By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
There is never a better day to post a personal best than on championship day.
When nearly your entire team does it, you celebrate in a big way.
The Kent Roosevelt High School boys swim and dive team got to live that celebration, capturing the Suburban League championship last Monday, finishing with 372 team points to best runner-up Aurora (369 points).
The rest of the field rounded out with Highland in third with 306 points followed by Copley (273), Revere (249), Cuyahoga Falls (212), Tallmadge (158) and Barberton (44).
“We had an amazing team performance at the swimming portion of the championship, with nearly all of our swimmers posting their personal best in their events,” Rough Riders head coach Corey Spicer said. “We finished the swimming portion eight points ahead going into the diving, and we knew if both of our boy divers could land all 11 dives, we would come out on top.”
The divers came through and the Riders earned their first league championship since the 2018-19 season and Spicer’s first as a head coach.
“I am so proud of these boys for getting to see what all their hard work has earned them,” Spicer said. “We lost a lot of key pieces from our relays with last year’s graduating class, but those who stepped into that roe for us this year have been lights out. It’s always great to get to hang a new banner in the Natatorium.”
Team leaders for Roosevelt this season included:
• Senior Gage Bailey: “He has been our do-it-all when we needed it all season long,” Spicer said. “Being able to match him up against another team’s best swimmer in any event, and knowing he was going to touch the wall first, is a great luxury to have. He’s also broken two school records this season in the 100 Butterfly and 100 Freestyle.
• Junior Drew Vecchio: “Drew has been able to step into the open spots in the 200 IM and 100 Breaststroke this year and continuously drop time and grow in each event,” Spicer said. “He was a big part of our 200 Medley Relay and 200 Freestyle Relay, bringing home first place at the championships.”
• Sophomore Jackson Puhalla: “Jack has also been able to step into the IM role when needed, but has seen some exponential growth in his sprint freestyle this season. He finished second overall after being seated ninth in the 100 Freestyle at the championships, dropping 5.35 seconds (off his time).”
• Sophomore Adam Springer: “AJ has filled our backstroke spot this season and has also shown some great promise in the spring freestyle. He has been so fun to watch lead off the medley relay all season long.”
With that core group leading the way, along with a healthy roster, Spicer said he felt the team realized at the first practice that the season could be a special one.
“We had 12 new faces on the pool deck to join the boys team,” Spicer said. “It is the most we have had in a long time, especially on a diving board.”
Spicer noted it was the first time since he has been on the coaching staff that the Riders had three boys divers for dual meets.
“I knew with the numbers, we would be able to compete with most teams in our league,” added Spicer, whose coaching staff also includes diving coach Megan Nugent and assistant Carol Bender.
Roosevelt’s team is full of commitment, with team practices being held on Monday and Wednesday mornings, starting at 6 a.m. before school starts. Tuesday and Thursday mornings also feature an early rise, with lifting at 6 a.m. The team then practices in the afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m.
With that kind of hard work and dedication, it is easy to see how the Rough Riders worked their way to personal bests throughout the season that culminated into a league championship.
A league championship and season worth celebrating, certainly.