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NTL SWIMMING & DIVING: TOWANDA EXCITED TO GET IN THE POOL (2021-01-12)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
While most eyes have been on what basketball and wrestling are doing, swim teams are also trying to make their way through this pandemic ridden winter sports season.

Towanda swimmers and divers are no different, as they’ve had to deal with a 3-week break between practices, and will now be starting with a home meet today after a week of practice.


“There’s not much you can do with swimming if it gets cancelled,” said senior Jaden Wise. “It was really just sit around and not eat too much of the wrong thing.”


That’s hard to do over Christmas and New Year’s, but the Black Knight swimmers are focused on making this as good a season as possible.


“It’s kind of been frustrating,” said fellow senior Ava Gannon. “But I’m glad we’re back, glad we can get started and get in shape.”


Gannon will be focusing on the sprints - 50 and 100 free - along with the 100 backstroke.


“I’ll try not to breathe as much,” she said about the short races. “Build up my endurance and just go fast.”


The backstroke is a more technical swim for Gannon.


“For me, I have to focus on my starts this year,” she said. “Those aren’t as good, but I will get it down.”


Gannon was second in the 100 free at the NTL Invitational last year, and third in the 100 backstroke. 


She would also like to help build up the team, too, as they shoot for a winning dual meet record this year.


“It’s possible, we have some new talent coming out,” said Gannon. “We lost a lot from last year, but I think it’s possible.”


Wise will be focusing on qualifying for districts in the 100 backstroke, it’s the only event he’s never qualified for districts in.


“That’s the one that’s been eluding me for the past three years,” he said. 


He wants to qualify for districts in the 50 and 100 free right away, then focus on the backstroke and 500 free. Wise won the 100 free at the NTL Meet last year while also taking second in the 200 free.


The 500 free is an event Wise knows well.


“It’s tedious, but it’s easier to do once you’ve done something harder,” he explained.


Running cross-country last year as a junior helped him for the longer distances, so he’s hoping that will serve him well again this year.


“Running was really hard, but coming into the pool and doing the 500 free, it felt a lot easier and that helped improve my time,” he said. “I will just keep practicing and get breathing down.”


Keeping track of all 20 lengths during the distance event can be tough.


“It’s difficult once you get past the 250,” said Wise. “Multiple times I’ve lost count. I’ll either be a 50 off and end it there or keep swimming accidentally.”


Fellow senior Joey Donovan will return to the diving board this year.


“I’ll be working on harder dives, more difficult ones,” he explained. “I’m just trying to improve that.”


Donovan came out last year at the behest of Eric Lauber after showing an interest in the event as a freshman.


“I always liked flips and everything,” said Donovan. “I was scared to do it because we also have to swim, but then one year Eric told me to do it, and I just tried it and now I’m back.”


He took third at the NTL meet a year ago in diving as he works towards making districts this year.


“I have to learn one more dive, then qualify all of them and I can go to districts,” said Donovan.


Diving can be very tedious as it’s such a precision talent.


“You’ve got to focus on a lot,” he said. “And the camera helps a lot - to get out and be able to watch yourself; see where you can nitpick yourself. I need to work on my entries, working on getting straighter, my take off and work on getting higher.”


Sophomore Juliana Varner will be looking to improve on her strong freshmen year.


“I learned a lot of things as a freshman last year,” she said. “Definitely, how to get stronger, how to start better and fix things up so I’m not a mess.”


Varner was second in the 50 free and third in the 100 free a year ago at the NTL Meet. This year, she has her sights set higher.


“I’m going for the 100 fly record,” she said. “I have a lot more knowledge of how to do the butterfly better. I definitely have to do quick turns and good starts, and definitely a lot of good underwater.”


She’ll also be focusing on the crown jewel of swimming, the 200 IM.


“It’s definitely a challenge as I’m not really good at the backstroke,” said Varner. “That’s one of my main targets this year to get better at. I’m mainly a sprinter, I like to sprint the 50 free.”


The pandemic has made big changes to the schedule this season. Sayre cut their swim program this year due to a lack of numbers, meaning there won’t be an NTL meet, while the state championship cut back on the number of swimmers they will be taking this year. That makes goals limited for this group.


“I’m kind of sad that they cut back who can go to states,” said Varner. “I’ve got two more years, I can definitely get there.”


For their coaches, just keeping the kids in the water is the main goal.


“Even if we don’t get a chance to meet with other schools, it’s certainly a priority for me to keep them in the water,” explained assistant coach Amy Brennan. “To maintain their love of the sport, to help them build on their skills. If we get a chance to compete and go to districts and do all those things, that’s icing on the cake this year.”


They’re focusing on keeping a positive attitude despite all the uncertainty.


“We’re all trying to stay positive,” said Varner. “That’s one thing that all of us are good at.”



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