Powertown swimmers dive into season

  • Turners Falls freshman Jade Tyler qualified for the WMass Championships in a pair of events last season and will be one of the top swimmers for the Powertown this winter. Recorder FILE PHOTO

  • Turners Falls' Jade Tyler competes in the 200 meter free event against Holyoke Tuesday, December 13, 2016. File photo

  • Freshman Olivia Whittier nearly qualified for the MIAA state meet in the 100-yard breaststroke last season for Turners Falls and she will be someone to keep an eye on in the pool this winter. Recorder File photo

  • Jade Tyler, of Turners Falls High School, competes in the 100 yard fly event against Sci-Tech High School Tuesday, January 19. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt File photo

Recorder Staff
Thursday, December 07, 2017

It should be another interesting season in the pool at Turners Falls High School.

Each of the four swimmers — two boys and two girls — who qualified for the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships from Turners Falls last season returns to the pool this winter for the team, which once again has pretty solid numbers overall for a program that has had very scant participation in past seasons.

Turners has eight girls and six boys this season, which should have the teams competitive in the Constitution Division, which underwent alignment following last season. West Springfield High School, which won the boys’ Constitution title and finished second on the girls’ side, moved up, while Palmer High School moves into the league. Turners Falls co-coaches Nancy Yankowski and daughter Kelly Liimatainen both believe their squads should be competitive with the numbers they have.

“We can make two girls’ relay teams, which should really help them be competitive,” Liimatainen said. “I think both our teams are going to do well.”

There is also the individual aspect to swimming and a change has come to the sport’s postseason meet. The Western Massachusetts Swimming and Division Championship has been replaced by a Central/West Swimming and Diving Championship according to Liimatainen and the most glaring change is that qualifying times are now going to be harder to hit.

“The Central/West meet is a great goal for them to strive for,” Liimatainen said. “We have some very good swimmers and if they achieve qualifying for the Central/West meet, it will be really meaningful.”

The girls’ team features freshmen Olivia Whittier and Jade Tyler who just entered high school this fall but already have a pair of WMass Championship appearances under their belts. Whittier had the best finish of any local swimmer at western Mass. a season ago with a 12th-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke with a personal-best time of 1 minute, 15.45 seconds, which left her just two seconds shy of qualifying for the state meet last season. She will again swim the breast and freestyle events for Turners Falls.

Tyler, meanwhile, qualified for a pair of events at WMass and also swam her season-best times in each at the postseason meet. She finished 17th overall in the 200 freestyle in 2:11.48, and then finished 19th in the 500 free in 5:56.99. She will also swim the individual medley for Turners.

There are plenty of other strong swimmers on Turners. Peyton Emery is the only senior on the girls’ team and she will swim freestyle events and the breast, while Abigail Johnson is the lone junior and she will swim the free and back events. Sophomore Allison Wheeler is another strong swimmer who will compete in freestyle events.

Catie Reynolds joins Whittier and Tyler out of the freshmen class and will swim the free, back and butterfly events. Jordan Muniz returns as an eighth-grader this season and will swim the free and fly, and Lillian Poirier is a seventh-grader who will swim the back and free.

The boys’ side also has a nice mix of returning talent and  youth. Nick Taylor is the lone senior on the squad and he put together a memorable season by qualifying for the WMass meet in the 100 butterfly where he finished 29th in a time of 1:06. Taylor will also swim freestyle events for Turners. 

The other returning postseason qualifier on the team is sophomore Cameron Bradley, who returns after a solid season last winter. Bradley qualified for WMass in both the 100 butterfly and the 100 back and he placed 21st in the butterfly in 1:02.16, and was 25th in the 100 back in 1:08.29. He will also swim IM events.

Junior Will Turn is a newcomer to the team who is a solid athlete and will swim the freestyle and back.

Three returning seventh-graders round out the team. Tommy Hall will swim the free and breast, while brother Ricky Hall will swim freestyles. Nik Martin also returns and will swim free, back and fly.

“We’re really excited about the kids we have,” Yankowski concluded. “They show up to practice every day and they are a fun, energetic group. They all want to be there and it’s a good vibe to have.”

Turners Falls opens today at South Hadley High School in an independent meet.