MORGANTOWN — After months — perhaps years — of preparation, it all comes down to this for the Morgantown and University High swim teams:
Feb. 3, the Mohigans and Hawks will make their way to Brooke High School, in Wellsburg, for the start of the postseason, the regional meet. Both sides have a good shot of getting qualifiers through to the state meet, Feb. 15 and 16, at the WVU Natatorium.
“We have very good seed times,” MHS head coach Matt Jernigan said. “When you’re in a competition that is so close, the slightest error can be the difference between first place and fifth place.”
MHS and UHS, combined, have 21 top-five seed times heading into this weekend’s competition, with Morgantown posting 10 in the top three.
In the long run, that’s the goal.
For individual races, the top three finishers in each region automatically advance. Then the 12 next best times overall move on.
For relays, the top two are automatic, while the next 10 fastest get at-large bids to state.
Postseason rules on how many races an athlete can swim limited the Mohigans and Hawks a bit with all-around talents Abigail Riggs and Jacqueline McCutchan.
Morgantown’s Riggs will compete in the 200-yard individual medley and 500-yard freestyle. She has the best seed time in the region in both races. The senior’s top time in the 500 this year, 5:23.55, is unbeaten statewide, according to a list from swimwv.com.
“She’s high-seeded in four or five events,” Jernigan said. “Unfortunately, you can only swim two of them. We knew she was going to do the 500. That wasn’t a question.”
Riggs will look to her relay partners McKenna Moore (200 free, 100 butterfly) and Riley Pierce (50, 100 free) to help pick up some much-needed points for the Mohigans.
Pierce is one spot behind University’s McCutchan, who enters with the second-best time in the 50-yard freestyle. The junior will also compete in the 100 backstroke, where she is, again, seeded second.
“There’s a handful of girls in the state that have the potential to do well in just about every event,” UHS head coach Joanna White. “She is one of them.
“Our region is, probably, the hardest. The teams we’re up against are powerhouses.”
The competition certainly will make things more interesting Saturday.
Last year, Wheeling Park claimed the girls’ state title with Fairmont Senior second, as Morgantown snapped a string of four runner-up finishes.
Parkersburg came in second on the boys’ side, a year after Parkersburg South claimed its only state championship.
Come Saturday, though, the focus will not be on the opponent.
“It doesn’t matter what the competition is doing,” Jernigan said. “You pick your event, that you’ve trained to swim, and you just swim it as hard as you can.”
Local swimmers seeded in the top five:
200 medley relay: 3, MHS (Lane, Hatton, Riggleman, Blumish); 4, UHS (McCutchan, Rice, Kitzmiller, Maumbe).
200 freestyle: 1, Moore (MHS); 5, Rice (UHS).
200 IM: 1, Riggs (MHS).
50 free: 2, McCutchan (UHS); 3, Pierce (MHS).
100 butterfly: 3, Moore (MHS); 5, Kitzmiller (UHS).
100 free: 2, Pierce (MHS).
500 free: 1, Riggs (MHS).
200 free relay: 3, MHS (Moore, Voorhees, Riggs, Pierce); 4, UHS (McCutchan, Maumbe, Kitzmiller, Rice).
100 backstroke: 2, McCutchan (UHS).
100 breaststroke: 3, Rice (UHS).
400 free relay: 3, MHS (Moore, Voorhees, Riggs, Pierce).
200 medley relay: 3, UHS (Dean, Nordstrom, Mizener, Coen).
200 freestyle: 4, Nordstrom (UHS).
50 free: 2, Gresak (MHS); 3, Mizener (UHS).
500 free: 3, Nordstrom (UHS).