Green swimming hopes experience leads to success

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

GREEN  Working within the limits.

It's been the underlying mindset for the Green swimming and diving teams through the early weeks of the most unusual season any of their athletes or coaches has ever experienced.

Green diver Taylor Peterson returns after finishing 15th at the state meet a season ago.

Veteran head coach Mike Lazor has helmed the program through all kinds of challenges, but having teams trying to find their rhythm and reach peak performance amidst the challenges of a global pandemic is an entirely different kind of endeavor.

"We started off really well, but it's been challenging with limited lanes and limited numbers of swimmers per lane, as well as not having our own facility attached to our school," Lazor said. "We're blessed to be able to swim at the Akron General-Cleveland Clinic facility here in Green."

The restrictions and rules in place due to COVID-19 are the reason for those limitations, as all sports have to accommodate the need to follow social distancing guidelines during practices and competitions. With those restrictions – including wearing masks whenever possible, sanitizing hands and undergoing temperature checks – practices look different and the meet schedule has been drastically impacted.

So far, the Bulldogs have been able to swim twice, defeating GlenOak in their season and Federal League opener and then downing Stow in a meet that was pushed back a week before the two teams were able to do battle.

It's the sort of schedule revision that has already become a staple and will likely continue to impact the slate going forward. Lazor noted that in trying to add another meet to the schedule prior to his teams' next scheduled contest against Hoover on Jan. 8, he's spent plenty of time calling other coaches and seeing which schools have openings.

Without the larger events, such as invitationals and other tournaments, that make up much of the slate during this portion of the season, teams are scrambling to fill in the openings on the calendar.

"We're excited about the season and we have a lot of young people who are working very hard and we're blessed being able to have a season," Lazor said. "With the uncertainty of invitationals and other meets on the schedule, it's tough to find chances to compete."

That makes the two wins to start the season even more valuable, as teams simply don't know how many chances they'll have to compete before the postseason begins. In a sport where the focus is on building up toward the postseason and fine-tuning mechanics and skills prior to that point, knowing that there will be fewer chances to compete is a difficult pill to swallow.

Both the boys and girls teams have senior classes stocked with experienced veterans who have been part of a lot of big meets during their high school careers. For the girls. Riley Collinsworth is a four-year starter whose sprint freestyle skill has made her a fixture in the pool for the Bulldogs. Fellow senior Mallory Landenberger is middle distance individual medley specialist Lazor described as "a great competitor," while All-Ohio diver Taylor Peterson is looking to build on a 15th-place finish at the state level and try to climb the leaderboard in Canton at season's end.

With underclassmen like sophomore Olivia Elgin (spring freestyle and breaststroke), freshmen Sydney Peterson (middle distance freestyle) and Olivia Sheibelhoffer (individual medley) in the lineup, the girls are eager to tackle a rugged Federal League with rivals such as Hoover and Jackson.

The boys team faces a similar league battle and seniors Andrew Fearigo (middle distance freestyle/butterfly), Parker Dorrer (sprint freestyle/butterfly), Nick Shroyer (backstroke leader), Ian Heim and Nate Byers (freestyle breaststroke) are expected to lead the way.

"Our seniors have a lot of big meet experience and leadership," Lazor said. "In our league, there's talent around every corner and on every team, along with great coaches, but we're looking forward to the challenge."

Between now and the Hoover meet, if they can't find any other opponents, the plan for the Bulldogs is to treat every training session with an added level of importance. Refining their approach in the pool may have to look different this season, but working within the limits and finding a way forward has been a theme for 2020 in sports and in life for so many across society.

It's only fitting that the path toward the postseason would feature more of the same for the Bulldogs, who are out to make the most of every chance to get into the water.