Wheeling Park Girls in State Championship Contention at West Virginia State Swim Meet

Photo by John McCabe Wheeling Park sophomore Sarah Heilman leads the field as she finishes first in the qualifying round of the 100 butterfly at the West Virginia State Swim Meet Thursday in Morgantown.

MORGANTOWN — It’s going to be close. No doubt about it.

That’s the sentiment following Thursday’s qualifying round for the girls at the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission State Swim Meet at West Virginia University’s Natatorium. The event appears to be coming down to a tight three-way finish between Wheeling Park, Fairmont Senior and George Washington high schools, with Parkersburg and Morgantown lurking just outside the top three.

Park on Thursday was buoyed from a stellar performance by sophomore Sarah Heilman who qualified first in the 100 butterfly (1:00.98) and first in the 100 backstroke (1:00.53).

Heilman also is part of two relay teams that finished in the top three during qualifying – the 200 medley relay, with freshman Lydia Bischof, junior Victoria White and senior Kat Donzella, qualified second at 1:57.35, while the 400 freestyle relay, with the same roster of swimmers, finished third at 3:53.93.

At the state meet, the top 12 swimmers in each event qualify for finals, with the top six in the “A” finals and the other six in the “B” finals.

Along with Heilman, swimming in the A finals today are Bischof, who qualified second in the 200 individual medley at 2:17.24 and sixth in the 100 breaststroke at 1:13.1; White, who finished third in the 200 IM at 2:18.64 and fifth in the 500 freestyle at 5:31.47; and Park’s 200 freestyle relay squad consisting of Donzella, senior Sydney Moffett, sophomore Melina McCabe and senior Alexa Hickman, qualifying fifth at 1:50.85.

Wheeling Park coach Pat Durkin commended his swimmers for a fine aquatic performance on Thursday, and noted the swims today would have to be each swimmer’s best for Park to remain in contention for a state crown.

“We did what we were supposed to do today,” Durkin said of his swimmers. “Sarah stepped up as we expected her to, and we got all three of our relays into the finals, which is very significant. Lydia and Victoria continue to swim very well, and overall I thought we had a strong day against really good competition.”

Also swimming today for Park are Donzella who qualified 10th in the 50 freestyle (26.73); and Hickman, who qualified ninth in the 100 breast at 1:17.71.

Weir High School’s Kaitlyn Stumpf also will swim two events today, as she qualified ninth in the 500 free at 5:51.34 and 12th in the 200 IM at 2:32.82.

Brooke High’s Mary Ossman qualified seventh in the 500 free at 5:49.2; Leah Caparros qualified 10th in the 100 back at 1:07.83; and Brooke’s 200 medley relay team of Emily Donley, Ossman, Caparros and Bethany Harlan qualified 12th.

Boys’ State Meet

For the boys, Wheeling Park’s Charles Schellhase finds himself in contention today for two state championships.

Schellhase, a sophomore, qualified second in the 500 free at 5:01.87 and third in the 200 free at 1:53.51.

Sophomore Caleb Lucas qualified sixth in the 200 IM at 2:20.31, which senior Michael Butts qualified eighth in the 100 breast at 1:08.35.

Park’s 200 medley relay team of Schellhase, Butts, Lucas and sophomore Zach Seals qualified ninth (1:52.18) while the same relay in the 400 freestyle qualified 10th at 3:44.78.

Weir’s boys had a strong performance in the pool Thursday. Tyler Virtue qualified second in the 100 breast at 1:03.81, while Michael Miller qualified 11th in the event at 1:09.23. Virtue also qualified ninth in the 100 free at 52.41, while Miller qualified ninth in the 100 butterfly at 1:01.56.

Wil Visnic qualified fourth in the 200 free at 1:53.61 and fifth in the 500 free at 5:07.9.

Weir’s 200 medley relay team of Visnic, Virtue, Miller and Isaac Piatt qualified fifth at 1:48.11.

Weir coach John McGowan praised his swimmers’ performance on Thursday.

“They did everything we’ve asked of them. I expect a good performance (today), as well,” he said, noting Virtue and Visnic both have a good opportunity in the finals.

Wheeling Central senior Austin Schramm qualified third in the 100 backstroke at 56.88.

John Marshall was led by senior Billy Fox, who qualified 12th in the 100 back at 1:04.12. The team’s 400 free relay of Scott Postle, Walker Postle, Jeremy Fahey and Fox qualified ninth, while the same swimmers in the 200 free relay qualified ninth, as well.

Brooke High saw a strong performance Thursday from freshman Noah Horvath – fifth in the 200 IM (2:19.58) and 11th in the 100 back at 1:03.97.