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Jersey Shore’s Meaghan Keegan, Lewisburg swimmers want to get back to states in Class AA

SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Jersey Shore’s Meaghan Keegan competes during a dual meet in 2019. Keegan qualified for the PIAA Class AA meet at Bucknell last season, but wasn’t able to compete due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the Class AA competition the morning of. It’s providing Keegan extra motivation to get back and attempt to medal.

On the very first day of practice, Jersey Shore senior Meaghan Keegan made it clear that she had just one goal: get back to the state meet at Bucknell. She has a little extra motivation to get there this year. As a junior, Keegan’s hopes at possibly medaling at states in the Class AA competition were dashed on the ride from Jersey Shore to Lewisburg as the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning and canceled the Class AA competition.

Ever since that day, Keegan has wanted to get back and look to medal again.

“I know for a fact Meaghan is very eager and motivated to return to the state competition this year,” first-year coach Jonathan Palumbo said. “I think we were all a bit disappointed with the canceling of the competition last year, especially after all the hard work the kids put in last season, so it’ll definitely be a goal this season to get the chance to get back there and try for it again. I am very excited for the season.”

The Bulldogs return a lot of experience with eight returning swimmers who qualified for districts. On the girls side, it includes Keegan, Emalee Haines, Lily Dincher, Hunter Lucas and Mackenzie Gardner. On the boys side, a trio of district qualifiers are back in Jason Grant, Caleb Stemler and Xavier Barlet.

Keegan is the lone returning state qualifier for the Bulldogs after Jordan O’Connor graduated. Keegan qualified in the 100 fly and also competed in the 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 100 breast and 400 free relay at the District 4 competition.

SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Lewisburg’s Jewels Hepner competes during a dual meet last season against Williamsport. Hepner — in addition to teammates Alex Decker, Delaney Humphrey and Caleb Leaman — qualified for the PIAA Class AA competiton, but couldn’t compete due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the Class AA competition. It’s provided her extra motivation to get back and attempt to medal.

“We have a lot of swimmers on our team this year who are upperclassmen and have been swimming with us since they were freshmen,” Palumbo said. “After losing a large graduating senior class last year, I am excited for these kids to have the opportunity to now step up and become leaders for our program. Ideally, I would like to see everyone qualify for districts this season and see everyone drop time and PR in their events.”

Keegan isn’t the only swimmer who is motivated to return after having a chance at medaling in states taken away due to the pandemic. Lewisburg’s Alex Decker (200 medley relay, 400 free relay) and Jewels Hepner (200 medley relay, 400 free relay) didn’t get a chance to compete last year. Neither did Delaney Humphrey (200 IM, 500 free) or Caleb Leaman (diving), who both qualified as individuals. Leaman was the district champion as a diver.

“I absolutely think that not being able to go to states has provided extra motivation for athletes like Delaney,” Lewisburg coach Derek Updegraff said. “She’s a talented athlete that works extremely hard and to have the season end the way it did is very frustrating. I’m sure she’s glad to be back in the pool and is looking forward to making it back to the state meet.”

In total, Lewisburg brings back nine athletes who qualified for districts last year in Humprey, Decker, Hepner, Molly Gill, Livia Holthus, Braden Davis, Vaughn Holthus, Caleb Leaman and Mitchell Malusis.

“I’m looking forward to this season. For the longest time we weren’t even sure there would be a season,” Updegraff said. “I look forward to each practice and I’m thankful that the athletes are able to practice and compete. The team is a little smaller than in past years as we’ve lost a lot of athletes in diving and swimming to graduation. However, I think that both the boys and girls will compete well and have successful seasons.”

SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Lewisburg’s Alex Decker competes against Williamsport last season. Decker is one of Lewisburg’s returning state qualifiers.

Updegraff sees his returning qualifiers among those who will step up and help the team succeed this season.

“I look for Delaney Humprey, Alex Decker, Jewels Hepner, Molly Gill and Livia Holthus among other to make an impact this season for the girls team. I also look forward to our freshmen to step up and make an impact this year. They include Kimberly Shannon, Emma Gerlinski and Valeria Riley,” Updegraff said. “For the boys, I think that Vaughn Holthus, MItchell Malusis, Braden Davis, Caelb Leaman, Jake Powell and Isaac Leahman can all make an impact. Freshmen Mason Ordonez and Kieran Davis are also expected to have an immediate impact on the team.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is still going on, and for all area schools, it is presenting plenty of challenges. From practicing to simply finding a place to swim, each school is dealing with it in different ways. The season will likely have new safety procedures that will change the way meets are run.

