Erick Starkey/News Mount Vernon’s Maggie Williams launches into the pool off the starting blocks during practice Tuesday, preparing for the Jacket season that starts Dec. 7 in Olentangy.
Erick Starkey/News Mount Vernon’s Kala Estes catches a quick breath during her freestyle work at practice Monday in Gambier.

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MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Jacket swimming team has been working on their strokes, starts and turns, preparing for their sprint of a season with the hopes of pushing deeper in to the postseason.

Hannah Saiz is entering her second year at the helm of the Jacket program. She said that athletes are coming in to the program with all levels of swimming experience, with some having swam all year, while others were competing in other sports and have to get used to the pool again.

“We have people from all walks of life, so we are all working to get on the same page and that takes 3-4 weeks,” Saiz said.

Taking 3-4 weeks out of a 12-week season is a large chunk. This year, as with any swimming season, Mount Vernon has to quickly adjust to swimming again and get ready to compete.

Mount Vernon swimming schedule

  • Dec. 7: @ Olentangy
  • Dec. 22: Small Schools Invite @ Kenyon College
  • Dec. 28: @ Tri-Valley
  • Jan. 2: vs. Central Crossing, Teays Valley, Loudonville, Mansfield Christian @ Kenyon College
  • Jan. 5: vs. Coshocton, Bloom-Carroll, Westland/CCHS, Big Walnut @ Kenyon College
  • Jan. 12: @ Wooster OCC’s
  • Jan. 19: Home Senior Meet vs. Lakewood, River Valley, Watkins Memorial @ Kenyon College
  • Feb. 9: Sectionals @ Kenyon College
  • Feb. 16: Districts @ Ohio State University
  • Feb. 23: State @ Canton

“I think that’s probably the greatest challenge with a three-month season,” Saiz said. “You have to get in shape, ready to swim, know how to swim and know how to race, all in 12 weeks.”

The Jackets are coming off of a year where they competed well at sectionals and had three swimmers advance to districts. Junior Maggie Williams was the lone individual last year to qualify for districts, doing so in the 200-yard freestyle. Staying with the girls, the team of Williams, Camille Fitzsimmons, Claire Duffy and Skylar Hill earned a spot at districts in the 200-yard medley relay. Marshall Smith is the lone returner from the team of Seth Lawhon, Aidan Clarkson and Sulekh Fernando-Peiris that earned a spot in the boys’ 200-yard medley at districts.

At the end of the season last year, the Jackets saw a lot of solid times, but Saiz saw a lot of improvement in the team in other ways.

“We had a lot of lifetime bests and that’s always fun, but I look for growth as a person too,” Saiz said. “That’s the piece I look for, is people figuring themselves out and becoming better people and better athletes.”

Looking at this year’s team, Saiz expects Hill, Kendra Spitzer and Anna Paxton to be some of the top girls on the team. Smith, Jacob Lebold and Curtis Erlandson, who is taking on the 200-meter individual medley again this year, will be some of the top contributors among the Jacket boys.

Rounding out the roster, Mount Vernon has a large crop of new swimmers. This year, they have two freshmen and additional newcomers to the boys’ side, while the girls team has an influx of six freshmen.

“The group we have this year, we have so many freshmen,” Saiz said. “That’s hopeful for the longevity of the program.”

When it comes to the team’s outlook this year, Saiz hopes for a deeper push into the postseason.

“Personally, I would like to see more district qualifiers,” Saiz said. “I also want to see more people get back to state.”

The team has settled in and will soon be meeting to decide their plans as a group for the upcoming season.

“I think we’re down to the group that is going to stick around for the season,” Saiz said. “Friday, we are going to have a team meeting to discuss what we want our team identity and goals to be.”

Mount Vernon kicks off the season Dec. 7 in Olentangy, with the postseason starting with the sectional meet Feb. 9 at Kenyon College. The state meet is slated for Canton on Feb. 23.

 

Erick Starkey: 740-397-5333 or erick@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @MVNStarkey

 

 

 

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