The Canfield High junior is off to her best start this year.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- Where there's a will, there's a way.
Where there's smoke, there's fire.
Where's there's water, there's Andrea Linnelli's daughter.
Like her teammates, Canfield High School's Meghan Linnelli usually spends six days a week in the pool.
"On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, they swim from 6 to 7 before school, then hustle back home to get ready for school," Andrea Linnelli said of sessions at the downtown YMCA with Meghan's club team.
"A group from all over goes down for that hour," said Andrea Linnelli, also Canfield High's coach. "It's with a club team, not the high school team. About 13 kids from all around take advantage of it through the Penguin Swim Club."
Also in Linnelli's car is Andrea's other daughter, Ashley, a sophomore whose specialty is the bufferfly.
"I drive them down and bring them home."
Busy week: Barring a meet, Canfield practices Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. at YSU's pool.
"If they don't have a meet on Saturday, they have practice with the high school team at YSU," said Coach Linnelli. "On Monday and Wednesday mornings, they have conditioning at the school weight room from 6:30 to 7:30. On Friday mornings, they get to sleep in."
It has paid off for Meghan -- Canfield's top female swimmer.
This season, the two-time state qualifier has turned up her jets in preparation for the postseason.
On Jan. 12, the junior set records in winning the 200 individual medley (2:12.19) and 500 freestyle (5:22.82) at the Valley Conference Championship Swim Meet at Hubbard High.
She also anchored the winning 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays as the Cardinals won the VC meet's girls division.
Named MVP: A week earlier, she was voted girls MVP for her performance in the Northeast Ohio Aquatic Conference Meet. She also earned the award last year.
Meghan set two NEAC records: One was her own in the 50 free (24.63) and the other was a 20-year-old 100 freestyle record (53.23). She initially broke a 17-year-old record in the 50 during last year's season-ending NEAC meet.
"She's very good," said Andrea Linnelli, the coach and mother. "But I'd like to say that all my kids have something worthwhile to contribute. Knock on wood that we have a couple go to state this year."
Coach Linnelli was talking about the girls' 400 free relay.
"We have a couple girls hoping to make it," she said. "We're also hoping the 200 medley has an outside chance of making it. If we were Division II, we'd definitely have a few going, but being bumped up is kind of difficult."
The coach was referring to the Cardinals being classified in Division I the last two years. Canfield moved up from Division II.
As a sophomore, Meghan placed fifth in the 100 free and eighth in the 50 free at the state meet. As a freshman, when Canfield was Division II, Meghan was eighth in both the 200 IM and 100 free.
This season, through her club team, Meghan qualified for the U.S. Swimming Open, which was held in Long Island, N.Y., in December. She made the cutoff in the 100 free, but her family opted not to travel at that time.
Also at the NEAC meet, Meghan was anchor on the 400 free relay that set a school record with Ashley, freshman Jen Nentwick and sophomore Vanessa Gestosani.
Top boys prospects: Coach Linnelli has a few boys hoping to qualify for state: Senior diver Matt Zuzik and junior John Sinsheimer in the 100 breastroke. Zuzik reached state last year.
"It's unfortunate that we're Division I by three students [over the cutoff of girls in the top three grades], but that's just makes her work harder," Coach Linnelli said of Meghan.
After sectionals and districts comes the state meet, Feb. 21-23 at Canton's C.T. Branin Natatorium.
"We're ahead of where we were last year at this time," Coach Linnelli said of the girls team. "The times are much better."
Meghan's record times are due to improved conditioning.
"You're always fine-tuning your stroke with drills," Coach Linnelli said. "But she's had to work on her start a little bit more this year; that's still a work in progress. We still want to see her a little bit faster off the block. And it never hurts to have good teammates who make you work hard."
Assistant coaches are Dan Swanson and Al Ondich.
"I kind of inherited Al. He's been the backbone of the program for a long time," said Coach Linnelli, now in her third year.