Boys looking to fill up swimming roster
The Whitehall boys swimming season will get set to splash down next week as they look to build off last year’s success that produced a number of district participants.
Head coach Pete Rile said that as it stands right now, they have 11 swimmers currently on the roster. He’s hopeful that number bumps up to 12 so that they can field a swimmer in each event.
Numbers are a crucial aspect of any program, and with the boys swim team it becomes critical. It gives them the opportunity to stay competitive with their league counterparts as they look to improve on last year’s 6-10 finish. Rile believes that if they get to that number their win total should remain steady from where it was a year ago, and perhaps even eclipse the previous mark.
One of the driving forces behind his desire to have a full roster is tilting that win total to the plus side of the ledger. Rile said that since the program’s inception in the 1960s, there has only been one winning season for the boys. While that span hasn’t been contiguous (there was a period where they didn’t have a boys program), it would still be a tremendous accomplishment for the boys to achieve that goal.
He has a mix of veterans and newcomers this season, and he’s confident that they have talent across the board. While some may be short on experience, he sees a true commitment to getting better every day.
“Their attitude is ‘we can be pretty good,’” said Rile. “Every day they come in feeling like that. It could be a lot of fun this year.”
One of those swimmers who has been pretty good is senior Daniel Jablonski. Jablonski enters his senior season as the team’s premier record holder, establishing school marks in six individual events. He’s also been part of three relay record teams. Every time he gets in the pool, there’s a good chance a new record will be posted on their board in the natatorium.
Jablonski tried to replicate that dominance during the postseason, finishing seventh in the 500 freestyle and sixth in the 200 freestyle.
Rile said that Jablonski has been on the cusp of making it to the state tournament since his freshman season, and this year a rule change may prove beneficial in that quest. In the past, District XI qualified just one swimmer for the PIAA tourney, the spot going to the winner of the event. Rile said that number varied among districts across the state, with some districts allowing their top two or three finishers a place in the state tournament. This year every district just gets one automatic bid, while the rest of the qualifiers will be decided on times.
With those guarantees no longer in place, Rile feels that Jablonski will fulfill his goal of making it to Bucknell University for the AAA championships.
“That [rule change] alone helps him,” said Rile. “We also think that his work ethic and attitude will put him over the top, either way.”
Jablonski will be the top scorer for the boys this season, but they also have capable swimmers, two of whom had a big impact last season. Both Sabastian Solarte and Nikola Martinovic were members of their record-setting 200 Medley Relay team. They set the school record, along with Jablonski and Ziyad Khafagy at the D-11 meet, finishing in 1:46.45.
Rile said the task now will be finding a fourth member to make another run at a school record.
“We’re going to see who’s going to fill in that spot,” said Rile.
That group also finished seventh in the 400 freestyle relay at districts and should form the backbone of this season’s team.
Rile said that someone will emerge and believes it’s a matter of finding that talent and developing it.
The Zephs will also feature Michael Nguyen, Kevin Gaton, Ahmed Hamada, Connor Barnes, Brandon Deutsch, Justin Lesperance and Merthan Guler.
Once again, he’s looking to advance as many boys into district competition. While that remains an individual goal, he’s also emphasizing the need to finally break through and post a winning season as a team. It’s something they’re acutely aware of.
“That’s in their heads, too,” said Rile.