By Mike Zummo
The Pine Bush girls’ swimming and diving team has won three straight Section 9 championships.
This year, they’ll shoot for No. 4 in a season that resembles more of what they’re used to.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, swim teams competed virtually in their own pool, while their opponents performed in their own pools at roughly the same time with the times being merged later.
This year, their opponents are back in the pool and spectators – albeit masked – are expected back in the bleachers.
They also return all their top finishers from last year, including Mackenzie Gula, who won the Section 9 championship in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke, and Antonia Licardi, a sectional champion in the 100-yard freestyle.
They also return Elishka Hajek and Samantha McKee, who helped them win the 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle relays. Sophomore Madaghan O’Shea also returns. O’Shea was on the second-place 400-yard freestyle relay team at last year’s sectionals and finished fifth and sixth in the 500- and 200-yard freestyles respectively.
Pine Bush coach John Barth, who is in his 15th year as coach said he is looking forward to continuing Pine Bush’s dual meet winning streak, winning the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association and Section 9 track meets.
“I am lucky enough to have a very talented team,” Barth said. “These young ladies work very hard in and out of the pool and because of it, we have been very successful. I am proud of them all.”
This is looking like it will be the last year for Scott Warner, who is in 29th year coaching swimming at Valley Central as the longtime aquatic director plans to retire at the end of the school year.
And in his final year, he is returning two key seniors in Rian Dickman and Grace Wienckowski and juniors Cali White and Grace Satriano.
Warner said he’s looking for Dickman to repeat in her Section 9 200-yard freestyle championship, and see his team score in the top 3 at sectionals this year.
Riley Conan will be in her second year as a diver, but her first year diving with competition in the pool, after last year’s virtual meets. Warner also will welcome a group of seventh graders, including Emily White, Samantha Thompson, Caitlynn Wieczorek and Samantha Messing.
Warner is looking to have as many girls improve on their sectional finishes as possible and wants to send three individuals and one relay to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships, which have been restored this year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused all states to be canceled last year.
The Wallkill Panthers didn’t win dual meet next year, but that has more to do with roster size and depth, rather than swimming performance.
The Panthers, who finished 0-8, last year, but return key swimmer Andie Psilopoulos, who posted a second-place finish at sectionals last year in the 200-yard individual medley.
They also return Kaitlyn Bonner, the sister of graduated senior Taylor Bonner, and their only senior, Meghan MacEntee.
Wallkill also lost Taylor Salemo.
Second-year coach Doug Thompson will welcome newcomers, Samaya Drackett, Ruth Weinmann, Julianna Lewis and Natalie MacEntee.
The Panthers are a newer program – only in their fifth season – and without a pool of its own has been training with the Marlboro Dukes. Thompson called the 2021 Panthers a “very young and strong team”.
He also said Psilopoulos has a chance to make the state meet in one or two events.
“I believe we will build on last year’s success, and with a few more swimmers in the future, will be a team on the rise in the section,” Thompson said.