LOWVILLE — Lowville senior Meredith Lovenduski hopes there won’t be a false start to this swimming season like there was last year.
The Red Raiders senior is ready for her final season on the team since joining in eighth grade. The standout is part of a lineup that is eyeing a season that will hopefully last longer than the 2020 campaign that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lowville swam just one meet during the Fall sports I season before the three Lewis County swimming schools, along with Beaver River and South Lewis, had to shut down the season.
“It was so weird because we went in and trained every day and we were all socially distanced.” Lovenduski said. “It didn’t feel normal and it was out of the ordinary.”
Losing out on the season was devastating, especially for last year’s senior class that been part of the program for their entire high school career. Red Raiders coach Noelle Haney said it hurt even more that the team had followed safety protocols without incident. Lowville divided its practices by class with sophomores and seniors in one group of days and freshmen and juniors in another to follow the rules for low and medium-risk sports in the fall of 2020.
“We did everything we could do to help everybody stay healthy and safe,” Haney said.
Lovenduski added she was disappointed with losing team-building traditions that had been a staple of the program.
“We missed out on the fun things like the spaghetti dinners and our team-bonding time,” Lovenduski said.
However, it appears all systems are go for the Frontier League season to start as normal tonight. Lowville will scrimmage against Beaver River before starting its regular season when it hosts South Lewis on Sept. 7. South Jefferson is scheduled to host Carthage today. Swimmers are eager to hit the pool.
“I remember all the girls coming into practice and they were so excited like it was freshman year all over again,” Lovenduski said.
Sectional and nonleague meets are also on the slate for the upcoming season. Lovenduski looks to test herself against tough competition from the Syracuse-area schools again. She is the defending Class C champion in the 200-yard individual medley.
“With Watertown and those tougher teams, it gives me a chance to push myself and get those records,” said Lovenduski, who also placed second in the 100 backstroke during the 2019 Class C meet.
Lovenduski is part of 28-swimmer lineup that is the largest in the program’s history, including 17 returnees that have varsity experience. She’s also part of part of a core of nine seniors that have been key to the program’s success atop the “B” Division.
“This group of seniors is my first batch of seniors since Marcia Kenealy and I switched roles,” Haney said. “I’m going to brace myself and try not to cry.”
Haney can rely on a crew that is willing to do what it takes to win. She said many are willing to swim events that they don’t normally do.
“I’m so grateful for their enthusiasm because they just want to swim,” Haney said.
Lovenduski, while willing to do what her coach asks, does have a preference for which ones she likes and singled one the sprints in particular.
“My favorite would have to be the backstroke or the freestyle,” Lovenduski said. “I’m more fast-paced.”
The Lowville standout holds school records in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke and is looking to add three more to the big, red board that hangs on the wall at the school’s pool.
Lovenduski credits her time with the Lewis County Turbines swimming team, especially coach Brittany Davis, with sparking her drive to be a better swimmer.
“Turbines gave me the push I needed in the pool, especially coach Brittany,” Lovenduski said. “She’s telling me that I should try and break her records.”
However, Lovenduski took a break from travel swimming in order to focus on her academics. She does hope to swim in college, but is already planning for her future.
“I know I want to be a physician because I want to help others,” Lovenduski said.
Outlook: Watertown will look to continue its long unbeaten run in the Frontier League with swimmers like Mallory Peters, Jasmine Ferguson and Julia Urf. South Jefferson returns league all-stars Emma Purvis, Ava Burns, Julia Garvin, Carley Hughes, and Laura Zehr as it tries to unseat Watertown. Senior diver Kadince Bach hopes to help Carthage build off a solid Fall Sports II season. Indian River has five seniors on its team that’s looking to improve.
Coach: Mark Phillips
2019 record: 3-7 league and overall
Swimmer to watch: Kadince Bach
Indian River Warriors
Coach: Alan Baker
2019 record: 0-9
Swimmer to watch: N/A
South Jefferson Spartans
Coach: Pat Conners
2019 record: 7-4, 7-3
Swimmers to watch: Emma Purvis, Ava Burns, Julia Garvin, Carley Hughes, Laura Zehr
Coach: Lori Peters
2019 record: 12-0, 10-0
Swimmers to watch: Mallory Peters, Jasmine Ferguson, Julia Urf.
Outlook: Many coaches say Lowville is the team to beat in the division with its nine seniors and 17 varsity returnees. Seniors like Meredith Lovenduski, Linnea Haney and Grace Meyers will be key to another division crown. Emma Dicob reached the states in the diving competition in 2019 for Beaver River, which also gets contributions from Kendra Roggie, Sarah Herzig and Emmilee Hlad. South Lewis has a small team, but talented swimmers like Jade Dolan and Abigail Litts. Franchesca Cartaya and Caryse Oliver lead a small, but experienced Thousand Islands squad.
Beaver River Beavers
Coach: Anne Davis
2019 record: 2-9, 2-8
Swimmers to watch: Emma Dicob, Kendra Roggie, Sarah Herzig and Emmilee Hlad
Lowville Red Raiders
Coach: Noelle Haney
2019 record: 9-2, 8-2
Swimmers to watch: Meredith Lovenduski, Linnea Haney, Grace Meyer, Delaney Bergan
South Lewis Falcons
Coach: Neil Austin
2019 record: 10-4, 7-3
Swimmers to watch: Jade Dolan, Abigail Litts
Thousand Islands Vikings
Coach: Jon Benner
2019 record: 4-6
Swimmers to watch: Franchesca Cartaya, Caryse Oliver