New Ligonier swim coach keeps team afloat

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The departure of coach Linda Lenz could have spelled disaster for the Ligonier Valley High School swim team. The school board considered canceling the season until new coach Tracy Shearer stepped in and took the helm. Shearer has coached swimming at the Ligonier Valley YMCA for 13 years, and said the lack of a coach and low participation rate could put the team in jeopardy for future seasons.

“We need to have success and we need to have numbers to be able to bring these kids into the program. I would really like to see this team continue. I'm doing this because I don't want this program to die,” Shearer stated.

This year the swim team has 20 members, five of which will graduate in the spring and Shearer said she is looking at 15 possible swimmers coming up from eighth grade next year.

The seniors include Isaac Deemer, Josh Meharey, Taylor McCracken, Caitlin Michaels, Maria Loreto Plaza and Abby Salancy. Allison Fox, Sam Maust, Bethanie Meharey, Sarah Ragon and Nicole Wissinger are the juniors. The sophomores are Phil Cornell, Quade Jackman, Dylon Kuhn, Hannah Patrick, Skylar Piper, Rebekah Pleskovitch and Shelbi Shearer. Susie Stoll and Catou Cmar are the freshmen.

Last year Bethanie Meharey set school records in the 200 and 500 freestyle events and was the first diver in school history to win the District 6 championship and compete in the state playoffs. Joshua Meharey and Wissinger both finished in 10th place at districts for individual events, Meharey for the 100 butterfly and Wissinger for the 200 IM.

The girls' team placed sixth in the 200 freestyle relay, while the boys team placed ninth in the same event. Both boys and girls finished eighth in the 200 medley relay.

“I would love to see several kids making state,” Shearer commented on the goals of this season. “We have enough potential on the team that it is very likely I will have half-a-dozen kids go to states.”

Shearer also said the school board has looked into the viability of the swimming as a sport offered at Ligonier Valley because of budgetary constraints. Swimming is one of the most expensive sports at the school, according to Irma Hutchinson, chairwoman of the school board's athletic committee. The school pays fees to the YMCA to rent the pool facilities and also pays the most for travel because of the distance to many of Ligonier's opponents. However, Hutchinson said that is a decision to be made in the future.

“At this time there is no move to do that, but we have to wait and see what participation rate is this year. We evaluate every program at the end of the year, but right now there is absolutely no decision on that,” Hutchinson stated.

The Ligonier Valley swim team holds its first home meet 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Ligonier Valley YMCA when Northern Cambria will come to town.

Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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