Derry divers, swimmers to test skills at annual WCCA championships
Despite fielding a young and somewhat thin roster, the Derry swimming and diving team nonetheless dove head-first into the 2018-19 season.
Four athletes have qualified for the upcoming WPIAL Class AA diving championships, including Cam Washburn, Jakob Riggle and Robert Boyer on the boys team.
“Our diving has been outstanding, which is a credit to our young diving coach Morgan Elrick,” said Jeff Kelly, Derry’s veteran coach. “The boys have been outstanding. Cam has gone over 200 points and Jake has been close. Robert has made huge strides and will challenge for 200 points, as well.”
The lone female representative at the WPIAL diving finals will be Ali Cowan.
“Ali is working toward hitting 300 points in a six-dive meet,” Kelly said.
They will test their skills Friday when Derry hosts the Westmoreland County Coaches Association diving championships, starting at 5 p.m. The swimming portion of the WCCA championships begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, also at Derry.
The Trojans have several qualifiers for the WPIAL swimming championships.
“Jake and Wes Buhite have been doing very well and have qualified in a multitude of events,” Kelly said. “Ally Pacek, Lauren Angus, Makenzie Eases and Keely Siko have qualified in all three relays.
“Lauren has been close to a couple of qualifying times, and so has Makenzie. Lauren quietly leads by example. Her willingness to focus on what the team needs and not just worry about herself is so important and shows a great deal of maturity.”
Two key members of the Derry swimming and diving program this season are senior captains Dan Henderson and Emily Dominick.
“We are very green this year,” Kelly said. “The (older) kids have taken on a huge role of mentoring the newer, inexperienced team members. Dan and Emily have done a nice job of taking on those responsibilities.
“The team has answered the call at every meet. I’ve been impressed with the young neophytes and how they have put what they have learned to use in a meet. They have performed well for where we are at this point.”
Dominick and Henderson have been battling injuries that have kept them out of the pool at times.
“My season has not been what I expected,” Dominick said. “I injured my knee and I wasn’t able to swim in November or December. I just started to swim again this month. I’m still dealing with this injury, but I’m making do with it. I’m just happy to be able to swim my senior season because we weren’t sure if I was going to be able to.”
Dominick said her favorite event is the 100 freestyle; her best event is the 100 breaststroke (but she now is unable to swim it). She has lofty expectations for both Derry squads this season.
“Both are doing well, in my opinion, with how young and inexperienced the majority of our members are,” Dominick said. “We’ve had many new members join and have a large group of sophomores and freshman along with the new kids. I’m so impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Times have continued to drop, and the technique of both new and old members are improving much faster than I expected. The teams are driven and determined. I’m expecting a large WPIAL (contingent).
“Our divers have also continued to impress me. Our new divers have worked very hard and the results are clear. They have been consistently placing high.”
Despite his injury, Henderson has relished his senior season with the Trojans.
“My performance this year hasn’t been my best, especially after sustaining a slight shoulder injury,” Henderson said. “I do plan on improving and working myself to do better. That this year has been one of my favorites. Having such a great team really makes it seem more like a family. Everyone is always there for each other, and we’re always helping each other improve our swims.”
Henderson’s favorite events are the 50 free and 200 free.
“I believe the 50 is my best event,” he said. ”
Kelly is in his 26th season as the Trojans coach. He is assisted by Jessica Patterson and Elrick.
“Going into a season, I never try to put too high of an expectation on the kids; they will do that themselves,” Kelly said. “I try to help support their goals and hopes because they perform well for what experience they have. I expect them to continue to do well and grow, and I honestly hope they learn lessons they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
“These are great young men and women, and I feel blessed to be able to work with them, coach them, and for us to be a part of each other’s life.”
Kelly added he doesn’t define a team by its numbers in the wins and losses columns. It’s more about commitment and support.
“People always think coaches’ favorite teams or the teams they love the most are those that win championships,” Kelly said. “Not me. I can’t separate them like that. The teams that have athletes that are committed to each other, who really care about each other and support each other, those are great teams.
“’We before me’ — that is the team that coaches should love. Those are the teams that win.”
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.