Valley swimmers off to the races

Boardman’s Aulizia and teammates

embrace pressure of early rankings

By Tom Williams


Boardman junior Callen Aulizia says swimmers have a love/hate relationship with their sport.

This weekend, love was in the air because the high school season got under way.

“I’d say I love it, but it’s a love/hate,” said Aulizia, The Vindicator’s Swimmer of the Year last season. “There are times when you are thinking, ‘Man, I’d really rather be at home right now.’

“But then there is the other side of your head that says you love this,” Aulizia said during practice earlier this week. “This week, definitely love.”

Terry O’Halloran, Boardman’s veteran coach, says love is in full swing in late February and early March. For the past 17 seasons, Boardman has sent swimmers to the state meet.

“That Division I [state] meet is a pressure-cooker, it really is intense,” O’Halloran said. “You’ve got 4,000 people packed into that natatorium.

“After races and before races, people are screaming at the top of their lungs,” he said of the atmosphere inside Canton McKinley High School’s Natatorium.

Returning to the Spartans this season are Aulizia and Kyle Kimerer, who enjoyed a memorable time at state last March.

Aulizia finished sixth in the state in the 50 freestyle and 14th in the 100 freestyle.

The 200 freestyle relay team of Aulizia, Kimerer, Ethan Schwendeman and Aaron DunLany broke Boardman’s record (1:27.23). Aulizia’s anchor leg time of 20.73 led the Spartans to second place in the consolation final.

That quartet also competed in the 400 relay.

The Spartans have been recognized. They are ranked ninth in the initial Northeast District Swimming & Diving Coaches Poll.

“We were off the radar screen,” O’Halloran said of 2015-16. “This year, we’re on.”

O’Halloran agreed that the ranking brings pressure, but that’s not all bad. Of Aulizia and Kimerer, he said, “they seem to pretty solid other than just being young.

“They’re still learning but they improved last year, getting to the state meet, especially with Kimerer getting on the relays.”

This season, Aulizia will be the Spartans’ freestyle leader in the short races while O’Halloran said Kimerer is best in the butterfly. Because he also does well with backstroke and breastroke, he’ll also compete in the 200 intermediate.

“He’s put on about 20 pounds — a real hard worker,” O’Halloran said.

Aulizia’s favorite race is the 50 freestyle.

“You want to hit maximum velocity as fast as you can,” Aulizia said. “It’s all speed and no endurance — it’s just all out.”

He said competing in four events has become normal.

“The more events you do, the more tired you get so going to the last events, your body gets taxed,” he said. “You’ve got to keep your energy up.“

Between races, Aulizia says he’s thinking about what’s next.

“I’m thinking I’ve got do this on this turn, breathe this many times on this leg, or not breathe at all on this leg,” he said. “I’m focusing on each aspect of the race.”

The reason?

“Once you get up on the block, it’s automatic, you already have it in your head,” he said.

O’Halloran said the Spartans have freshmen looking to make a splash. One is Noah Basista who swims the 100 butterfly in less than a minute. O’Halloran said the only other Boardman swimmers to do that were state champion Ryan Bailey (2011) and Tyler O’Halloran (2003) who earned a scholarship to the University of Texas,

“Neither of them were under a minute in their freshman year,” O’Halloran said.

Jenna Markovitch is expected to be one of Boardman’s girls team’s top swimmers. Joining the team in midseason will be sophomore Mikel Flatley, who is sitting out the first half after transferring from Springfield.

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