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Swimming preview: Everyone is chasing Harmony

Posted on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Gateway’s Karen Valido competes at the Makinson Aquatic Center. Photo/Martin Maddock

By Rick Pedone
Sports Editor
There was a lot of burnt orange at last year’s Orange Belt Conference swimming meet, when Harmony’s boys and girls swept the conference championships. It was the third win in a row for the Lady Longhorns.
While St. Cloud, Celebration, Gateway and Osceola all could mount challenges, it appears that the Longhorns are the team to beat again this year.
Expect improvement from the Poinciana and Liberty teams this season as those programs take advantage of the new Mary Jane Arrington pool in Poinciana.

Harmony
The Longhorns swept the boys and girls OBC championships last year. They will try to do the same thing with a new boys coach, Trish Abell, the former swimming and water polo coach at Osceola High. Her Kowboys won six consecutive OBC championships in the early 2000s. She replaces Terry Brown, who retired last season after founding the program in 2004.
“We have a large group of student athletes and we are prepping for a great season,” Abell said.
Returning as the girls coach is TJ Walters, who currently is recuperating from a serious injury. He hopes to be with the team soon.
Abell’s boys team is led by Josh Yi, Juan Arvelo, Mason Moore, Joshua Murray, Nathan Allen and Josue Sanchez, all regional qualifiers. Joining them is foreign exchange student Cezar Galusca.
Yi, the district and OBC champion 200 free, and the regional runner-up in the 500, is capable of doing even better this season, Walters said.
Walters said that the girls, although hit hard by graduation, are capable of winning a fourth consecutive OBC title.
The girls are led by the returning Swimmer of the Year, Skylar Durost.
Also leading the talented squad are captains Olivia Templeton and Savannah Steele along with Shayla Whaley, Kaley Smith, Sailor Durost and Elly Clark.
Defending OBC champion Makenzie Griffin leads the dive team.
“I believe we will see come county records fall on the girls side,” Walters said.
Kari Ewalt, a former OHS standout, is assisting Abell and Walters.

Osceola
Coach Krystle Bayliss is looking forward to seeing improvement from her boys and girls teams this season.
Bayless said seniors Alex McBride and Molique Roberson along with junior Jesus Machado and freshman Esteban Moran will be key performers for the Kowboys.
The girls team will be led by junior Katherine Rosado, wophomore Julia Vanbuskirk and freshman Bailey Castillow.
“We’ve got quite a few great returners and a strong sophomore and freshmen class coming in,” Bayliss said. “I’m excited!”

St. Cloud
Coach Sarah Thompson leads the Bulldogs this season.
The boys roster includes Matt Bellovin, Tyler Rodriguez, Estaban Garcia, Isaiah Corchado, Adrian Battle and Travis McCormick.
The girls team has Bailey Reich, Natalia Gutierrez, Stephanie Contreras, Makenzie Morris, Peighton Burge and Falcon Gardner.
St. Cloud’s dive team has Moran Evans, Kaylin White and Unique Howard. The male divers include Caleb Endicott, Sean Seely and Matt Jones.

Celebration
Coach Kelly Walton has built one of the strongest programs in the county and she is looking forward to another strong season.
Leading the girls team are senior captains Hannah Masten and Ava Bruener. Joining them are Mie Amelung, Pilar Vazquez, Isabelle Wein and Deanna Guzman.
Leading the boys squad are senior captains Ben Wheeler and Luis Cunha. Also playing big roles are Riely Walls, Max Medved, Luca LeHelley and Bryce Moore.
The Storm swimmers also participate in the Special Olympics Project Unify, which provides opportunities for athletes with disabilities to compete with their peers, said Walton.
Participating athletes include Rachel Cudia, Reily Walls, Daniel Riveros, Mie Amelung, Mariana Obenauer and Nayeli Marcial.

Liberty
Coaches Bruce Mulford and Dai Bacon see good things ahead for their program now that it has the Mary Jane Arrington pool in Poinciana to hold practices.
The Chargers growing program includes third-year veterans Josh Velez and Ty Moody, both juniors. They are joined by newcomers Jovanny Perez, Aramis Gomez, Jean Villarreal, Brandon Marte and Sebastian Martinez.
The Lady Chargers have an all-new cast this year.
They are Amber Diaz, Holly Diaz, Syriana Sukhram, Diyannara Lebron, Delila Delvatte, Noemi Rodriguez, Krystal Soto, Crystal Castillo, Erika Croce, Margarita Pena and Rebecca Raymond.

Gateway
Coach Vonnie Kochensparger leads the Panthers girls and boys teams.
The girls squad promises improvement, she said, with a solid group of returning swimmers that includes divers Mya Baxter and Kyomi Cabral.
Emily Villafuerte, Sabrina Thirunayagm, Melissa Salas, Sarah McFeeley, Taylor Johnson, Luna Hernandez, Andrea Contreras and Hanna Elmattougui all return.
New to the team are Journey Harding, Sydney Kochensparger, Lizzy Steidley and Valeria Olarte, Divers Sheila Caraballo and Lin Lu also join the team.
“The girls are looking better than the past couple of years,” she said.
The boys team is in more of a rebuilding mode, she said.
Takumi Cabral, Christian Contreras, Riley Faulkner, Axel Flores, Grant Goetzke, Gedrick Mangual and Justin Yousey are the returning swimmers. Jeziel Perez and Kelmy Rosado are the dive veterans.
Carlos Camacho, Marcos Marin and Juan Azize (diving) are newcomers to the team.
The boys and girls teams swept a tri-meet with Liberty and Poinciana to start the season.