By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The NFL boys swim season is in its third week of action and Kenmore West (3-1) is off to a fast start.
Justin Sagasta is one of the top swimmers in Western New York and entered this season with sectionals and states in sight. He currently holds the top NFL time this season in the 200 individual medley (2:14.86) and the 500 freestyle (5:10.17).
Blue Devils coach Carrie Vetter said that Sagasta's strength is distance swimming and should lead a very competitive team at Ken West, who is strong in the relays.
"It's turning out that our free style relay is really pulling through and our 400 relay is pretty fast," she said. "Three guys swam Titan Swim Club after last year and have been swimming for a whole year, and are top guys in the league now."
The Blue Devils lost Kody Kopack who swam the butterfly and backstroke. Vetter said he was a strong individual swimmer and was a huge part of the relays. The team also said goodbye to diver Troy Ronan, who was the first West diver in several years.
This year's squad boasts 10 seniors and Dan Clark is another swimmer that will contribute for the Blue Devils this season, according to Vetter. She said he's already swimming times equal to last season and should continue to make them better as the season progresses.
Tom Pasquale and Shawn Finn will also be a few swimmers to watch this season.
Vetter said that there is a lot of excitement around the program.
"We're looking forward to this season," she said. "We expect to be competitive against all the teams (in the NFL)."
Tonawanda is still looking for its first win this season, but after losing seven members from last year's team the Warriors (0-2) are still trying to put everything together in the pool.
Gone are Wesley and Warren Weber and their 12 combined years of experience and family pedigree. Coach Tim Harroun said it will be tough to fill their shoes but he has confidence in this year's squad.
Senior captain Jimmy Stewart is one of the guys that steps into a leadership role. He swam on the 200 free relay team that won a Class B championship last season.
Harroun is excited to see what Stewart can do this season.
"He's very level-headed and a very fast swimmer," he said. "He's always a clutch guy and I alway use him when I need someone to perform and compete. He works well under pressure."
Stewart's main events are the 50 and 100 free.
Junior Jordan Hughes will also be one of the leaders for the Warriors. He's a guy Harroun looks to when he needs a second coach in the pool. He has a nice sense of humor and always offers to help coach up other swimmers.
Harroun is looking for improvement from his team every time it steps onto the pool deck.
"I know we can pull out a couple wins but i want to see them improve," he said. "I have a lot of guys that came to me late in their career. My goal for them is to have them improve as much as possible. For the rest of the team I want to focus on improvement and set a solid foundation."
Nick Vossler and Alex Krull are two of the four seniors that North Tonawanda coach Kevin O'Donnell is counting on to provide leadership this season for the Lumberjacks (0-4).
"We have four seniors this year and out of the four of them we don't have captains, but I look to all of them to be examples," he said. "I've been working with the seniors since they were on JV and they know my expectations. They want to put the work in and they want to get better. They do a great job at practices. They set the example and the tone."
The Jacks lost Matt Grace and Josh Sharples to graduation, but are hoping to have a strong season with a number of talented and eager swimmers on this year's squad.
Sophomore Nick Malone is a distance freestyle swimmer and O'Donnell thinks he's poised to have a breakout season. He can swim many different events which gives O'Donnell the ability to move him around from meet to meet.
Juniors Colin Davidson and Andrew Ennis are also expected to pitch in this season in the backstroke and freestyles, respectively.
O'Donnell looks for dedication from every member of his team and he's been happy with the effort he's seen from guys so far this year.
"If you come out for the team I want to see you put forth time and effort and be a part of the team," O'Donnell said. "I really think that's one of the most important things. From there I look for guys to put in an effort at practice. Swim practices like you're swimming meets.
"Our expectations are the same as last year," he continued. "Everybody put forth good practices and work hard, and the results will show by the hard work and effort."
It's been a rough start this season for the Bulldogs (0-4), but coach Nathan Bourke said it's not always about the win-loss record.
"Dual meets are totally different from the rest of the season," he said. "Our league — the pool sizes change. I look at, personally, how much (swimmers') times and skills evolve throughout the season. Because even though we may not have a winning record, a lot of these guys have already made class and sectional cut times already. There's still a lot of growth that we're hoping for from the entire team."
Matt Peiffer has been dominant so far this season. He's posted top-10 times in the 50-free (third best 23.64), 100-fly (sixth best 1:01.95), and 100-breast (seventh best 1:12.46) for the Bulldogs.
Bourke said there isn't much he can't do.
"He can swim every event and I can pretty much count on him to win any event he goes into," Bourke said. "He likes to sprint and backstroke. He's a Titan from way back, so he has a lot of years of training. He works really hard every day."
Senior Elijah Ramsey is also a swimmer to watch, mainly in the 200 IM and the 100-fly. He's looking to take on a bigger role this season and Bourke has been impressed with his work ethic.
Other swimmers that will contribute this season for the Bulldogs are Drake DeJesus, Jacob Pringle and Graham Jones.
The Ken East swimming program has benefitted from bigger numbers in recent years, and Bourke hopes that trend will continue.
"The past six years we've gone from having about 10 guys on the team to having a roster being closer to 25-30 guys the last two seasons," he said. "The program has grown and kind of evolved over the past few years."Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News Sports at @tonanewssports.