After challenging off-season, Stow swimming looking for big year
The 2020 Division I district championship was the greatest meet in the history of Stow-Munroe Falls boys swimming and diving.
Finishing sixth in the district team race and rewriting eight school records, the Bulldog boys sent four swimmers to the state meet.
It was perfect cap to an excellent season for the Bulldogs, which saw the Stow boys go 8-1 in dual meets (6-1 in the Suburban League National Conference) and the girls go 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the conference.
The best part for Stow coach Ryan Miller: All the state qualifiers are back.
"To be honest, it came as no shock," Miller said of the team's success. "We were optimistic for the season last year. The overall success is right on par with what we wanted.
"I think a key component here is we did not lose anybody that placed in the top 12 at districts," Miller added. "When you look at the elite level, we haven’t lost anyone. Our plan is to simply move up.
While the Stow girls didn't have quite the postseason their male counterparts did, Miller believes they can have an excellent season.
"The depth of the team is the strength for sure," Miller said. "I think that, with everything going on, these girls have done a great job finessing some of the little things.
In swimming, you can measure everything and the girls our right where we want to be."
Depth won't be an issue, as the Bulldogs have 20 boys and 29 girls in the pool this winter.
"It’s about the same as it we had last year," Miller said. "We have one new boy and four new girls to the sport of swimming. We’ve had kids that our coming up from Tigersharks, so they know what we're looking for.
"We've always had that "next person up" mentality," ha added. "Each year, every kid is trying to make themselves better. We’re becoming a bit stronger every time."
Key graduates on the boys side for Stow included breaststroker Caleb Myers, sprinter Will Boggs and utility man Luke Baker. The girls' biggest losses included Isabel Samuels, Bernice Sun and diver Emily Schmidt.
Without question, the Stow boys will will be led by two-time state qualifier Alex Cellura. Now a junior, Cellura won the district title at the 100-yard butterfly and qualified in the 200 freestyle for the state meet.
He already owns the school record in the 100 butterfly, 200 free, 100 free and 50 free.
"He’s such a talented swimmer that sometimes you look at it and just have to admire what he's doing," Miller said. "As a sprinter, he's very good, but the 200 freestyle, that really showcases his talent
"I would say his fly has the most room improvement, even with him being district champion," he added.
Senior Dylan Cossin may have been Stow's most improved swimmer last season, as the distance man qualified for states in the 500 freestyle. Miller said he would like Cossin to "widen his portfolio a bit" this winter.
"It's the senior year for him. We have really really high expectations for him," Miller said. "He’s an athlete you can say that to. He knows exactly what he need to. He’s had certainly the best attitude of his career this year."
Senior Luke Novak has been Stow's most consistent swimmer in recent years. He qualified for state's in the 100 backstroke — breaking Cellura's school record — and also holds the school in the 200 individual medle.y
"Last year at one of our big meets, he was sick and had a really rough meet," Miller said. "He bounced back. You just can't keep him down. Coming into this season, the goal is to keep him healthy."
Stow's fourth returning state qualifier is junior Keith Turnbull, who joined Cellura, Cossin and Novak on Stow's 400 freestyle relay team at states. Miller is looking for a big year from Turnbull in the sprints.
"He has it in him. I’ve never coached a swimmer with more up and downs than Keith," If there’s anyone who can get through it mentally, it's him."
Miller had hoped for a big season for junior William Dorenkott, but a knee injury could sideline him.
After what Miller called "an amazing freshman year," sophomore Jacob Hickin could be a big contributor in the sprints, as well butterfly and breaststroke. Miller also noted sophomroe Caleb Sun has "made huge improvements this offseason."
Two freshman could impact the Bulldogs lineup. Luke Turnball looks to have huge potential in the distance events, while Lincoln May can contribute in "everything but distance," once he recovers from an ankle sprain.
On the girls side, Miller lauded seniors Evie Lewis, Molly O'Brien and Lily Obert for leading the team in the off-season.
"All three of them have been so dedicated," Miller said. "They’re stepping up and becoming the leaders that we need."
Lewis remains the Stow girls' top returning swimmer, as the veteran in the 500 free, 200 free and 200 IM returns.
"I think she’s excited for her season," Miller said. "Ultimately, it's the mental game of it of for Evie. Our biggest motivator is that it is the senior year. It's going to pay dividends."
Miller is also looking for a big season in the spring and breaststoke from senior Grace Pontius.
"She’s worked harder this off-season than she ever has before," Miller said, "She's got some big dreams."
Junior Olivia Casalinove also could be due for a breakout season in the sprints and butterfly.
"We knew that it was there, but we didn’t put a ton of focus on it," Miller said. "She could have an amazing year."
O'Brien will continue to provide depth in the distance races, while Obert could step up in the backstroke for Stow.
Miller also notes Stow has "a boatload of freshman girls who are really really eager to succeed."
Stow also has sophomore district qualifier Paige Galperin back on the one-meter diving boards. Miller notes switching to practicing with the Nordonia staff has made a big difference for his diver.
The Suburban League National Conference remains loaded, particularly with rival Hudson lead the pack.
"It’s always in the back of our heads," Miller said. "We've got nothing but respect for Matt [Davis] and what he's done at Hudson. We’re certainly inching closer. Each year the meets have been more fun."
Stow will open its season Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. when it hosts Green at Akron General-North.