Making it count
BUTLER TWP — Butler High School senior Ryan Deemer will be making his third and final appearance at the WPIAL Class AAA Swimming Championships later this week.
He is not taking the opportunity lightly.
“I plan on really taking it all in this year,” Deemer said of the electric atmosphere at the meet, which will be held Thursday and Friday at the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool.
Deemer will be swimming the 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle, in which he is seeded sixth (1:46.15) and fifth (4:47.45), respectively. He placed fifth in both events as a junior.
“I want to qualify automatically for states (top three) in both events,” Deemer said. “I just need to swim my race. I feel if I do that, I'll be in good shape.”
Deemer swam for Butler his freshman season, then decided to focus solely on academics his sophomore season.
“I still swam for the (Butler) YMCA that year,” he said, “so there wasn't much of a drop-off for me.”
Golden Tornado coach Dave Bocci has seen first-hand the effort Deemer has turned in since returning to varsity swimming.
“He's worked awfully hard and has been instrumental in changing the direction of the program,” he said. “That can't be stated enough.”
Butler's girls will be led by sophomore Jill McElhaney, who will be swimming the 50 freestyle (seeded eighth, 24.96) and the 100 butterfly (11th, 1:00.92).
“I was very happy with her performance in the 50 free at the Seneca Valley meet,” Bocci said. “That (24.96) was a lifetime-best for her. She is positioned well to make it out of WPIALs to the state meet.”
“To do that, I feel I have to swim a 24.6,” McElhaney said. “In the butterfly, I'd be happy with anything under a minute.”
McElhaney has been swimming competitively for 10 years.
“I love going to competitions and pushing myself to get better,” she said.
Jacob Fausti took up competitive swimming just over two years ago. Now a senior, he is looking to carve his own niche at Trees Pool.
Seeded seventh in the 50 freestyle (22.17) and sixth in the 100 freestyle (48.26), Fausti has lofty goals.
“I want to place first in both events,” he said. “I figure I need to swim a 20.9 in the 50 and 45.6 in the 100.
“I joined the swimming team in the middle of the season my sophomore year, just to stay in shape for football,” Fausti said. “But I ended up focusing just on swimming. It's been life-changing for me. Everybody on the team is pretty much family. I plan on swimming in college at Cleveland State.”
The vast majority of swimmers at this week's event have a lot more experience in the sport than Fausti does, but that hasn't stopped him from chasing a berth to the state meet and more.
“Seventy-five percent of it has been great coaching,” he said. “I've also put in a lot of practice hours.”
“He has refined a lot of his stroke technique,” said SV coach Brian Blackwell. “That has allowed him to approach things with more confidence.”
Fausti will also swim a leg on the Raiders' 400 freestyle (seeded third) and 200 freestyle (fourth) relay teams.
Freshman Ali Kozlina is SV's top-seeded girl, entering WPIALs ranked sixth in the 50 freestyle (24.86) and seventh in the 100 freestyle (54.26).
“This will be her first WPIAL meet, so it's going to be a little different for her,” said Blackwell, “but she has swam competitively for years. I think she can swim times to get to states in both events.”
The following are Butler and Seneca Valley swimmers who have qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA meet:
200 medley relay: 12-Seneca Valley (Kassi Grumski, Carley Belsterling, Ali Kozlina, Hannah Fernandes) 1:55.84; 19-Butler (Kaelyn Emanuel, Morgan Keelan, Jill McElhaney, Macie Pennington) 1:59.72
200 freestyle: 23-Sadie Lee (SV) 2:03.03
200 individual medley: 28-Carley Belsterling (SV) 2:19.81
50 freestyle: 6-Ali Kozlina (SV) 24.86; 8-Jill McElhaney (B) 24.96; 29-Hannah Fernandes (SV) 25.94
100 butterfly: 11-Jill McElhaney (B) 1:00.92; 41-Holly Sauer (SV) 1:04.36
100 freestyle: 7-Ali Kozlina (SV) 54.26; 32-Hannah Fernandes (SV) 56.61; 34-Kassi Grumski (SV) 56.79
500 freestyle: 21-Macie Pennington (B) 5:30.47; 22-Sadie Lee (SV) 5:30.56
200 freestyle relay: 16-Seneca Valley (Hannah Fernandes, Carley Belsterling, Kassi Grumski, Ali Kozlina) 1:46.06
100 backstroke: 22-Kaelyn Emanuel (B) 1:03.63; 34-Kassi Grumski (SV) 1:05.14
100 breaststroke: 11-Carley Belsterling (SV) 1:10.42
400 freestyle relay: 13-Seneca Valley (Sadie Lee, Holly Sauer, Mara Dunning, Sarah Foster) 3:52.94; 21-Butler (Jill McElhaney, Kaelyn Emanuel, Morgan Keelan, Macie Pennington) 3:59.08
200 medley relay: 10-Seneca Valley (Nate Burkett, Brett Foster, Dan Barnes, Mike Rhein) 1:43.17; 15-Butler (Nathan Callithen, Dante Cicco, Joey Deemer, Alex Wigton) 1:45.42
200 freestyle: 6-Ryan Deemer (B) 1:46.15; 7-Spencer Tretter (SV) 1:47.19, 34-Ian Gillan (B) 1:54.42
200 individual medley: 19-Tukker Uniatowski (B) 2:06.99; 28-Nate Burkett (SV) 2:09.18; 37-Max Merhaut (B) 2:11.49
50 freestyle: 7-Jake Fausti (SV) 22.17; 16-Mike Palaski (SV) 22.73
100 butterfly: 30-Joey Deemer (B) 57.63; 32-Dan Barnes (SV) 57.97
100 freestyle: 6-Jake Fausti (SV) 48.26; 12-Mike Palaski (SV) 49.0; 27-Mike Rhein (SV) 51.18
500 freestyle: 5-Ryan Deemer (B) 4:47.45; 10-Spencer Tretter (SV) 4:52.71; 31-Ian Gillan (B) 5:10.42
200 freestyle relay: 4-Seneca Valley (Jake Fausti, Spencer Tretter, Mike Rhein, Mike Palaski) 1:30.68; 14-Butler (Dante Cicco, Joey Deemer, Ryan Deemer, Alex Wigton) 1:35.85
100 backstroke: 21-Nathan Callithen (B) 59.8; 26-Nate Burkett (SV) 1:00.59
100 breaststroke: 14-Tukker Uniatowski (B) 1:03.84; 25-Alex Wigton (B) 1:05.94; 28-Brett Foster (SV) 1:06.12; 39-Dan Barnes (SV) 1:06.92
400 freestyle relay: 3-Seneca Valley (Spencer Tretter, Mike Palaski, Mike Rhein, Jake Fausti) 3:17.15; 14-Butler (Dante Cicco, Joey Deemer, Ryan Deemer, Alex Wigton) 3:28.63