Twinsburg swimming ready to dive into challenging season

Steve Batko
Correspondent

This season may be a work in progress for the Twinsburg High swimming and diving teams.

Coming off a pause in Twinsburg athletics coupled with the fact that the Tiger program is young overall, both the boys and girls’ teams will be looking to improve each time they hit the pool.

Twinsburg Tigers

Head coach Kirtis Huelsman realizes this winter will be a challenging season, but will be thankful for the competition despite limited off-season team workouts and practice sessions due to COVID-19.

“Last year, our boys and girls teams both placed sixth-place in the Suburban League Championships,” said Huelsman, entering his seventh season with Twinsburg.

Competing in Division I as well as the Suburban League, the Tigers will look to improve on individual marks as well as work to improve as a team.

Last year, at the Division I sectional championships at Ocasek Natatorium at the University of Akron, the Tiger girls’ finished 11th out of 16 schools with 67 points while a young boys’ squad tallied 44 points and placed 13th overall.

Although many more young athletes will rise to the occasion this season, Twinsburg lost some strong competitors to graduation.

Gone is Evan Bartel, who was an honorable mention All-Suburban League pick and a swimmer who finished 23rd overall at districts in the 200-yard freestyle. Versatile Eddy Efraim will also be missed.

Madison Zelenka is a girls’ district qualifier who will be missed. Zelenka touched 38th overall in districts in the 100-yard backstroke. In sectional action, Zelenka touched 10th overall.

Also departed is Mariam Fahmy, who collected a 17th-place in sectionals in the 500-yard freestyle competition.

Huelsman is excited about a host of athletes who will be returning.

“Meredith Bartel is a sophomore and a returning district qualifier for the 100 breaststroke,” offered Huelsman.

Meredith Bartel, who is Evan Bartel’s sister, excelled at districts at Cleveland State University as she registered a blazing fast time of 1:15.20 to place 26th overall in the 100-yard breaststroke. She was 15th in sectional action.

Bartel also was 16th in sectionals in the 200-yard individual medley and was clocked at 2:31.29. She also made honorable mention all-league.

In addition, the Tigers will also lean on the skills of junior returnee Jasmine Freeman.

“Jasmine is a junior and is a strong leader returning for us as a freestyle specialist,” explained Huelsman.

Twinsburg’s boys team will be young, but has some experience back. Most of that experience is still youthful for the improving Tigers.

“The boys’ top returnees are senior Jared Mulcahy and juniors Nate Bartel and Jack Bartel,” disclosed Huelsman.

Mulcahy was an honorable mention All-Suburban choice in 2019 and according to the coach, will focus on the sprint free races while Nate Bartel excels in the individual medley and Jack Bartel, will lead in the breaststroke and freestyle races.

“Right now, we are working on building confidence to compete in a variety of events,” noted Huelsman.

Like many teams, Twinsburg won’t have any meet experience this season while some of their foes will have shouldered several meets.

“Our first meets are Jan. 8 with Aurora (on the road at 6:30 p.m.) and Jan. 9 with Cuyahoga Falls,” said Huelsman.

Meet schedules and times are somewhat tentative at this point, depending on COVID-19.

“We usually have a close meet with Cuyahoga Falls and Nordonia in the league,” pointed out Huelsman. “Our team is stronger in some of the roles we were weaker in last year, but we look to be similarly placed in the league.”

Huelsman will work to develop his young swimmers and divers and depth will be a factor this season.