SD swim 12922

The girls’ team I would say is experienced,” said Coach Kristina Watts. “The boys’ team is young, a lot of freshmen and fresh talent, fresh abilities that we’ll just be working on throughout the sea- son.”

(Dec. 9, 2022) The Stephen Decatur swim teams opened the season with a win over Nandua on Tuesday at the Pocomoke YMCA.

The Lady Seahawks won, 107-62.

“They did great. All of the girls but one I’ve coached so they know the deal with meets and know what to do,” said Coach Kristina Watts. “They’re experienced. We have things to work on and improve on, but I have no complaints about the first meet.”

Seniors Kayden Hamby (200-yard freestyle, 2:19.18; 100-yard freestyle, 1:02.41) and Natalie Canham (100-yard butterfly, 1:10.27) and junior Trista Harner (50-yard freestyle, 27.18 seconds) won their individual races.

Canham, Harner and sophomores Vienna Williams and Kaolin Riser came in first place in the 200-yard medley relay (2:06.39).

Hamby, Riser, Harner and senior Katelyn Pizlo won the 200-yard freestyle relay race (1:54.71).

The girls’ team is stacked with veteran swimmers. Of the 22 swimmers on Watts’ roster, only seven are new to the squad.

The girls’ team had a successful 2021-22 season, finishing second overall in both the Bayside Conference championship and 3A-2A-1A East Region competition.

Eight female swimmers represented Decatur during the state meet and several earned spots on the podium for placing eighth or better. Decatur finished tied for eighth overall out of 26 teams at states.

“The [strength of the] girls’ team is in the numbers. As we saw last season, a lot of the teams didn’t have full rosters so we were able to fill our lanes and get all the points, which helps,” Watts said. “The girls’ team I would say is experienced. Even the new girls have been on club teams and I know all but one of them from coaching from Ocean Pines. They have all the swimming background already coming in.”

Pizlo, Canham and Hamby are the captains of the girls’ team. Leading the boys’ squad will again be senior Gavin Stearn and junior Daniel Karcheuski.

“They are pretty much natural leaders anyway, so it wasn’t a hard choice for the captains,” Watts said. “Especially the boys, we don’t have very many veterans on the team but Gavin and Daniel have been here and they know what’s going on. They’re confident with their other teammates, and the girls are good leaders. They’re organizing things for me that I don’t have to worry about. I trust all of them very much.”

Pizlo, a member of the team for four years, is enjoying taking on a leadership role and helping the less experienced swimmers with whatever questions they have.

“I do Decatur plus Ocean Pines swim team – I’ve been doing Ocean Pines for eight years – so I have a lot of experience and if the people that haven’t been swimming that long have a question I can be the first to answer it, the first to step up … We have a lot of people willing to learn and it’s really exciting to see,” she said. “It’s really sweet. They come up to me like, ‘I’m getting nervous about this one swim’ and I’ll be like, ‘I can totally help you with that.’ I love it.

“I’m really sad that it’s my last year, but I’m really excited for it because it looks like it’s going to be a really good season,” she added, noting that she hopes to qualify for states this year.

The boys’ squad also won Tuesday’s competition, topping Nandua, 87-51.

Karcheuski (200-yard freestyle, 1:58.41; 100-yard butterfly, 56.36 seconds), Stearn (50-yard freestyle, 23.49 seconds), freshman Jake Harner (200 IM, 2:32.78) and sophomores Chase Ponton (100-yard freestyle, 1:07.74) and Gavin Conway (100-yard backstroke, 1:09.54) came in first place in their events.

Karcheuski, Stearn, Harner and junior Mason Castanares won the 200-yard medley relay race (1:54.89).

Stearn, Conway, Castanares and Karcheuski were victorious in the 200-yard freestyle relay race (4:02.60).

“They did awesome. The energy and effort were great and it was a strong start to the season,” said Coach David Bernal-Clark. “Back to work at practice [Wednesday] as we want to get better every day and every meet.”

Bernal-Clark is excited to join the program as a coach this year.

He was also an assistant boys’ varsity soccer coach during the fall season.

“It was a cool opportunity. It’s a good group of kids and anything I can do to get more involved with the school the better,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s really fun … I’m pretty competitive. My goal is to help them anyway I can.”

An educational assistant at Decatur, he is a 2014 graduate of the high school. He played soccer for Decatur, and swam for the Ocean Pines team when he was younger.

Both Watts and Bernal-Clark are pleased to see the number of boys participating. Only six boys competed last season. This year, there are 14 on the roster.

“It’s more than doubled, so that’s awesome. A lot of them are new swimmers, but our teammates are helping them out,” Watts said. “They’re giving them little lessons, which is awesome. The returning boys are strong. They’ve been on club swim teams before … The boys’ team is young, a lot of freshmen and fresh talent, fresh abilities that we’ll just be working on throughout the season.”

“We’ll have a lot more depth, a lot more room to work with instead of the same swimmers doing the same events relying on the same points,” Karcheuski added. “We’ll have a lot more diversity, a lot more variability.”

Five boys are returning from last season, when the team finished sixth at both the Bayside and regional meets. Four boys competed in the state championship meet last year. The group came in 12th place overall out of 28 schools represented.

Stearn had the best finishes overall, placing third in the 100-yard freestyle and fourth in the 50-yard freestyle at states.

Stearn won the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle at regionals. He is Bayside champion in the 200IM and 100-yard freestyle.

Karcheuski came in fifth place in the 200IM and seventh in the 100-yard butterfly at states. He is the 200IM regional champion.

He hopes to do even better this year and is enjoying taking on a leadership role again.

“I’ve been on the club team, in and out of summer teams since I’ve been 10 years old. I’ve always had a passion for swimming and I’ve been trying to expand my role in swimming, getting more involved with my club team, learning how to coach, getting into the administrative side, just kind of overall trying to be more involved so I can be more knowledgable so I can also pass it on to help other people as well,” said Karcheuski, a three-year member of the Decatur squad. “I’m really enjoying helping the newer kids … I just want the team to have fun and learn new things. I’ve seen a lot of new, eager faces and I’m really excited about that and really proud of that.”

The next swim meet is on Tuesday at 3 p.m. against Easton at the Pocomoke YMCA.

“My goal is for the girls to get first at Baysides and as many as possible going to states from regionals … and boys it would be nice if we can bump up some spots in Baysides now that we have more, and hopefully take a good number of them to regionals and states too,” Watts said.

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