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Hempfield swimmers tapered, prepared for WPIAL championship meet

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 7:04 p.m.

It's no secret the winter weather has taken a brutal toll on local sports, but missed practice time won't be an excuse for the Hempfield swimming team heading into the season's championship meets.

“We've lost a number of practices and had schedule changes due to the weather,” coach Kevin Clougherty said.

“But it's the winter time and it's Western Pennsylvania. What we tell the kids is that we work so hard during the year that their body can absorb any changes or setbacks.”

With less than a week left until the WPIAL swimming championships, which will be Feb. 27-28 at Pitt, the Hempfield swimmers are in the midst of their taper — or planned systemic reduction in workload, as Clougherty called it.

“We're breaking out the finishing sandpaper,” Clougherty said, “smoothing out some of the rough edges, and just waiting for the WPIAL championship.”

Even with a group of proven winners graduating over the past few years, Hempfield isn't short on talent. Senior Brett Gwynn, junior Judson Shiffler and senior Amanda Kedzierski all figure to be medal winners next week.

Shiffler and Gwynn finished second and third in the 100-yard butterfly at the WCCA championship in the beginning of the month. Shiffler will also be swimming the 50-yard freestyle and Gwynn the 100 free.

Kedzierski set a new WCCA meet record in the 100-yard breaststroke, an event where she is ranked third in the state. She'll also be swimming the 50 free.

“For our upperclassmen folks, it's their turn,” Clougherty said.

“It's time for this next generation of kids to step up into the limelight and to get theirs.”

The boys 200 medley relay, and 200 and 400 freestyle relays also will have a great opportunity to earn medals.

“I'm really excited for our relays,” Gwynn said.

“We have so much fun together, and we have some amazing freshmen coming up. They've been doing an outstanding job, and we are really looking forward to doing well.”

In typical swim team fashion, the 400 freestyle relay has found a creative way to cut through the tension that a meet like the WPIAL championship can bring.

“We always sing while we're behind the block,” Gwynn said. “It's kind of funny because sometimes other teams around us will join in. It lightens the mood.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com.

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