Juniors Seuferer, Steininger lead Rochester boys
Riffle, Hisey, Brady, Ochoa, Vance-Gruss among most experienced Lady Zs
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Coach Stephanie Brown lost Elena Bode, last year’s RTC swimmer of the year, to graduation, but swimmers like Bella Riffle, Molly Vance-Gruss, Lola Brady, Araceli Ochoa and Melody Hisey are all seniors with big-meet experience.
In addition, senior divers Maddy Brouyette and Kendyll Bradley are both back. Brouyette finished third at the sectional and 19th at regional last year. Sophomore Simona Faoro, a foreign exchange student who has previous experience as a gymnast, adds to the diving depth.
“Melody can swim all the events,” Brown said of Hisey. “She can do them well.”
Brown also said that Bella Riffle can swim all the events but has had the fastest 50 freestyle in practice so far.
Vance-Gruss has appeared best in the backstroke but is also “solid” in the freestyle as well, according to Brown.
Juniors Payton Moore and Kaedra Shook are both new to the varsity. In addition to Faoro, sophomores include foreign exchange student Una Stojanovic along with newcomer Skyla Mitchell and Ava Thomas, a returnee who will balance some swimming events while also giving the team a fourth diver.
Stojanovic has previous experience as a synchronized swimmer and has been comfortable in the water so far, according to Brown.
Freshmen include Kadence Bradley and Isabel Stamper. Bradley is trying both swimming and diving.
The boys team includes two seniors, Jake Freeman and R.J. Keranko. Both made a sectional final as individuals last year with Freeman making it in the 500 freestyle and Keranko making it in the 100 freestyle.
“He can go wherever I put him,” Brown said of Freeman. “He’s a pretty strong freestyle swimmer, but he can do anything I put him in.”
In addition to the freestyle events, Keranko is also strong in the breaststroke, according to Brown.
There are also seven juniors on the 13-person roster. They include Jake Seuferer, a sectional finalist in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle, and Wes Steininger, a sectional finalist in the 100 butterfly.
“He’s just gotten bigger and stronger since he was a freshman,” Brown said of Seuferer. Steininger is another “who can do just about anything,” according to Brown.
Other juniors include Peyton Brooks, Dillon Fishback, Noah Riffle, Lane Shank and Thatcher Sampsel. Brooks and Sampsel are both first-time divers.
Sophomores include Seth Flenar, Reece Johnson and Tanner Reese.
“He’s worked a lot at getting stronger,” Brown said of Reese. “Before the season, he started asking, ‘How many days?’ and ‘When can we get in the water?’ He was just very excited to start the season and has just improved a lot since he started swimming his freshman year.”
The lone freshman is Spencer Backus.
“We’ve got a lot of new,” Brown said. “About half of our girls team is new, but they’re all athletic. They’re all hard-working. They all are comfortable in the water.
“Over the years, we have taught lots of kids how to swim from scratch. If they’re willing to work hard and they have a level of comfort in the water, that just makes a huge difference, and we’ve got that with this group of kids.”
Valley lost 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke star Brandon Hoffman to graduation, but they welcome back sophomore star Marcus Smith, winner of the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly titles at the Warsaw sectional before finishing 28th and 31st, respectively, in those events at state.
The graduation of Hoffman means Valley will have to find a new backstroke leg for their 200 medley relay team, which also won sectional and finished 32nd at state. Smith also swims the butterfly leg while Carson Parker swims the breaststroke leg and Isaac Whetstone the freestyle leg.
Parker, a junior, was also a sectional finalist in two individual events – the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. Whetstone was a sectional finalist in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle.
The lone senior on the Valley boys team is Karl Parker.
Eric Burke and Bobby Burke join Carson Parker as the team’s three juniors. Smith and Whetstone are the only sophomores.
Weston Brown is the lone freshman.
The girls team consists of 11 swimmers. They include seniors Makena Smith, Lelin Gallego, Eunyeong Kim and Ella Myers.
Smith, the older sister of Marcus Smith, was a sectional finalist in the 100 breaststroke.
Myers was fifth at last year’s diving sectional.
Kendall Craig is the team’s top distance freestyler, having advanced to the sectional final in both the 200 and 500 last year. Other juniors include Katelyn Stump and Kiera Smythe.
Freshmen include Cassie Rich, McKenna Lowe, Maris Overbey and Bailey Gaerte.
As a team, the Valley boys were fifth and the Valley girls eighth at last year’s sectional.
Coached by Laura Duke, the Pioneer swimming team consists of 18 girls and 11 boys.
The most accomplished is junior Chloe Chan, a sectional finalist in the 100 breaststroke each of the last two years.
The lone senior on the girls team is Chloe Rogers.
Adeline Cripe, Ayla Depoy, Emma Elliott, Lane Hood, Kaia Murray, Elizabeth Rance and Kaylyn Zeigler round out the junior class.
Gracie Clem, Brenner McLain, Ellie Miller and Kamryn Newby are the four sophomores.
Freshmen include Ava Beasy, Cailyn Colford, Olivia Fisher, Makenna Gleitz and Aspen Moolenaar.
Clem and Hood are both experienced divers.
Top returnees on the Panther boys team include senior Owen Miller and sophomore Ian Kitchell. Miller was a sectional finalist in the 100 freestyle, and Kitchell was a sectional finalist in the 100 backstroke.
In addition to Kitchell, the group of eight sophomores includes Austin Brooke, Leighton Dodt, Izayik Hopkins, Landen Johnson, Fletcher Smith, Tayt Smith and Anderson Woodhouse.
Brooke and Miller could be returnees to the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay teams that both made the sectional finals.
Hunter Bartling and Jared Black are the team’s two freshmen.
Key swimming dates
Jan. 21 – Three Rivers Conference meet at Maconaquah, 9 a.m.
Jan. 28 – Hoosier North meet at Knox, 10 a.m.
Feb. 2 – Warsaw girls sectional preliminaries, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 – Warsaw girls sectional finals, 1 p.m.
Feb. 7 – Mishawaka girls diving regional, 6 p.m.
Feb. 10-11 – IHSAA girls state finals at IU Natatorium, Indianapolis
Feb. 16 – Warsaw boys sectional preliminaries, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 – Warsaw boys sectional finals, 1 p.m.
Feb. 21 – Penn diving regional, 6 p.m.
Feb. 24-25 – IHSAA boys state finals at IU Natatorium, Indianapolis