“We have to be flexible and patient this season as we try to get in as normal of a season as we can possibly have,” Palumbo said.

“The PIAA, PHAC conference and our school administrators have worked very hard this year to respond to the current health crisis and put into place protocols to safeguard the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Updegraff said. “So while practices and meets may look a little different this season, we are going to do our best to follow protocols and keep everyone healthy and safe.”

Lewisburg had to find a new site to practice this year due to Bucknell’s safety protocols prohibiting outside groups from using their athletic facilities. Lewisburg is able to practice at the Milton and Sunbury YMCA pools thanks to help from the Greater Susquehanna Valley YMCA.

The Green Dragons’ situation regarding Bucknell is similar to Montoursville’s. The Warriors used Lycoming College to practice and compete, but due to Lycoming also not allowing outside groups to use their athletic facilities, it meant that Montoursville had to search for a new home this season as well. Unfortunately, Montoursville wasn’t able to and won’t be competing this winter.

Montoursville won’t have a swim team this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the Warriors not having a facility to practice or hold events this season. Lycoming College, where Montoursville usually practices and competes, is not allowing outside parties to use their facilities due to the pandemic, according to Montoursville coach Schane Confer.

Montoursville contacted Williamsport High School, East Lycoming YMCA and the Williamsport YMCA, but weren’t able to work anything out due to various policies or conflicting schedules. Montoursville would have had a handful of returning boys district qualifiers this year in Evan Hamm, Tyler Hartsock, Brett Reeves and Blade Snyder.

Milton is competing as a varsity program for the second year after numerous years of having independent swimmers. The Black Panthers have nine swimmers on the roster and have a handful who return with district qualifying experience.

That includes Haylee Carl, Riley Godown, Kayli Johnson, Ashley Shamblen and Sara Dwyer.

“This season we are ready to bring it. COVID is the scary part for all the schools. We are following all the guidelines,” Milton coach Veronica Irvine said, noting Milton rented the Eastern Lycoming YMCA for three of its home meets. “I could not do this without the support of the parents, the Milton High School Boosters and an amazing, supportive athletic director Rod Harris. I am challenging my athletes and I have some amazing juniors and some middle schoolers that when they get to ninth grade, will already be fast and strong. The future looks good.”

Carl has been swimming three years for Milton and wants to be successful in the 200 free. Johnson is another three-year swimmer with the Black Panthers and is a swimmer who prefers shorter distance, but is challenging herself in both the 100 back and 100 free.

Sara Dewyer is a sophomore and competed last season as a freshman.

“I call her my little spitfire,” Irvine said of Dewyer. “She is petite and full of vim and vinegar.”

On the boys side, Milton has three freshmen in Xavier Godown, Hunter Zettlemoyer and Camden Weaver. Godown and Zettlemoyer previously swam with the Eastern Lycoming WYMCA and both competed in the freestyle races. Irvine noted that Weaver has some good times and success in the breast, his preferred stroke.

“In practice he maintains pace with the other swimmers who are all doing freestyle, even beating quite a few,” Irvine said.

Milton’s other swimmer this year is freshman Maria Painter, who has experience swimming at Sunbury’s YMCA. Her favorite stroke is the freestyle, but she has the ability to compete in various competitions.

Wellsboro returns sophomore Hayne Webster, a returning district qualifier in the 100 back. The Green Hornets also have two freshmen on the girls side in Madison Robbins and Caralyn Warner.

“My expectations for this year are just to make the best of it. We are still working on arranging meets for them and I am very hopeful that this will still be a good year for them,” Wellsboro coach Michele Warner said. “We are lucky that they are in their first and second years of high school and that there will be opportunities in the future for them.”

There’s a handful of independent swimmers who will compete as well in Hughesville’s Alex Farley, Aiden Barlett, Amy Wallis and Landon Corbin; Warrior Run’s Madison Rovenolt; and North Penn-Mansfield’s Madison Milheim and Cael Dick.

Rovenolt is a returning district qualifier, having competed in the 100 breast. Milheim competed in the 100 fly and 500 free last year at districts and Dick is a returning district qualifier as well (100 fly, 100 free). Corbin competed last year in the 100 back at districts.

