FAIRMONT — While Bridgeport High School maintained its reign over Big 10 Conference swimming this past weekend and handily repeated as conference champions in the boys’ and girls’ competitions on Saturday at the Clarksburg YMCA, there were plenty of noteworthy developments across Marion County’s three squads of Fairmont Senior, East Fairmont and North Marion, which will all now look ahead to the regional meet set for April 10.
The Fairmont Senior girls’ team, which has long donned the county crown and has broached state title contender status at various points through the years, was once again among the top teams at conference this year. The Lady Polar Bears wound up giving Bridgeport its stiffest competition, as they tallied 168 total points to finish as the conference runners-up behind the Indians’ 224 total points.
“I think what (the team) has had to overcome this season with the restrictions and the way the meets are, I think they’ve really handled that well, both mentally and physically,” said Fairmont Senior swim coach Rob Clevenger.
All 168 points garnered by the Polar Bears were delivered courtesy of an eight-person group of senior Ella Broadhurst, junior Mia Abruzzino, sophomores Alexis Ramsey, Ashlyn Bennington, Stella Episcopo, and Neveah Premo, and freshmen Audrie Smith and Liz Amos.
Abruzzino, of course, is the most accomplished of that group as a year-round swimmer with a thick resume, including a pair of Big 10 titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles and a pair of third place finishes as part of FSHS’s 200- and 400-yard freestyle at last year’s Big 10 meet. Abruzzino repeated as conference champion in the 500-yard free on Saturday, with a dominant 21-plus-second victory over the rest of the field while coming within a few tenths of a second of breaking the Big 10 Conference meet record held by her older sister, Adriana. Abruzzino officially clocked a time of 5:26.52, with her sister’s all-time mark just a sliver of a hair better at 5:26.22.
“It was really close there for Mia in the 500 free,” Clevenger said. “I think now it comes to her sister has the record in the regionals, so that’ll be her next goal to try for. I think she sees it all as an opportunity just to compete, because even with the year-round swimmers, they’ve been limited in the meets they can have. So I think they’re definitely going out in every single meet and giving it everything that they have, because they’re training really hard to get into that tip-top shape.”
Along with her repeat conference championship in the 500 free, Abruzzino also finished runner-up in the 200 free with a time of 2:04.07 behind only Bridgeport freshman Olivia Urse at 2:00.18. She was also part of Fairmont Senior’s 200 and 400 relays, with the 400 relay quartet of Abruzzino, Bennington, Broadhurst and Ramsey nabbing the Big 10 title at a time of 4:06.18, and the 200 relay squad of the same four girls finishing third at a time of 1:51.57.
The 200-yard medley relay team of Premo, Smith, Amos and Episcopo also earned relay points for the Lady Polar Bears with a fifth-place finish after clocking a time of 2:23.50.
“Our A relay team there in the two freestyle relays, they performed really well,” Clevenger said, “and then we also got good points out of the 200 medley; that’s what really helped us in the team score is were our two sophomores — Neveah Premo and Stella Episcopo — and the addition of two freshmen in Audrie Smith and Liz Amos in that 200 IM relay.”
Beyond the relays, Fairmont Senior also racked up plenty of points in individual events as each of the Polar Bears’ big four of Abruzzino, Bennington, Ramsey and Broadhurst placed in both of their individual events. Abruzzino garnered her first and runner-up finishes in the 500 and 200 freestyles, respectively, and Bennington also impressed mightily with two runner-up finishes, as she came in second in both the 500 free behind Abruzzino and the 100-yard backstroke.
“Ashlyn Bennington is always strong,” Clevenger said. “She helps us a lot on the relays, she’s strong on the backstroke, and then she’s right behind Mia there in the 500 free.”
Ramsey gathered a second place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, as well as a third place in the 100-yard butterfly, while Broadhurst came in her third and fourth, respectively, in her specialty of short-distance relays in the 100 free and the 50 free.
“I think they’ve done as well as they can with the limited pool access that we’ve had,” Clevenger said of that top-tier foursome. “They’re club swimmers as well, and that helps because it gets them that extra pool time.”
Smith, Episcopo and freshman Taylor Burkel also added points in individual events for FSHS, with Smith’s double dip of fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke and seventh in the 50-yard free offering a major boost considering she’s just a freshman.
“We’re getting good performance out of the freshmen and the new swimmers who have came in, and even the ones who aren’t year-round swimmers, we’re getting good times from them,” Clevenger said.
