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Amazing Grace: Big Reds’ Cox puts on show for senior day

Photo by Josh Hughes Parkersburg High’s Grace Cox leads the 200 Individual Medley during senior day at the PHS Penguin Invitational Saturday at the YMCA at Parkersburg. Cox won the event as well as broke the school and meet record in the 500.

PARKERSBURG –The 2019-20 swimming season is getting closer to championship action, but this year’s PHS Penguin Invitational at the YMCA of Parkersburg served as a way for the teams involved to gauge how close they are to being 100% for bigger meets down the stretch. Events began in the waning moments of Saturday morning, as the host Big Reds also celebrated Senior Day.

Despite the absence of Jaden Welsh (illness) and limited participation by senior Emma Padden (illness), the two-time defending state champion girls still put up a fight. The Big Red girls still managed a fourth-place finish behind the victorious Bridgeport Indians.

Later in the day, Grace Cox capped off her Senior Day by toppling the last of head coach Emily Martin’s individual school records. The future Marshall University swimmer set a school and meet record in the 500 freestyle in 5:26.05, as she outlasted local placers in Marietta’s Lauren Clark (third), Parkersburg South’s Sophie Miller (fifth), teammate Megan West (sixth) and Marietta’s Samantha Zumwalde (ninth).

Cox wasn’t done, as she triumphed in the 200 individual medley in 2:18.29. Finishing tied for fifth were Marietta’s Kayla Stewart and PHS’s Ryan Lincicome. Those were the only top finishes for local teams on the girls’ side, but these local squads still finished in the thick of things in many events. Bridgeport’s 200 medley relay team toppled the third-place PHS foursome of Mary Strobl, Megan West, Cox and Padden to win in 1:59.17. Marietta’s Reagan Loeber, Kennedy Hearing, Ashley Stewart and Kayla Stewart notched a fourth place finish. While Wheeling Park’s Abby Turner won in the 200 freestyle (2:01.46), Marietta’s Lauren Clark added an eighth place finish to her team’s total in the event.

These finishes helped the Tigers claw up the leaderboard, and they finished fifth in a crowded field.

The Tigers’ Kayla Stewart finished fourth in the 100 butterfly (1:08.20) just ahead of PHS’s Strobl. She continued her good day with a top-5 finish in the 50 freestyle. MHS’s Loeber came in fifth in the 100 freestyle (1:01.97) ahead of the Big Reds’ Izzy Farinash. Speaking of Strobl, her third-place finish in the 100 backstroke helped her get revenge on the Tigers, as Loeber finished right behind her in the event.

Parkersburg South’s girls finished ninth as a team, and they tried to keep pace with the rest of the pack. Some prime scoring opportunities came their way to keep them afloat. In the 200 freestyle relay, the team of Alia Ott, Jillian Kramer, Chloe Santorie and Hailey Boothe came in ninth. They were outpaced by Parkersburg’s fourth-place team of Tori Fluharty, Strobl, Padden and Cox.

MHS’s Hearing finished a local-best seventh in the 100 backstroke, and PHS’s 400 freestyle relay team of West, Farinash, Emily Kammerer and Fluharty had a top local finish at fourth.

Also of note was Warren’s representation at the meet. Ashley Miller repped the Warriors with two point-scoring finishes (eighth in the 50 freestyle and 10th in the 100 freestyle). The Warrior girls finished with a 12th-place team score.

The boys’ side was about as productive for local teams, as PHS’s squad finshed in second behind Bridgeport. Coach Martin called the result “a pleasant surprise” given how young the team was at the beginning of the season. Marietta finihed in the top half with a sixth-place showing, and Parkersburg South finished in eighth on the day.

Brideport won a majority of the following events, but the local teams had placers who gave it their all. In the 200 medley relay, Marietta’s team of Shaun Powers, Owen Zundell, Nathan Johnson and Garrett Herb) achieved a fifth-place finish ahead of PHS’s sixth-place team of Isaac Hardy, Ian Sasyn, Carty Ramsay, and John Swarr.

PHS’s Lucian Baumgartner had the top local finish (eighth) in the 200 freestyle. Not far behind him in tenth was South’s Mikey Meyer. Parkersburg’s Ramsay kept the ball rolling for the Big Reds with a runner-up showing in the 200 individual medley. In the 50 freestyle, Marietta’s Powers had a local-best seventh-place finish in front of Parkersburg’s Jakeb Bertram. The Tigers kept up the pace with a fifth-place finish from Nathan Johnson, and he beat a trio of Patriots in Meyer (sixth), Landon Fowler (seventh) and Nick Murphy (eighth).

PHS’s Adam Solc (56.80) edged out South’s Ben Haught for eighth place in the 100 freestyle by a tenth of a second. Marietta’s Zundell finished ahead of PHS’s Ramsay with a top-3 showing in the 500 freestyle. Powers, Herb, Johnson and Oscar Hampton helped themselves to a fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay. The 100 backstroke saw South’s Fowler have the best local finish in ninth at 1:09.14. PHS’s Sasyn finished ahead of two Tigers, as his fifth place finish in the 100 breaststroke put him ahead of Zundell and Jackson Macatol. The last local finish of note was the fourth-place showing by PHS’s Ramsay, Baumgartner, Solc and Bertram in the 400 freestyle relay.

It was a day of ups and downs for those local teams, as they all find themselves in prime position to improve with championship meets just around the corner. On Senior Day, the Big Reds laid the groundwork for improvement and a deep run late in the year.

“We’re training the kids really hard right now. The kids are tired, but they’re shaving off time from earlier in the season,” PHS’s coach Martin said. “We actually did have a lot of lifetime bests from today, and it was a very pleasant surprise. This was our last meet before we go into our championship meets, so it was really important for me to see where the kids are, and they really proved to me they are ready.”

The Patriots voiced similar points, as the youth of head coach Ryan Radcliff’s team is helping take PSHS to the next level.

“This was kind of like last week (during Jan. 4’s Patriot Invitational). Our upperclassmen are in a bit of a lull. Our seniors and juniors were tired. We’re not getting quite the time drops, but that’s ok,” Radcliff said. “Our freshmen and sophomores, they’re still making big progress. People like Jillian Kramer on the girls’ side, Allison Marks on the girls’ side. On the boys’ side, Our sophomores are phenomenal right now. We’ve got Andrew Kirk. He’s a freshmen, and he’s dropping time for us. We’ve got (sophomore) Tyler Blevins. He was sick in the middle of the year, but he came back and is helping us out a ton right now by dropping big times. Mikey Meyer is swimming well. Gauge Metheny just made his regional cut for the 500-free. Jackson Dearth, man, he’s lights out right now. His times are dropping fast, and he’s going to be a big help to us at the end of the year.”

It’s the same story for Marietta’s Walt Teer, as the head coach wants to see his team’s continued improvement in time for the next meets on the schedule.

“They’re swimming a bit tired. They’re off on their best times, which is exactly where you want to be right now,” he said. “We’ve got three weeks before we start into our sectional and district, so I think a lot of our swimmers actually have room to build. I feel pretty good about our prospects for the end of the season. I feel like we’ve been working hard in practice, so there’s a lot of room for time drops.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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