lucky team and realize that no matter what happens, they’re champions.”

Senior Tom White, who’s been intricately involved in the struggles of the past couple of seasons, believes the Rams are on a new, brighter path.

“We’re going to have a whole different thing this season,” he said. “Our coaches are really good, and they’re doing things a lot differently so far – a lot more endurance training, and the intensity is a lot different. The attitude is completely different, and we’re going to keep getting better. There’s no coming down after tonight.”

Interestingly, it took the Rams a few events to get moving in that positive direction. Heading into the 100 free, Southern had been on the negative side of the points margin and trailed 44-34 through five events. In the 100 free, Jackson Hughes, Tim English and Cody Snow finished second, third and fourth, respectively, to give the Rams their first positive margin in an event, and they surged from there.

Freshman Kristian Werner pulled off a victory in the 500 free from lane 1, while teammates Russell Hill and Justin Shinn placed third and fourth to score 11 points and cut the deficit to two points, 56-54. In the 200 free relay, the Rams grabbed their first lead of the contest when Greg and Tim English, Logan Schmitt and Hughes took first and Snow, Beck Jaffe, Matt Verbeke – whose fantastic turn following his first lap put his crew in front of Central’s top relay to stay – and Greg Lee swiped second.

Werner, Noah Hanvey and White teamed up to grab nine more points after finishing second, third and fourth in the 100 backstroke, and Aidan McInerney kicked on his motor during the final 15 yards for a come-from-behind thriller to win the 100 breaststroke and lead Austin Widmer and Andrew McGivney, who swiped third and fourth, to an 11-point event. At that point, Southern’s lead was 16 points.

“The depth on our team is fantastic, and it showed later in tonight’s meet,” Craig said. “We have a lot of work to do to make that consistent across the board. We still have to get stronger.

“But the end goal is to climb and see what these kids are made of. We come up with ways every day to push these guys a little bit more, and they keep smiling through it and asking, ‘What’s next?’ Come February, we’re expecting these guys to be way past .500 and making the state tournament.”

— David Biggy

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