Apr. 15—FAIRMONT — There were the usual stars reeling in the brightest accolades, yes — Mia Abruzzino sweeping her way to individual titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles, Alexis Ramsey breaking the meet record in the 200-yard individual medley, Ella Broadhurst and Ashlyn Bennington each earning first- or second-place finishes in their maximum of four events — but the Fairmont Senior girls’ swim team Region I championship this past weekend was also a reflection of so many other factors, so many other contributors, a complete teamwide showing if you will.
“I’m really proud of the girls. It was a total team effort,” said Fairmont Senior coach Rob Clevenger, whose Polar Bears finished the regional meet a whopping 65 points ahead of runners-up Spring Mills (129-64) to claim the regional crown.
The dominant showing by the Fairmont Senior girls included six regional titles over the 11 events, and 12 total state qualifications spread across six different individuals. Abruzzino and Ramsey both double dipped on the championship podium in individual events, with Abruzzino winning both the 200- and 500-yard freestyles, and Ramsey coupling her record-setting victory in the 200 IM with a second title in the 100-yard butterfly, and the duo also teamed up with Bennington and Broadhurst to take home wins in the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays.
Bennington and Broadhurst also racked up second place finishes in their respective individual events, with Bennington finishing runner-up in the 500-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke and Broadhurst coming in second in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle relays.
In addition to the 10 total state bids secured by the top-tier quartet of Abruzzino, Ramsey, Bennington and Broadhurst, they also got state-qualifying performances from freshmen Audrie Smith, who finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke, and Taylor Burkel, who took third in the 200-yard freestyle.
“There was a super level playing field amongst all of the teams,” said Clevenger of this year’s regional meet, which limited typically larger Class AAA teams, such as Spring Mills, Jefferson, and Musselman among others, to much smaller rosters because of COVID-19 restrictions. “Some of the Eastern Panhandle schools who would have 30-40 kids on the swim team were limited to 16, because they could only have one (swimmer) per lane in an eight-lane pool over a two-hour practice session. So they were at 16 kids, and it became like my 16 kids versus their 16 kids, and it was really our group effort that was able to overcome and beat the other schools.
The Polar Bears’ 10 total state qualifications were by far the most out of any of Marion County’s six teams between both the boys’ and girls’ teams from Fairmont Senior, East Fairmont, and North Marion.
“It was, as I said, a team effort,” Clevenger said, “because we had several others who scored points for us to obviously help us with our point total and win as a team. They may not have qualified for states in their event, but yet, they were contributors to that win.”
Outside of the FSHS girls’ team, however, the county did lock up another 10 state bids in Tuesday’s one-day state meet at the Aquatic Center at Mylan Park in Morgantown.
Fairmont Senior’s boys earned three state bids, East Fairmont’s boys’ and girls’ squads each took three state bids apiece, and North Marion girls’ freshman Taylor Hess nabbed the Huskies’ only spot in the state meet with a third place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke. Out of those remaining teams, the East Fairmont girls collected the best team finish in third overall at 57 total points, while the Fairmont Senior boys came in fourth with 37 points and the East Fairmont boys were sixth with 33 points.
Among those other 10 state qualifiers from Saturday’s regional, it was the East Fairmont’s boys’ team that produced the county’s biggest highlights outside of the Polar Bears, as the Bees got a pair of record-breaking performances from sophomore Josh McPherson in the 200-yard freestyle as well as the 200-yard medley relay team of Josh McPherson, Sean McPherson, Andrew Franks and Caleb Satterfield.
“Breaking a school record was the goal the guys set for the season, and in one meet they were able to break two of them,” said East Fairmont boys’ coach Emily Gallagher. “I’m proud of the hard work they’ve put into practices and they got the result they worked toward.”
McPherson in the 200 free and the Bees’ medley relay quartet of the McPhersons, Franks and Satterfield broke East Fairmont program records in their respective events, with McPherson clocking a 2:09.71 in the 200 free and the relay team finishing at 2:03.42. The all-time marks were good for a third place finish from McPherson and a fourth place spot for the 200 medley team, with both earning state bids.
“Making states as a relay was an added bonus for our team. They were worked hard as a team and each wanted to do better in their individual leg to make the team better. You can’t ask for anything more from them,” Gallagher said. “And Josh was determined this year to make it to states in his two individual events and he was able to accomplish that. He puts in a lot of work on his own and hit his goals because of it. I’m proud of him.”
The three state qualifying swims by the EFHS boys were matched by the East Fairmont girls as well as the Fairmont Senior boys.
For the Lady Bees, freshman Breanna Waldron was the standout performer at Saturday’s regional meet, as she burst onto the scene to qualify for states in a pair of individual events as well as as part of East’s 200-yard freestyle relay. Waldron booked her first spot at the state meet with a third-place finish in the 200-yard IM, and she then doubled down on her state bids by finishing third again, this time in the 100-yard freestyle.
Waldron then teamed up with juniors Madison Bailey and Lainey Barnes as well as sophomore Zoe Boyles to earn a runner-up finish in the 200 relay in what was an impressive showing with a time of 1:57.55.
The Fairmont Senior boys, meanwhile, were small in numbers with just four total swimmers, but even still, they managed to score in six of the 11 total events and earn three total state bids. Grant Broadhurst was the most notable performer, as the freshman showed out to collect a pair of second-place finishes and earn state bids in each of his two individual events of the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles. Senior Kirt Drennen also scored in each of his individual events for the Polar Bears, and he’ll accompany Broadhurst to Tuesday’s state meet after claiming second in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“It was pretty gratifying for the four boys that I had on our small boys team to come in fourth place out of 10 teams,” Clevenger said.
Email Bradley Heltzel at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.