If anyone can pull off the seemingly impossible in the water, it’s Hannah Graesser. Just ask her coach Jeff Moessinger.
“She swims like her hair’s on fire,” the first-year Frontier girls swimming coach said. “A lot of times she’s just standing there like she has no pulse, but in the water it’s a completely different story. She saves all her intensity for the pool. She’s always at her best in the most pressure-filled situations. She is like the complete opposite of a choke artist.”
Graesser ability to channel that intensity into fast swims has paid big dividends. She placed in the top five in New York State last year in two events. She was fourth in the 50 freestyle breaking the school record in 23.91 and fifth in the 100 free. It was the third year in a row she qualified to swim both events at the state championships. Her best finish at states was runner-up in the 100 free as a freshman.
Moessinger says mentally she’s one of the toughest swimmers he’s ever known. He has an impressive resume himself as someone who swam at Cortland State after a six-year high school career at Iroquois that ended in 2006. He was a Section VI champion in the 100 butterfly as a senior and placed eighth at states.At Frontier, he’s a physical education teacher’s aide and a pool aide.
“When a lot of other kids are nervous and have butterflies, she’s got that stone-cold look on her face,” he said. “She’ll be anchoring a relay, a lot of kids get really excited and are jumping around, and she’s in her own zone, she’s kind of to herself, it’s a complete 180.”
The record board in the pool at Frontier looks like a listing of Graesser’s personal bests. She holds five individual records – including the 50 free, 100 free (52.30), 200 free (1:58.11), 200 individual medley (1:09.95) and the 100 butterfly (1:01.07), which she did in this year’s season opener against Eden.
Being a gifted swimmer and carrying a 95.1 grade point average translates into an NCAA Division I future. She’s made officials visits to UB, Miami of Ohio, Georgetown, William & Mary, and in the near future UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County).
But its the near future that concerns Graesser the most. She wants to place at states again and keep chipping away at her times. She’s the clear veteran on a young Frontier team and she embraces her leadership role. In the pool the pressure is something she’s dealt with since first starting to swim at age 8 or 9.
“I don’t really think about it too much. I just kind of focus on the race, my race instead of the competitors. I kind of zone everything out,” she said. “I like the 50 because the preciseness helps me, and I like to get up there and just sprint all I can, and go as fast as I can and get it done.”
Clarence one of state’s finest
Talk to most long-time coaches of any sport and they might lament how after a while the seasons run together. For the swimmers at Clarence, a continuation of last year would be just fine.
The Red Devils are coming off a memorable campaign in which they won two state titles, placed in five other state events and were crowned the overall team champion.
Clarence returns a title wave of talent from that team, including junior Dina Rommel, the defending state champion in the 50 freestyle. The section’s top sprinter, however, is currently on the DL after dislocating her kneecap while playing soccer in gym class.
While it may be a while before she can do a flip turn, the Red Devils are anticipating her return for the ECICs on Oct. 25-26. In last Friday’s meet against Williamsville North, Rommel’s teammates dedicated their swims in the 400 free to her and turned in a season-best 3:40.61, which ranks No. 3 in the state.
Clarence remains a force, even with Rommel on the mend. All four swimmers are back from the state champion 200 free relay: Rommel, junior Rebecca Anthone, senior Claire Willis and junior Sydney Modeas. They currently have the No. 1 time in the state at 1:40.10.
Their power in the relays continues in the 400 free relay, which was state runner-up, and also has all four swimmers back: Rommel, Modeas, Anthone and junior Victoria Butler.
The 200 medley, state runner-ups, return three: Rommel, sophomore Maddie Jacumski and Willis. Modeas was third in the state in the 200 and 500 freestyles and Butler was third in the 200 individual medley.
Clarence is off to a 6-0 start in ECIC I with one of its most competitive regular season meets coming up against 6-0 Williamsville East on Oct. 16.
With all the returning swimmers, the biggest shakeup in the offseason came in the coaching ranks. Joe Zwierzchowski, who also coaches the Williamsville North boys, took over for Eric McClaren.
The immensely dedicated McClaren stepped down to spend more time with his family, but he is also still recovering from a spill he took in his home a year ago this month. In fact on Monday, he had shoulder surgery.
Zwierzchowski knows he’s fallen into an enviable coaching situation. “Usually when you walk into a new situation you have to rebuild things, and the [previous] coach has left for a reason,” said Zwierzchowski. “Here, the cupboard couldn’t be any more well- stocked. I’ve known Eric for a long time and [Athletic Director] Greg [Kaszubski] felt really comfortable with me being there. I coached age-group for 20 years.”
Around the pools
• East Aurora isn’t picky what division of the ECIC it wins. Last year the Blue Devils won ECIC II with a 12-0 record. This year they are off to a 4-0 start back in their more common ECIC III.
EA has won an ECIC title in nine of the last 10 seasons under coach Cheryl Carpenter. The Blue Devils are perennial champions of the ECIC small school meet and last year were crowned Section VI, Class B champions.
Freshman backstroker, Sydney Atendido, is on track to break the school record of 1:06.22, previously held by Jamie McGowan, state champion in the event as an eighth-grader in 2000 at ECC.
The Blue Devils’ 200 medley relay of senior Maddy Atendido, Sydney Atendido, senior Margaret Zagrobelny and senior Holly Jackson have done 1:55.84, a time they didn’t hit until prelims of Sectionals last year.
• Olean eighth-grader Makayla Sargent made a big impression when she broke two pool records at East Aurora during a quad meet last month with Williamsville East and Rush-Henrietta.
She went a state-qualifying 2:09.27 in the 200 IM breaking the previous mark of 2:11.05 held for over 20 years by Lisa Basil of Maryvale.
She also broke the 100 breaststroke pool record, touching in 1:07.24 to better the 1:07.71 by Amherst’s Erin Hurley over 25 years ago.
• Williamsville East has one of the top teams in the ECIC and will likely be sending a large contingent to the state meet next month in Ithaca. Seniors Kendra Mayer, Brenna Woodling and Alyssa Anderson are two-time state qualifiers. Mayer has four years of varsity experience, Woodling holds the school record in the 100 backstroke, and Anderson is the record holder in the 200 IM.
The Flames are 6-0 in ECIC I, which includes a three-point win over Orchard Park and victory over Williamsville North. “I have a big crop of young kids coming up,” said coach Mike Doerfler. “I guess I’m surprised at our depth this year. We have good swimmers in each event, we’re pretty strong across the board especially in a six-lane pool. We come at you pretty strong.”
• Orchard Park will also provide the section with some talent for states. Freshman Andrea Ernst, junior Amanda Ernst and Grace Coyle have all been there before in the 200 free relay. Sophomore diver Morgan Wellenzohn has her eye on states.
The Quakers host North today.
• Lockport senior diver Paige Kelkenberg looks to represent Section VI at states once again this year. She placed 14th last year.
• Williamsville North lost two state qualifiers to graduation, but has four returning from its relays. Julianna Sebastian qualified last year in the 200 free and 100 fly.
• Jenna Rice and Jacquie Sagasta are among the returning state qualifiers for Kenmore West.