Swimming: In winter weather conditions, Exeter claims victory over an emerging Hanford West squad

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By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
EXETER – Swimming is one of the rare sports of spring which still competes no matter how much it rains. However, the sudden effects of winter, including rain and wind last Thursday night, made the events extremely chilly. Regardless, the Exeter Monarchs swept the Hanford West Huskies in boys, 119-50, and girls, 113-71.
“The wind chill factor today was a real problem,” Exeter head coach Amanda Ogata said about the conditions. “But we already had a lot of swimmers at, or close to where they were at the end of last season.”
The rain for the most part did not bother the athletes. Before their events they could wait underneath pop-up canopies in order to stay dry. Even the starting blocks looked to still have some reasonable grip. Once in the pool, however, their breathing did become a little more difficult due to a layer of mist that sat along the water’s surface.
Hayley Long swims the freestyle of the 200-meter individual medley relay. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

Hayley Long swims the freestyle of the 200-meter individual medley relay. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

The real difficulty came when waiting in the wind and cold before the events. For one of Exeter’s fastest swimmers Ben Sertich it was a never-ending effort to keep warm. Those efforts withdrew energy from the swimmers, leaving some fatigued when their events came up.
Still, Sertich took both of his events, the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, on the evening. In the 50-meter, Sertich clocked a 23.50 which is just a second slower than his valley championship meet time at the end of last year.
“My goal at the end of the year is to get down to 21 seconds. So I just have to keep on conditioning,” Sertich said.
What conditioning Sertich has already done paid off a little later in the 100-meter freestyle when he clocked a 53.48, a time six seconds faster than his first meet of the season a couple of weeks ago.
In both events, Exeter swept the top three spots. Zach Welch clocked 24.06 in the 50-meter and a 55.51 in the 100. Third place belonged to Caleb Peltzer, who finished at 56.80, in the 100-meter. Everett Anez finished in third with a time of 25.16.
“We are definitely strong in the shorter events,” Ogata said. “But we are also strong in the distance events, especially on the girls’ side.”
One stronger and more versatile swimmers for the Monarchs girls’ team is Ashley Howell. Over the course of the past few seasons, Howell has dominated in the 200-meter individual medley. On this night, however, her reign was challenged.
Out to a strong start in the butterfly stroke, Howell was able to build up a one and a half-second lead. The gap extended to a two-second lead by the transition to the breast stroke. The transition to freestyle, which Howell had a little difficulty making, let Hanford West’s Eva McIlwaine back into the race.
In the last 25 meters, Howell’s once dominant lead had dwindled to less than a second. With McIlwaine closing strong, Howell picked up the speed of her kick to barely stay out in front. When it came down to the finish, Howell got first, clocking a time of 2:30.96. It was less than a second faster than McIlwaine’s time of 2:31.52.
“I was not expecting that race to develop like it did, but my new friend Eva really pushed me this time,” Howell said. “It is a little scary to see this tough of competition so early, but I am ready for it.”
Another strong swimmer for the girls is Hailey Long. She won the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 2:13.99, a winning gap of 10 seconds, over Hanford West’s Jillian Gaines. Long won the 500-yard freestyle as well, clocking a time of 6:08.82.
While it is still early in the season, Coach Ogata is optimistic about the possibility of a Central Sequoia League title, especially for the girls’ team. The reason is the amount of incoming freshman, like Riley Carpenter, who so far seems to have a strong work ethic. Carpenter won the 100-meter butterfly.