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Turners swim preview 2018: Talented vets for pool Thunder

  • Turners Falls sophomore Olivia Whittier will help lead the Thunder into the pool this winter, as they open the 2018-19 campaign today at 4 p.m. against South Hadley. FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2018

There’s a lot going on in the pools at Turners Falls High School as the swim season opens Friday with a home meet against South Hadley.

At the top of the list is the fact that the Thunder has a new coach. Colin Machat takes over for co-coaches Nancy Yankowski and daughter Kelly Liimatainen this winter, and he gives Turners a nice pipeline from the youth ranks, as he’s also the head coach of the Montague Bluefish Swim Team.

The girls team went 4-6 overall a year ago, though there are several core members back who will hopefully enable the Thunder to move up the Constitution League standings this time around.

Sophomores Jade Tyler and Olivia Whittier, as well as junior Allison Wheeler, have Turners in good hands this winter. Tyler will likely swim the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, while Whittier is penciled in for the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. Wheeler will compete in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, and the trio will all be involved in the teams’ relays as well.

“Some of the veterans we have on the team; they’re amazing,” lauded Machat. “They take every practice in stride and just work on getting better and better. They all have really good fundamentals. I’m very excited to see what they can do this season, especially in some of our relays. It’ll be nice to see what they take from practice and put forward in a meet.”

Abigal Johnson is the lone senior on the Turners roster, and she’ll likely swim the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, while eighth-grader Lillian Poirier will look to make her mark in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke.

While Turners is short on numbers — a theme that has been consistent over the past decade or so — there was an influx of energy on the boys side as senior football players Jack Putala (50 and 100 freestyle) and Dom Carme (breaststroke and freestyle) decided to give swimming a shot. Machat said the duo has adapted well to the water, and he’s expecting them to contribute immediately.

“They didn’t really have any swimming experience to begin with, but they’ve come in and attacked every practice with so much energy,” said Machat. “They’ve taken to it quickly. I’m expecting some pretty big things from them. By the end of the year, I definitely think they’ll be scoring points for us. But leadership and maturity-wise as well, I think they will be solid.”

Junior Cameron Bradley enters primed for a big winter, and he’ll likely be the team’s top scoring threat in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. Senior Will Turn (50 and 100 freestyle) also returns, as does Nik Martin (200 medley, 50 freestyle) who won events last year and helped Turners to a 3-7 overall mark.

Turners got a boost numbers-wise thanks to some middle-school additions in the forms of Austin Sumer (freestyle), Dante Fish (freestyle) and Griffen Reigle (freestyle, backstroke).

The lack of numbers compared to some of the teams Turners will tangle with this winter means Machat will have to get creative in filling event slots.

“It’s definitely raised some difficulties,” he admitted. “I’ve swam and been a part of bigger teams, so I haven’t had to deal with it all that much before. We’ll try and get them to swim one of the strokes they want to, and then another one a bit out of their comfort zone, so we have that versatility by the end of the season. That’s my philosophy on how to combat having a smaller roster.”

Turners hosts South Hadley before taking to the road to meet Holyoke on Tuesday.