JERSEY SHORE

Coach: Jonathan Palumbo

Assistants: Todd Moore

Last year: (not available)

Returning state qualifiers: Girls, Meaghan Keegan, sr. (100 fly)

Returning girls district qualifiers: Meaghan Keegan, sr. (200 medley relay, 100 fly, 200 free relay, 100 breast, 400 free relay); Emalee Haines, so. (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay); Mackenzie Gardner, jr. (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 100 back); Hunter Lucas, sr. (200 medley relay, 100 fly, 200 free relay, 400 free relay); Lily Dincher, jr. (500 free, 400 free relay).

Returning boys district qualifiers: Caleb Stemler, sr. (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 100 free, 400 free relay); Jason Grant, jr. (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay); Xavier Barlet, jr. (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 100 back, 400 free relay).

Remaining roster: Girls, Quinn Green, Riley Hummer, Sara Pecchia, Riachael Tira, Abby Wall, Taylor Watkins, Desiree Rennicks. Boys, Artie Dammer, Aaron Baker, Andrew Kitchen.

LEWISBURG

Coach: Derek Updegraff

Assistants: (not available)

Last year: Boys (7-4, placed fourth at District 4 meet); Girls (8-3, placed second at District 4 meet).

Returning state qualifiers: Girls, Daleny Humphrey, sr. (200 IM, 500 free); Alexandra Decker (200 medley relay, 400 free relay); Jewels Hepner (200 medley relay, 400 free relay). Boys, Caleb Leaman (diving).

Returning girls district qualifiers: Jewels Hepner, sr. (200 medley relay, 200 IM, 50 free, 200 free relay, 100 free, 400 free relay); Alexandra Decker, jr. (200 medley relay, 200 free, 100 breast, 400 free relay); Delaney Humphrey (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 500 free; 400 free relay); Molly Gill, sr. (200 free relay, 500 free); Livia Holthus, so. (200 free relay, 400 free relay).

Returning boys district qualifiers: Braden Davis, jr. (200 medley relay, 400 free relay); Mitchell Malusis, so. (200 medley relay, 100 fly, 200 free relay, 100 back, 400 free relay); Vaughn Holthus, sr. (200 medley relay, 50 free, 200 free relay, 100 free, 400 free relay); Caleb Leahman (diving); Vaughn Holthus.

Remaining roster: Girls, Ryleigh Faust, sr.; Jazmin Garza, sr.; Autumn Sena, sr.; Carina Pavlov, jr.; Anaya Davis, so.; Emma Gerlinski, fr.; Ella Mirshahi, fr.; Mason Ordonez, fr.; Valeria Riley, fr.; KImberly Shannon, fr. Boys, Jakob Powell, sr.; Kieran Davis, fr.; Mason Ordonez, fr.

MILTON

Coach: Veronica Irvine

Returning state qualifiers: None.

Returning girls district qualifiers: Haylee Carl, Milton, sr. (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay); Riley Godown, Milton, jr. (200 free relay); Kayli Johnson, Milton, jr. (200 medley relay); Ashley Shamblen, Milton, jr. (200 medley relay); Sara Dewyer, Milton, so. (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay);

Returning boys district qualifiers: None.

Remaining roster: Girls, Maria Painter, fr. Boys, Xavier Godown, fr.; Camden Weaver, fr.; Hunter Zettlemoyer, fr.

WELLSBORO

Coach: Michele Warner

Returning state qualifiers: None

Returning girls district qualifiers: None

Returning boys district qualifiers: Hayne Webster, so. (100 back)

Remaining roster: Girls, Madison Robbins, fr.; Caralyn Warner, fr.

INDEPENDENT SWIMMERS

Returning state qualififers: None.

Returning girls district qualifiers: Madison Milheim, N.P.-Mansfield, sr. (100 fly, 500 free); Madison Rovenolt, Warrior Run, sr. (100 breast).

Returning boys district qualifiers: Cael Dick, N.P.-Mansfield, sr. (100 fly, 100 free); Landon Corbin, Hughesville, sr. (100 back).

Other independent swimmers: Alex Barlett, Hughesville, fr.; Aiden Barlett, Hughesville, fr.; Amy Wallis, Hughesville, sr.

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