Preseason home opener against N-W and Will North is a successful one
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
About the only place you could move around freely during Tuesday’s girls swim meet at Lockport High School was in the pool — and that’s where it counted for the Lockport Lady Lions, who beat visiting Niagara-Wheatfield and Williamsville North in a preseason tri-meet.
A standing room only crowd attended the first home meet of the season at the LHS pool, which Lockport won with 142 points. The Lady Falcons were second at 97, followed by the Lady Spartans with 91.
Head coach Kristen Smith has plenty to be excited about as the Lady Lions prepare to open their Niagara Frontier League season next week.
“My outlook is fantastic. I think we have a very strong team this year. A lot of the younger girls are already stepping up to the plate and putting forth some great times,” Smith said.
One of those younger team members is sophomore Elizabeth Connolly, who was a double individual winner Tuesday and was a member of two of Lockport’s winning relay teams. Connolly won the 200 free in 2:01.67 and the 500 free in 5:23.44.
“Liz is just two-and-a-half seconds off the school record in the 500 free,” Smith noted. The school record of 5:20.6 was set by Mo Donato in 1983.
Top returners this fall include diving sensation Paige Kelkenberg, the perennial NFL and sectional diving champion. Kelkenberg won Tuesday’s competition with 251.99 points.
Also returning are two swimmers with plenty of varsity experience and the wins to prove it. Karly Hartz won the 100 free on Tuesday in 57.6 seconds, while fellow LHS senior Danielle Dembrow returned to her familiar place atop the podium, winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:13.84.
The Lady Lions also won two of the meets’ three relays. Connolly, Hartz, senior Hailey Stapleton and sophomore Jessica Cinelli won both the 200 free (1:47.47) and the 400 free (3:55.06). Among other up-and-coming younger swimmers is sophomore Hanna Snow.
“Karly just has a lot of heart. I think her last year will be a fantastic one. She’s already in great shape to start the year and she loves what she does,” Smith said.
Marissa Watroba won the 200 individual medley and Katie Wagoner the 100 backstroke for Niagara-Wheatfield. For Will North, Maddie Hammer won the 50 free and Julianna Sabastien the 100 butterfly.
Coach Smith, now in her fifth season at the helm, said a key loss to graduation for the blue and gold this year is Taylor Schaffert. The Lady Lions swim at Niagara Falls at 5 p.m.
Thursday in a final preseason meet, then open their NFL season at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, hosting Lewiston-Porter.
“It was a great win and we got to see a lot of different people swimming different events as we continue to try and get a feel this year,” Smith added.