Lainey McDaniels might be a freshman, but she is certainly not swimming like one. She keeps turning in great times and is improving every week.
Her latest conquests were the 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle in a meet Jan. 10 as Cuyahoga Falls lost 123-54 to powerful Suburban League National Conference rival Wadsworth at The Natatorium in Cuyahoga Falls. The Black Tigers fell to 0-4 on the season.
McDaniels won both events, with a time of 27.79 seconds in the 50 freestyle and 1:02.32 in the 100 freestyle.
"For someone who’s only freshman and swimming at the level she’s swimming and competing is pretty amazing," Black Tigers head coach Richard Vaughn said. "It’s one thing to do it in practice, but it’s another thing to do it when swimming against people who are two and three years older than she is.
"Lainey came from our Tiger Sharks program. She’s actually more of a butterflier than a freestyler, but some shoulder injuries have kept her out of the butterfly. She’s always trying to find out how she can get better."
Overall, Vaughn was pleased with his team’s performance.
"Wadsworth has us on numbers, but the girls never were intimidated, never were shrugging their shoulders and had their head down," he said. "We knew that Lainey and a couple of the other girls were going to give Wadsworth a pretty good run for their money in some of the events. The girls fought hard."
Junior Lucy Ulbricht won the one-meter diving with a score of 145.8.
"Lucy is our diving core," said Vaughn. "She really worked hard in the offseason to improve some of her more difficult dives, and she’s able to perform well. I’m really happy to see where her season might end up."
Ulbricht and McDaniels teamed with senior Bryce Matolyak and sophomore Olivia Smith to capture the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 4:19.72.
"This event is something that we’ve kind of played around with in terms of the order of the swimmers," Vaughn said. "Bryce isn’t normally our first one out, but she was this time. She has a really good reaction time off the block for a relay. We put Lucy and Olivia in the middle.
"In a relay, just switching up the order can change some things. Bryce got the lead pretty quickly. Wadsworth battled back in the middle, but we knew that Lainey could bring it home for us, and that’s exactly what she did."
Matolyak finished second in the 100 breaststroke with a clocking of 1:20.29.
"Bryce is very coachable," Vaughn said. "She worked really hard in the offseason to develop her strength and endurance. She’s also our senior leader."
The Cuyahoga Falls boys team fell 136-45 to the Grizzlies, dropping to 0-4 on the season.
"Competing against a team as large as Wadsworth can be difficult and intimidating when you have one person in an event and they have three," said Vaughn, also the boys head coach. "But the boys never looked at it that way.
"We put some of our JV kids in some of the events, and they were happy to do it. They didn’t get discouraged at all and were excited to swim and compete, which is always something that you want to see."
Senior Dylan Holmes won the 50 freestyle with a time of 23.38 and finished second in the 100 freestyle with a time of 52.57.
"Dylan has been sick, so we weren’t really sure how he was going to do," the coach said. "But the true competitor that he is, he still swam pretty well. Missing a couple days of practice, like he did, can set you off a little, so he responded pretty well.
"He continues to improve each week and asks how he can do better. He’s also taken some of the younger kids under his wing and shown them different things. He’s really being that strong leader that we’ve been missing the last couple years."
Senior Tyler Johnson finished second in the one-meter diving with 154.5 points. Vann Strausser was third with 135.3 points.
"Diving has always been something that we’ve been able to count on for points, at least since I’ve been the coach," said Vaughn. "Our divers show up and improve each week. Van and Tyler both worked hard in the offseason. It’s always good to see the amount of effort that’s put in."
Senior Zach Langbein placed third in both the 200 freestyle with a time of 2:11.21 and the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:10.15.
"Zach is one of our seniors who we’ve counted on to really step forward," Vaughn said. "He’s had some injuries, but if we need him to swim any event, he’ll do it to help the team.
"He’s really our lone butterflier, and we really need him to be in that spot to fill that event, and it’s really become his thing. He’s much more of a middle distance freestyler. He’s a piece of the puzzle we need to have."
Both the boys and girls teams are scheduled to travel to National Conference rival Hudson Friday at 5:30 p.m.
The Black Tigers are scheduled to compete in the Barberton Invitational at the University of Akron’s Ocasek Natatorium Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Cuyahoga Falls is set to travel to National Conference foe Nordonia Jan. 24 at 6 p.m.