TENNERTON – There will be a new but familiar face taking over the head coaching spot for the Buckhannon-Upshur swim teams this season.
Michael Roessing, an assistant coach on the team last year, will take over as head coach while last year’s head coach, Will Squires, will now take on the role of assistant coach.
“I was in this position before as head coach and the way I left sort of left a bad taste in my mouth, so I wanted to come back and give it another shot,” stated Roessing. “Will and I talked about changing roles and we made it happen. He talked about stepping down with myself taking over. His wife, Brittany Squires, is still helping out as well, but we just have different titles now.”
The continuity of the coaching staff remaining together didn’t lead to many changes for the two swim teams, despite the changing of the titles for the coaches.
“The only thing that really changed is that I am able to be here more than I was as an assistant because of my new work schedule,” said Roessing. “I can step up and be here more now, but nothing really else has changed. Will still runs his practices with his kids and I run my practices. We are still a team as far as Will and I go. Hopefully, the kids will still respond to us like they have in past seasons.”
Roessing will inherit a pair of teams loaded with individual talent.
On the boys’ side, the team qualified four for the state meet last year, and Roessing will have three of those back: junior Reis Leonard, junior Owen Caynor and junior Preston Bennett.
Bennett last year set a new regional record in the 500-yard freestyle winning the event and also claimed first at regionals in the 200-yard freestyle to earn All-Region honors. At states, he finished second in the 500-yard freestyle and third in the 200-yard freestyle.
Leonard qualified for two individuals events last year in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle.
Caynor, along with Bennett, Leonard and Sam Squires, who graduated this past spring, finished fifth at states in the 200-yard freestyle and medley relays.
The girls also sent four swimmers to the state championships last year, and Roessing returns three of them: senior Cameron Zuliani and juniors Alayna Whitehair and Cadence Vincent.
Vincent, the recent University of Alabama signee, set two new marks at the state meet winning the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle, earning All-State honors.
Zuliani placed third at states in the 100-yard breaststroke and fourth in the 100-yard butterfly.
Whitehair was sixth at states in the 100-yard backstroke and seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The three, along with then-senior McKenzie Reynolds, took second place at states in the 200-yard freestyle and medley relays.
“We have some talented swimmers on both teams,” noted Roessing. “Swimmers who finished at the top of the state last year, and I think they are set to do it again this year. I look for everyone to do the same, or similar things, they did last year. Step up right where they finished off last year with some state titles from some and top six finishes from others.”
While the swim teams have been packed with individual numbers in recent years, depth on both squads has always been an issue.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Roessing’s teams this year as the boys’ roster shows nine swimmers while the girls’ roster has 12 swimmers on it.
“We have numbers, but we have a lot of younger swimmers who are inexperienced and still learning,” said Roessing as the boys’ roster has three underclassmen on it and the Lady Bucs’ roster has seven underclassmen on it. “We have enough depth this year to fill out the events and relays. I expect us to be very strong in our relays for both sides.”
“We ran a mock meet earlier in the pre-season just because we had so many swimmers that were unaware of how a high school swim meet was run,” he added. “Some of our younger swimmers are surprising me, but they are still inexperienced and young. If they can get on track and push themselves, I can see them getting in line to be the next line of excellent swimmers here.”
Roessing said the pre-season went relatively well for his two teams.
“I thought our preseason went pretty well,” noted Roessing. “It really isn’t like other sports where you can have scrimmages. I try to simply get them in the water. My philosophy is to make the practices harder than what I had. I know the team may not enjoy it, but I struggled when I got to college to swim, and I want to give them that opportunity and show them, if you want to be a college swimmer, this is what it takes. I may have harder practices than most high school coaches. I will say they have stepped up for the most part.”
Those pre-season practices paid off for the Bucs and the Lady Bucs as they both had two solid outings in their first two meets of the season, one at Scott Depot and one in Morgantown at the Mylan Park Aquatic Center, where the state championships will be held.
Roessing said it was important to have a regular-season meet at Mylan Park Aquatic Center.
“I think it’s important that we competed there during the regular season,” stated Roessing. “The facilities are top-notch and that meet had probably 19 teams and 400 swimmers. It had a feel like the state meet. Swimming there takes away the shell-shock of the state meet, especially for our younger kids…they have a chance to get to use to the blocks and walls.”
Roessing said despite COVID-19 still hanging around, he expects it to be as normal of a season as it can be.
“I think we will have a normal season,” remarked Roessing. “We are still masking up when we go to our events at a meet. At this point in time, I am not sure that will ever go away. It is challenging to work around it and work with it, especially in the pool. I feel we are safe as far as swimming goes. We are following the rules as we move along. I guess we will see what the challenges are this year.”
Both teams returned from a two-week break for a home meet on Tuesday, Dec. 21. They hosted Sissonville, Elkins and Nitro in a home quad at West Virginia Wesleyan.
2021-22 Buckhannon-Upshur Swim Schedule
Dec. 28 – at Bridgeport-Tri with Bridgeport and Elkins
Jan. 8 – at Penguin Invitational (Parkersburg)
Jan. 12 – Home meet with Robert C. Byrd (WVWC)
Jan. 19 – at Elkins Dual
Jan. 22 – Home meet, teams to be announced
Jan. 29 – at Big 10 Conference (Bridgeport)
Feb. 5 – at Regional meet (Bridgeport)
Feb. 17-18 – at State Championships (Morgantown)
2021-22 Buckhannon-Upshur Swim Rosters
Rhett Ammons – Senior
Preston Bennett – Junior
Owen Caynor – Junior
Bradley Helmick – Junior
Reis Leonard – Junior
Jackson Malone – Sophomore
Dmetri Onemna – Senior
Landon Wiant – Sophomore
Carter Zuliani – Freshman
Chloe Blonn – Freshman
Lillian Fetty – Sophomore
Elly Jeran – Freshman
Hailey Lashmit – Junior
Savannah Lashmit – Freshman
Abby Loudin – Senior
Cate O’Neil – Freshman
Samantha Shay – Freshman
Cadence Vincent – Junior
Riley Vincent – Freshman
Alayna Whitehair – Junior
Cameron Zuliani – Senior