The Huntingdon swim team put together one of its best campaigns last winter, capturing both the boys’ and girls’ District Six Class AA team titles while sending a program-best eight swimmers on to compete in the PIAA State Meet.
The Bearcats lost some key components to last year’s squads, which saw the boys finish with a 10-2-1 overall record and the girls with a 10-4 mark. However, the team returns a lot of talent and ability with eight letter winners on the boys side and nine letter winners for the girls. But, while the team boasted depth with 36 swimmers a year ago, the numbers have fallen off a bit this year with just 12 boys and 14 girls.
“The number of swimmers we have this year is both good and bad,” commented Huntingdon coach Melanie Varner who begins her 23rd year at the helm of the program, sporting a 185-128-3 record with the girls program and 146-168-1 on the boys; side. “With the amount of swimmers, it gives us more space in the pool during practices, but during the meets, it will be tougher to fill lanes and events.”
Topping the list of the returning veterans is three-time PIAA State qualifier senior Haley Goldstone who is the defending District Six Class AA champion in both the 50-meter and 100-yard freestyle races as well as being the current school-record holder in both events. H. Goldstone is also part of both the district-winning 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay along with fellow letter winners Jaelyn Mitchell, Mallory Woodward and Sydney Houck. All four bring back of experience of swimming at the PIAA Meet last March in Lewisburg. Woodward finished third in the 200 individual medley at last year’s district meet and was second in the 100 backstroke with a school-record time. Houck added a pair of fourth-place finishes in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke.
On the boys side, the returning experience is led by senior PIAA state qualifier Ben Atherton who is the defending District Six Class AA champion in the 100 freestyle as well as holding the school record in the event. Atherton also finished second in the 200 freestyle as the district meet and was part of the district-winning 200 and 400 freestyle relays along with fellow letter winners in Andrew Edwards and Nick Buckley.
Buckley also grabbed a pair of second-place finishes in the 50 and 100 freestyles at last year’s district meet. Those three also bring back PIAA Meet experience.
“We lost some good talent last year, but also return a lot of talent and ability this year,” continued Varner. “The girls will be able to cover every event this year with who we have back, while the boys aren’t as strong across the board. We have people who can swim the events, but may not be as competitive right now.
Adding to the letter winners on the boys side are seniors Camden Knode, Marshall Lowe and Bradley Maidens along with juniors Colby Grubb and Jake Tanner.
Rounding out the letter winners on the girls squad are seniors Allison Goldstone, Zane Kazmarski and Maddie Langenbach along with juniors Kelly Ardrey and Savannah Swartz. A. Goldstone lettered during her freshman and sophomore seasons, but studied overseas during her junior year.
“I think our shorter events are in very good shape with Haley, Nick and Andrew, while Allison and Jaelyn give us strong efforts in the mid-distance events,” noted Varner. “Ben is very versatile and can cover anything and Allison also should help us in the 500. But, who can also step up for us in the event is up in the air. Tanner has also been coming along very well in the 500, but he is also strong in the breaststroke. So, it could depend where we need him during the meets and we need people to step up in those events.
“As far as the relays, the girls should be strong in the medley and 400 freestyle relays with all four swimmers of our state qualifying team back and the boys have three back from the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.”
With the depth of the squads over the last few years, the Bearcats have competed well in the Central Western Aquatics Athletic Conference. The boys’ program captured its first-ever CWAAC title four years ago and has won the last two District Six Class AA team titles.
“Some teams are like surprises from year to year, but I don’t see that this season,” stated Varner. “Schools like Westmont, Somerset and Hollidaysburg have strong programs, plus Richland has stepped up some as well.
“Winning the district team title with both boys and girls would be great and is a goal of ours, but will be more of a challenge this year due to the numbers. We graduated a lot of talent. Now, the question is can we fill in our depth across the board. We also want to improve each meet and qualify as many as we can for the district meet, while also getting as many as possible on to the state meet.”
Varner’s coach staff will again include Lisa Kruse, Erin Shaffer and Tinka Berger.
The Bearcats get the season started tonight at Clearfield with a 6 p.m. start.