Movin' on up: Numbers rise at Quakertown
Scott Woods knew what he was getting into when he agreed to take the reins of the Quakertown swim program.
The Panthers had only 13 swimmers – boys and girls combined – at various points in 2012-13, so finding victories in the Suburban One League (SOL) Continental Conference became nearly impossible.
“There was a real big focus at the beginning of the season on recruiting to try to bring in some new swimmers,” said Woods, who also serves as head coach of the Upper Bucks YMCA Barracudas and is joined as head coach of Quakertown with Panthers alum Brett Wimmer (2003-07). “We knew the numbers were always the one thing that hurt us.”
Quakertown is up to 22 swimmers this year. Two, junior Karli Blanchard and freshman Elizabeth Kunkel, are students at Palisades.
“The majority of the swimmers who are on the high school team either were Y swimmers at one point in time or are still Y swimmers,” Woods said.
Thus, Woods is familiar with many of them.
“The numbers are still relatively small,” Woods said. “We have nine boys. The good news for us is we do not have any senior boys, so we know we have at least all of our boys going into next season. Every one of the boys has at least some club experience with the Y or otherwise, so they’re a pretty talented group. Even the freshmen we picked up this year are very talented.”
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Panther boys are also winners. Quakertown opened its season on Dec. 6 with a victory over nonleague Upper Perkiomen, 92-53. It had been a while since the Panthers last posted a win.
“We’re starting to see the improvement now, and things on the boys’ side are really starting to play out, with the increase in numbers and talent,” Woods said.
Woods has a potential stud in sophomore Mike Dierolf, the Panthers’ best hope to land a district berth.
“We’re hoping he might get close to getting a district cut in the 50 free this year, but we’re also starting to move him a little toward the 200,” Woods said. “It’s something he hasn’t had a lot of experience with in the past, but we’ve been seeing in some of the club meets that he’s been doing really well with it.”
Dierolf will team with, among others, junior captain Nick Bluder (breaststroke, IM) in providing a solid foundation for Quakertown boys’ swimming.
The Panther girls are being led by senior Alex Kluger (fly, sprint free) and sophomore Vivian Ha (breast, IM), among others.
“Overall, a really young group of girls,” Woods said. “Our depth isn’t as deep, only five or six of the girls have some club experience. We picked up a lot of freshman girls this year and for a lot of them, this is their first time actually being on a swim team. On the girls’ side, there is a lot more development and instruction taking place. We’re hoping with the numbers we have on the girls’ side that they continue to progress this year and into next year. But we’re probably looking two years down the road we should start seeing some pretty good returns out of them.”
Quakertown lost its SOL Continental openers to Souderton last week. The girls fell to 0-3 on the season with a 110-48 setback; the boys slipped to 1-2 after being grounded by the Indians, 101-63. The boys lost by only 10, 89-79, to Saucon Valley on Dec. 12.
“On the boys’ side, because of some of the talent that exists there, we’re hoping that we might be able to get one relay into districts and one individual into districts,” Woods said. “That’s kind of what we’re working towards right now, but we realize that we still may not be exactly where we need to be to make that happen. We’re not really calling this our make-or-break year.
“We’re really looking toward next year and the following year, when we have some of the other swimmers we’re aware of that are currently swimming in middle school. When they come up into the program, it should be able to provide us with the depth we need to be able to start to accomplish some of those goals.”
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