Huntington, Cabell Midland take top individual honors at MSAC swim meet
HUNTINGTON — Brooke Blom was chatting with friends when she heard her name called over the public address system at Marshall University’s Fitch Natatorium.
Why the name of the Cabell Midland High School sophomore was announced Saturday she wasn’t sure, but when she discovered the reason Blom was delighted. She had been named as the Mountain State Athletic Conference Swimmer of the Year.
“It was so out of the blue,” Blom said. “I was talking with friends and hear my name. Then I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, where do I go?’ It feels really good. It show that all my hard work and training has paid off.”
Blom won the girls 200-yard individual medley in 2:14.27, finishing 1:22 ahead of runner-up Elin Sodersten of Spring Valley. Blom also won the 100-yard Butterfly in 59:41 and was the lone competitor to break the oneminute mark.
Cabell Midland senior Sydney Adkins, a relay specialist, said Blom deserved to win Swimmer of the Year. Adkins also said she was pleased with her team’s effort to improve on Saturday.
“In swimming, your competition is always yourself,” Adkins said. “You always want to drop your time. I think we did really well.”
Blom helped the Knights girls to a sixth-place finish. George Washington won the title with 328 points. Parkersburg was second with 289, followed by Hurricane with 258, Huntington High with 114, Capital with 88, Cabell Midland with 86, Spring Valley with 84, St. Albans with 44 and Woodrow Wilson with 11.
George Washington also won the boys championship, with 344 points. Parkersburg placed second with 291 followed by Huntington High with 237.5, Hurricane with 186, Capital with 74, Cabell Midland with 50, South Charleston with 40.5, Spring Valley and St. Albans with 25, Riverside with 20 and Woodrow Wilson with 7.
Huntington High’s Emily Akalski was named as MSAC Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. Akalski said she was as surprised to hear her name announced as Blom was to hear hers.
“It’s voted on by the coaches, so that makes it mean so much more to me,” Akalski said. “It’s all the kids and their effort. I just try to put them in the right places.”
Akalski said she figured the award would go to Parkersburg’s Terry Nisewarner, who is retiring after this season, or Riverside’s Marcus Cole, whose son Gannon is the Warriors’ only swimmer. The HHS coach used humor to humbly accept the award.
“There are a lot of great, veteran coaches in the conference,” Akalski said. “I think I won because I’m the loudest and our volunteers put out a great food table.”
Huntington High swimmers Doria Aractingi, Ana Carr and Sarah Johnson said Akalski was deserving of the honor. Each talked about how the sixth-year coach has helped her.
“I did all right,” said Carr, a sophomore. “I didn’t improve my times nor do worse. GW and Parkersburg are always our biggest competition and our goal is to beat them.”
Carr’s mother, Christy, said Akalski is a pleasure to work with and a terrific coach.
“She shows kindness toward every kid and takes interest in every kid,” Christy Carr said. “I think that trickles down.”
Aractingi said HHS’ focus was on each individual improving and preparing for Saturday’s 11 a.m. Region IV meet at Fitch Natatorium.
“We just wanted to get our times down and focus on getting ready for next week,” Aractingi said.
Johnson was pleased to have trimmed four seconds off her personal best time in the 500-yard freestyle.
“We focus on dropping our own personal times because that’s what will lead to the team getting first place,” Johnson said.
Huntington High freshman Henry Sheils continued his domination of the 100-yard butterfly, winning in 55.44 to best Capital’s Kolton Hoffman, who fin ished second in 58.83. Sheils also won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:00.20, a mere 0.43 ahead of second-place J.R. Newman of Hurricane.
George Washington coach Kaycee Wheeler said she was proud of her teams for capturing championships against tough competition. The fifth-year coach led both teams to titles for the first time. The girls’ first-place finish was the first in the MSAC meet for the Patriots under Wheeler.
“I’m very proud of them,” Wheeler said. “Our depth and talent gets us where we’re going. We don’t have to be first in every event to win the championship.”
Wheeler said she expected and received a strong challenge from the runner-up Parkersburg Big Reds.
“It’s always back and forth with Parkersburg,” Wheeler said. “They’ll get us one time. We’ll get them one time. It was nice to be the getter this time.”
GW sophomore Ian Adler won the boys 200-yard IM in 2:06.07, more than five seconds ahead of second-place Jacob Ranson of St. Albans, and the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.34, more than four seconds ahead of second-place Reid Painter of Hurricane.
“There was a little bit of pressure on us,” Adler said. “We really wanted to win this and Parkersburg, of course, was our main competition.”