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Swimmers look to get past tough, early start

For Whitehall’s swimming program, it’s all about the numbers.

The Zephyrs entered Tuesday’s meet at Parkland with low numbers due to outbreaks of COVID-19 and other illnesses that have spread throughout the program.

“It’s been horrible,” said veteran head coach Pete Rile. “We have been down swimmers lately. It’s been COVID, other illnesses, and some other factors.

“The girls went into Christmas with COVID issues, and we were down to seven of them. The boys had a good meet with Pottsville, and then we lost seven to COVID.”

Rile noted his swimmers are returning to the lineup, but the team still is not at full strength.

“We have some right now that are in modified workouts,” he said. “We have five boys right now, and we can just get by. We had high expectations for the boys’ team. We knew our girls might struggle a bit.

“It will be a struggle to get some of our swimmers into the top 16 or 20 to qualify for districts.”

Rile highlighted the performance of sophomore Aaron Stinner, who has been closing in on team records in the 100 free, 200 IM, and 100 fly. The latter record is held by John Elnitsky, who set the mark 45 years ago.

Senior Rachel Dolan, a former district qualifier, has helped set the pace for the team. Junior Neave Doyle has battled through a shoulder injury, and fellow junior Alexis Quach has been lowering her times.

“We rely on Rachel for her leadership,” said Rile. “Neave is coming along after her injury, and Alexis keeps getting better and better.”

The coach would like to see some of the records broken this year and also be able to welcome back the current record holders.

“One of our main goals is to knock down some of these records,” said Rile. “John Elnitsky’s record was a great time back then, and it still is today. We would like to welcome him back if someone can break his mark.”

The Zephyrs have eight meets left. Their next meet with Dieruff Jan. 18 will mark their fifth consecutive road meet before they have five consecutive home meets.

“Our schedule is lopsided this year,” added Rile. “But we’ll hope to get healthy for the right time of the season ahead.”