On the boys’ side, however, Fairmont Senior finished just sixth out eight qualifying teams, as the Polar Bears were light on place finishers.
Freshman Grant Broadhurst was the standout behind the majority of the FSHS’s boys’ highlights, as he placed third overall in each of his individual events and was a member of the team’s fifth and sixth place relay teams in the 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle, respectively. Broadhurst’s individual third place finishes came in the 50-yard free with a time of 24.81 seconds and the 100-yard free wat 55.21 seconds.
Senior Kirt Drennen was the Polar Bears’ only other individual place finisher, as he finished 10th in the 100-yard breaststroke, to go along with competing in the 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle relays. Bradey McMullen and Samuel Cox were the other two members of FSHS’s placing relays alongside Broadhurst and Drennen.
East Fairmont finished the Big 10 Conference meet with a handful of notable performances across each of the boys’ and girls’ teams, as both finished in the thick of the team standings. The EFHS boys placed fifth overall out of eight qualifying teams, while the EFHS girls finished sixth out of 10 qualifying teams.
“I’m proud of our team’s turn out against larger competition,” said East Fairmont boys’ coach Emily Gallagher. “They have been working really hard at practice and it’s starting to show in meet times. We have some goals we still want to meet, but overall, I’m proud of these guys.”
“We swam well,” said East girls’ coach Katey Sharpe. “I’m impressed by the outcomes of the girls who have been giving their all since we were able to start our season again.”
Between the East Fairmont boys’ and girls’ teams, sophomore Josh McPherson, who was a state qualifier last season as a freshman, was the top performer. McPherson finished as the Big 10 runner-up in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 6:02.14, and he also placed individually in the 200-yard free by coming in fourth overall with a time of 2:13.45. McPherson was also a member of East’s two placing relays in the 200-yard medley (3rd) and the 200-yard freestyle (5th) to earn the 4-for-4 sweep in terms of events competed in versus place finishes.
Joining McPherson on the two relays were sophomore Andrew Franks, junior Caleb Satterfield, and senior Sean McPherson in the 200 medley, and Franks, Satterfield and sophomore Coy Brock in the 200 freestyle.
Satterfield, Franks, and Sean McPherson earned individual place finishes for the Bees, with Satterfield and Franks coming in fifth and seventh, respectively, in the 100-yard freestyle, while McPherson placed seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“A few of our boys are a few seconds away from school records, along with our 200 medley,” Gallagher said, “and all of the boys decreased their time from previous meets.”
For the East Fairmont girls, junior Madison Bailey offered up the team’s marquee performance as the lone individual place finisher in the 100-yard freestyle. Bailey clocked a time of 1:05.63 to come in fifth overall.
Bailey also teamed up with senior Kaylee Kenney and sophomores Allie Morgan and Zoe Boyles to earn sixth in the 200 free relay, and the Bees’ 400 free relay of Morgan and juniors Dani Douglass, Hana Stuck and Jenna Vilone also collected points by coming in seventh overall.
“We have some technical things to work on, but overall, I think we are in a good place,” Sharpe said.
North Marion, which always seems to have a small, but productive roster, finished eighth out of 10 teams in the girls’ team standings, while the NMHS boys’ team didn’t qualify in the team standings.
Among all of the Huskies’ swimmers, freshman Taylor Hess emerged onto the Big 10 scene the brightest, as she placed in three of her four events and just missed the 4-for-4 sweep by coming in 11th overall in the 200-yard freestyle, which was one spot away from scoring. Hess’ other individual event in the meet was the 100-yard breaststroke, and the freshman surged to an eighth place finish in her Big 10 debut with a time of 1:26.33.
Hess was also part of two NMHS relays that collected fifth and eighth place finishes. The Huskies’ 400 free squad of Hess, sophomore Jamie Laxton and seniors Aliyah Helmick and Maggie Poling earned the fifth place finish with a time of 5:01.90, while the trio of Hess, Laxton and Poling, alongside sophomore Lanie Richards, came in eighth in the 200 free.
Elsewhere, Helmick was the lone other place finisher for the Huskies coming in 10th in the 100-yard backstroke, which was good for the last point finisher. Helmick clocked a 1:20.94 in the event.
Poling, meanwhile, just missed cracking the points threshold in the 50-yard free as she placed 11th overall at 31.25 seconds.
For the NMHS boys, sophomore Gage Willis led the way, as he came in 12th overall in the 100 free and 14th in the 50 free.