Youth adds depth to Tallmadge boys swimming team

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

The Tallmadge boys swimming and diving team has no seniors and a ton of freshmen this season.

“Our team is a lot larger than it was last season, too, so we’re going to be able to compete better,” second-year head coach Kaela Long said. “Some of the freshmen will fill in the weak spots that we had last year.”

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The Blue Devils will try to improve on last season when they won just one dual meet. Leading the way will be freshman Drew Vecchio and juniors Nick Archer and Jack Markley, the latter two who qualified for districts last year.

“Drew will swim the breaststroke mostly, but I can see him swimming the 200 IM and maybe some distance events too,” said Long. “He swims year round. He’s been with the Tallmadge Marlins the past few summers.

“Nick will swim the 100 backstroke and the 50 or 100 freestyle. He’s a very dedicated swimmer. He puts a lot of time and effort into swimming and is very receptive to coaching comments. He’s also a very good leader and is the glue that holds the team together. He’s very good with the freshmen.

“Jack will probably swim the 100 butterfly, the 200 IM or the 50 freestyle. He’s receptive and implements coaching criticism. He does his best every practice. He’s one of the leaders on our team, too. He’s proven to be one of the swimmers who, if I ask him to get something done, he makes sure that it’s done exactly that way.”

Two other swimmers who will be key contributors are freshman Bryce Hurley and junior Joe Sabetta.

“Bryce might swim the 100 butterfly and the 50 and 100 freestyles,” said Long. “He’s going to be the swimmer who no one saw coming. The first week-and-a-half of practice he kind of went under the radar. Then we did time trials, and his times were outstanding. He’s kept up to that level through practices. I can definitely see him going very far this season.

“Joe broke his ankle a few months ago. He had surgery, so he hasn’t been able to do much lately when it comes to swimming, and he’s frustrated because of that. But I still think he’s going to have a really good season because he wants it. He’s willing to push through the pain to get the times he’s set for himself. He will probably swim the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.”

According to the coach, the relay events will go well for her team.

“Unlike last year, there are actually enough swimmers on our team to swim those events,” she said. “The boys are very good at pushing each other. The upperclassmen have set some goals for the underclassmen to reach, and the underclassmen are eager to do that.”

Other team members are sophomores Chris Fergus and Elijah Luedke and freshmen Owen Hatch, Ty Liggett, Ty Rasmussen and Tanner Markley, Jack’s brother.

“The team goal is for everyone to drop time throughout the season,” said Long.

Most of the dual meets this season will have a different look because of COVID-19.

“Other than the meets at Kent Roosevelt and Copley, who have their own pools,” Long explained, “dual meets will be done virtually with us swimming at the Kohl Family YMCA in Akron and our opponents swimming wherever they swim at the same time. For instance, when we’re swimming the 100 butterfly, our opponent will be swimming the same event at the same time. And we will match the times virtually.

“It’s going to be strange. We’re kind of just trying to figure it out as we go along. What makes it even more difficult is that we need two officials – one at each pool – instead of one. It’s going to be a very weird season. And there will be no one cheering in the stands, which will be strange too.

Long’s assistant coach is Ali Eads.

Tallmadge is scheduled to open the season with a virtual meet against Suburban League American Conference rival Revere Dec. 2 at 5 p.m.