SWIMMING PREVIEW: Talented vets top girls teams, developing youth key for boys

By Barbara Boxleitner, Sun Correspondent

THE GIRLS

The area high school girls swimming teams feature many newcomers, though each of the four programs returns top talent.
Charlotte High’s roster of 21 gives it depth at every event, but it is a young squad. Senior captain Becca Parnell, a state qualifier in the one-meter dive, heads a diving unit of five. Senior captain Kallie Hackenberg paces the swimmers, whose youth makes it difficult for 20-year head coach Jeff Cain to project how the girls will finish.

Lemon Bay returns upperclassmen in individual state qualifiers Hunter Scott and Abby Shea and state relay qualifier Margo McCoy. Newcomers — even some from other sports — represent nearly half of the roster.

“We feel like these first-time swimmers and divers bring a new perspective and outlook to the team,” coach Dawn Hall said. “They’re very hard workers and dedicated athletes that take pride in their school. We see this as strengthening the team and the sports program at Lemon Bay as a whole.”

A handful of seniors, including swimmers Caitlin Moss-Solomon and Jaclyn Roche and diver Christina Vallone, are the nucleus for

Port Charlotte, head coach J.R. Whaley said. Moss-Solomon and Roche were a part of relays that reached the state meet. “They’ve been swimming three or four years,” he said. “They know what it takes.”

Senior Katelyn Roberts, who specializes in the butterfly and freestyle, and senior Savannah Wolfe, who swims the breaststroke and free, bring experience to a North Port squad of 10. North Port doesn’t have a diving team. Head coach Bill Mousseau welcomes freshmen versatile in the four strokes. Several are from the Sarasota YMCA Sharks and Charlotte County Swimming Blue Fins, so he said, “They’re coming to us with some ability already.”
Charlotte
Head coach: Jeff Cain, 20th year
Top returners: Seniors Kallie Hackenberg and Becca Parnell. Hackenberg excels in the butterfly, breaststroke and individual medley.
Promising newcomers: Freshman Micah Barnes.
Strengths: A roster of 21 and young talent.
Postseason prospects: Cain expects Parnell to return to the state meet.

Lemon Bay
Head coach: Dawn Hall, 16th year.
Top returners: Senior Abby Shea and juniors Hunter Scott and Margo McCoy.
Promising newcomers: Freshman Ashley Wik.
Strengths: Solid leadership and multisport athletes, including a varsity discus thrower, in their first year.
Postseason prospects: Scott and Shea are focused on qualifying again as individuals for the state meet.

North Port
Head coach: Bill Mousseau, second year.
Top returners: Seniors Katelyn Roberts and Savannah Wolfe.
Promising newcomers: Freshmen Chelsey Devine, Zoe Riggs and Ameijha Jones, all capable in the four strokes.
Strengths: Relays because of the swimmers who know the four strokes.
Postseason prospects: Senior Tiffany Hoffman may be a contender in the 50 freestyle or butterfly, Mousseau said. She was on the team as a freshman and sophomore yet didn’t compete last year.

Port Charlotte
Head coach: J.R. Whaley, seventh year.
Top returners: Seniors Caitlin Moss-Solomon, Jaclyn Roche and Christina Vallone. Moss-Solomon was the district champion in the 100 freestyle and was a part of two relay teams that qualified for the state meet. Roche was a part of the 200 medley relay that qualified for the state meet.
Promising newcomers: Whaley cited the swimmers who trained during the summer. “Any of them could turn into a good swimmer,” he said. “They have a great work ethic.”
Strengths: Upperclassmen who have been in the program at least three years.
Postseason prospects: Three relays and two individuals qualified for the 2015 state meet, said Whaley, who expects the returning qualifiers to be successful.

THE BOYS

The development of young talent figures to be a difference this season for the area high school boys swimming teams.
Underclassmen and newcomers dominate the rosters.

With more than half its roster underclassmen, Charlotte benefits from proven performers in senior captain Blake Thurman and sophomores Dylan Hacker and Tom Nelson. Thurman competes in the freestyle events, while Hacker and Nelson were state relay qualifiers last year.

“Our boys are going to be very solid,” said head coach Jeff Cain, who is in his 20th year at Charlotte and 32nd at the high school level.

More than half of the Lemon Bay squad is new, head coach Dawn Hall said. Yet a good number return, too, with sophomore to senior regional qualifiers. The Mantas are led by senior diver Kevin Mayes, who represented the school at the state meet.

North Port has 11 swimmers, seven of them underclassmen, including freshman Michael Sickles, who has posted speedy times in every stroke. Senior captain Joshua Mendieta anchors the squad.

“He’s looking to set the school record in the 50 freestyle,” head coach James Noonan said. “He also does very well in the fly.”

Seniors Kevin Trowbridge, Steven Trombley and Xavier Grijalva are the core for Port Charlotte. The regional qualifiers bring direction to a young squad in the midst of building its numbers.

Charlotte
Head coach: Jeff Cain, 20th year.
Top returners: Seniors Blake Thurman, Yahia El Hamshary and Evan Flores and sophomores Dylan Hacker and Tom Nelson.
Promising newcomers: Junior Cooper Whitten, who specializes in the butterfly and freestyle, returns after not competing last year. He did well as a freshman.
Strengths: Seniors and sophomores.
Postseason prospects: The returning core puts the Tarpons in prime position, though Cain said their success is hard to gauge without knowing how much the youngsters improve. “It’s wait and see,” he said. “Our goal is we’re going to build to the end and surprise some people.”

Lemon Bay
Head coach: Dawn Hall, 16th year.
Top returners: Seniors Kevin Mayes, Evan Burger and Trent Robinson, junior Jed Fazler and sophomores Gage Denson, Eddie David and Gabe Layne. All were regional qualifiers last year, and diver Mayes reached the state meet.
Promising newcomers: Zach Willison, a junior water polo player who transferred from out of state.
Strengths: Versatile first-time swimmers, including three who wrestle and two basketball players and track runners.
Postseason prospects:
Mayes eyes a return to the state meet. “We would really like to have a few boys qualify for states in swimming this year,” Hall said. “It’s been several years since that has happened.”

North Port
Head coach: James Noonan, second year.
Top returners: Seniors Joshua Mendieta, Tristan Guin and Brandon Kappleman.
Promising newcomers:
Freshman Michael Sickles. “I think he is competing even with my seniors,” Noonan said.
Strengths:
Young talent, which Noonan said gives the squad depth this season.
Postseason prospects: Noonan sees Sickles and Mendieta as possibilities.

Port Charlotte
Head coach: J.R. Whaley, seventh year.
Top returners: Seniors Kevin Trowbridge, Steven Trombley and Xavier Grijalva and junior Logan Bernhard, all regional qualifiers.
Promising newcomers: Junior Trevor Bloom.
Strengths: Youth. “It’s a growing program,” Whaley said. “We’re looking to the future.”
Postseason prospects: Whaley expects Trowbridge, Trombley, Grijalva and Bernhard to reach regions.

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