PARKERSBURG - If high school swimming wasn't already serious enough, the season takes on even greater importance with regional meets being conducted around the state of West Virginia today.
In each region, the top four placewinners in each individual event, along with the top three placewinners in each relay, automatically for next week's state meet in Morgantown. The next eight fastest times in each individual event, in addition to the next six fastest times in each relay from all the regions combined also advance.
The programs from Parkersburg, Parkersburg South and Williamstown will compete in Region I at Brooke High School, with the first event scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m.
According to the seed times delivered to the respective coaches earlier this week, Parkersburg is ranked to finish second in both the boys and girls divisions. On paper, the South boys would finish third while the Patriot girls would place fourth.
The Morgantown girls and Brooke boys are expected to capture their respective titles.
However, swimmers tend to pull off a few surprises at this time of year and disrupt the order of finish. South coach Steve Lutz feels he has several individuals who fit into that category. Boys team captain Jacob Giffin, who is seeded third in the 200 free and fourth in the 500 free, is just one example.
"Jacob's time has dropped tremendously," Lutz said. "Last year he was struggling to get himself in, but this year he looks to be solid to get into the state meet. I expect him to score pretty well once he gets there."
While Giffin is the glue that keeps the boys side together, Beth Collins serves the same purpose as the girls team captain. Collins is the fourth seed in the 100 breaststroke and competes on all three relays (200 and 400 free, and 200 medley).
"Unless something goes terribly wrong, Beth should qualify in the 100 breaststroke," Lutz said.
South's top threat on the girls side is Audrey Sweeney, the top-ranked swimmer in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. Lutz is moving Sweeney to the butterfly leg on the 200 medley relay and inserting Gabby Ruble at backstroke.
"It's a bold move, but when you are behind you have to take a different line," Lutz said. "I don't think it's a great gamble because Gabby has started to swim the backstroke the second half of the season and improved tremendously."
The South girls are seeded second in the 200 free relay, which is the best position the Patriots have been in for that particular event in 10 years under coach Lutz.
For the South boys, both Lane Burton in the 200 individual medley and the 400 free relay are seeded second.
With only seven boys on the roster, the Big Reds will make plenty of noise - especially with Sean Snider seeded first in the 200 free and 500 free.
Josh Jobes figures to contend after being seeded second in both the 50 free and 100 fly. Also ranked to finish second is Parkersburg's 200 free relay and Tyler Foster in the 100 backstroke.
Parkersburg's top representatives from the girls side received a No. 2 seed - Abby Hendershot in the 100 free and the 400 free relay.
"It will be a fast meet," PHS girls coach Linda Alt said. "I'm excited and looking forward to seeing Parkersburg, Parkersburg South and Williamstown do really well."