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Indian swimmers ready to dive in

The Turners Falls High School swimming team will feature individuals looking to make a splash on the PVIAC swimming scene this winter.

The Indians once again have only a small number of swimmers, albeit a good deal of youthful talent that has a new coach excited with what he sees.

Aaron Osborne takes over the reins this season from former coach Kelly Yankowski (who remains on as an assistant), bringing with him a wealth of swimming experience. The former Amherst Regional High School swimmer went on to earn All-America honors as a swimmer at Johns Hopkins University. He now lives in Leverett and teaches at Turners Falls.

Osborne said that he is hoping to instill in his swimmers a strong work ethic that he believes will result in a number of his swimmers qualifying for the WMass meet in this year and in years to come.

“We’re in a numbers game when it comes to dual meets,” he said, echoing the situation that the team has faced in recent seasons in which it does not have a large enough squad to compete against many teams in the league. “But dual meets are academic to me right now. We are using them as opportunities to track progress.”

The girls’ squad has no seniors or juniors but does contain 10 swimmers, including three sophomores and a freshman that Osborne believes can make an immediate impact as individuals. Sophomore Mackenzie Salls will swim in the backstroke and the freestyle, while classmate Maddie Heath will join her in the backstroke and also competes in the 200-yard individual medley. Nicole John is the third sophomore on the team and she is a talented butterfly and individual medley swimmer.

Mackenzie Phillips is the only freshman on the team and will swim in the freestyle sprint events.

The eighth-grade class is the largest with five swimmers. Gabby Arzuaga returns this season and looks to compete in the freestyle distance events, while Melissa Hersey also returns to swim in the 100 and 200 free. Courtney Thurber is another freestyle sprinter and is the third returnee from the class. Newcomers Hailey Trott and Jill Harris are both slated to try freestyle events, with Harris also working on the breaststroke. Seventh-grader Sahailey Dupree rounds out the team and is looking at swimming in the back, butterfly and freestyle.

The boys’ team is only six swimmers deep and is also on the young side, although it contains no junior high school students.

Andy Peters is the only senior on the team and returns for his final season to compete in freestyle events. Sophomore Ian MacPhail is likely to swim in the freestyle distance events and has been solid in the 500 during the preseason. Classmate Alex Tirrell also returns this season to compete in the backstroke and freestyle. James Dolan is the third and final sophomore on the team and returns to swimming after having not swam in five years. He is likely to compete in the backstroke and freestyle.

The freshman class is a talented duo in Jay Fritz and Riley Palmer. Fritz is the Indians’ best swimmer, competing in the 50 and 100 freestyle, while Palmer has been pushing him in practice in the freestyle sprints. Palmer will also compete in the breaststroke.

It may be another tough season for the Indians to compete as a team, but Osborne is excited about the commitment of the swimmers and the school, which recently bought new swimming suits.

“The school has shown a commitment to having a competitive team,” Osborne said of the direction of the program. “They are all tired after practice, and they may grumble a little, but everyone has been working hard.”

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