New Grafton High swim coach in building mode
The Grafton High swim team for the 2022-23 season . Photo courtesy of Coach Saleeba
By CHISTOPHER TREMBLAY, Staff Sports Writer
Kevin Saleeba has been coaching swimming for about 17 years, but when Covid hit and his club team decided to close down, he was out of a job until recently. Grafton High School was in need of a coach and Saleeba decided to put his name in the hat.
“They were looking for a coach, I talked to Athletic Director Kevin Anderson, and I guess he liked what I could bring to the team in terms of experience,” the new Gators coach said. “The swimmers have a stable background and I’m looking to build a solid foundation within the program. Grafton has a talented group pf swimmers returning who have shown promise in practice and I’m hoping to build upon what they already have.”
Although the new coach is optimistic about his swimmers he also knows that it is very tough to win with a rather small team. While the girls are in a decent position with 19 swimmers, the boys team only consists of 6 athletes to get into the pool.
“Winning in swimming is a numbers game, if you don’t have the numbers it makes t tough to win overall,” Saleeba said. “You can have the most amazing athletes winning every event but if you don’t have that depth to capture the other places in the event it makes it extremely tough to win.”
With that said, Saleeba is looking to build depth while creating a program that the kids will want to join. They currently are trying to get the word out and eventually hope that some athletes will be interested in giving the sport a try.
“At my past coaching jobs in Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island I may have been well known for my ability,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s like starting over and I need to build my reputation, while I am still trying to learn everyone’s name and what they are capable of doing here.”
Senior Co-Captains MacKenzie Hannah and Ava Martin will lead the girls team into the pool this season. According to Saleeba, from day one these two have not only exhibited a strong dedication to the sport but they have also provided the leadership that the team needs. Thus far Hannah has taken the bull by the horns and given the coach optimism in her ability to swim distance events, Martin on the other hand has yet to give the new coach a glimpse of what she is capable of doing.
“I haven’t really seen too much of her in a meet yet as she was hit with the flu pretty bad and just getting back to normal,” the coach said. “Although she has not been able to get into the pool she has been helping out with the team until she is ready to come back. I am relying on her in practice, she is a strong leader and a coach to the other girls.”
In addition to the captains, Grafton seniors coming back are Maddie Bodor, Deja Colon, Eilidh Deans and Julia Megna. Grafton also has five juniors and another five sophomores on the roster in addition to four freshman taking on the sport this winter. Saleeba is hoping that freshmen Mary O’Brien (distance) and Marissa Pedorella (butterfly and sprints) will be a major factor during the season for the Gators.
Junior Allie Shrayer is probably Grafton’s most talented swimmer and the Coach plans on using her versatility in whatever event he happens to need her during a particular event. Although she can swim in just about any event, she is best suited as a sprinter.
While the girls have a chance to take home some wins during the regular season, it is going to be a giant hill to climb for the boys team only having six active members. Senior DJ Jovin is taking on the sport for the first time and although he has not taken to the water in the past competitively, Saleeba said he is working hard and hanging in there.
Boys senior captain Cole Dunne is a very dedicated swimmer and has provided great leadership to the rest of the boys team right off the bat.
“Since I do not have an assistant, I rely heavily on him to keep the boys moving in the right direction,” the Coach said. “All three captains I know that I can count on and trust them to help me out.”
Dunne, who only began his swimming career when he entered high school and now swims for a club team out of Lincoln RI, can swim just about anything. The other four members of the boy’s team are junior Ethan LaRue and sophomores Jacob Hanna, Kellan Shave and Simon Turcotte.
While the coach is not overly concerned with meets at this time he is looking to put a versatile and balanced team into the pool at all times.
“I am looking to see who I can rely on and who I need to work on so that we can develop the depth on this team. We need swimmers who can swim in multiple events, not just specialize in one,” he said. “It’s not that we are not trying to win, but honestly its going to be hard with are lack of numbers. We will be looking to win as much as we can, but the main goal is to develop these swimmers to be ready come February.”
If Saleeba can get his swimmers to not only learn multiple events during the season, they can not only be successful they should be a roll when the League, the Central Mass Sectionals and the State Championships begin in February.
Thus far in the early part of the season where the girls are 3-2 and the boys are 1-4 the following swimmers have qualified for the League Championship, Central Mass Sectional Championship and/or the State Championship Meets in February.
Maddie Bodor (Sr.) – 200 Free (2:17.95) – League Championship
200 IM (2:36.39) - League Championship
100 Back (1:12.77) - League Championship
Brooke Castellano (Jr.) – 200 Free (2:31.75) - League Championship
100 Back (1:14.44) - League Championship
200 IM (2:50.52) - League Championship
Chloe Chofay (So.) – 500 Free (6:15.94) - League Championship
100 Breast (1:20.50) - League Championship
Ava Martin (Sr. Capt.) – 50 Free (30.03) - League Championship
Mary O’Brien (Fr.) – 500 Free (6:30.09) - League Championship
200 Free (2:22.89) - League Championship
Marissa Pedorella (Fr.) – 50 Free (28.59) - League Championship
100 Free (1:05.33) - League Championship
100 Fly (1:12.91) - League Championship
Allie Shrayer (Jr.) – 50 Free (27.02) – Qualified for both League and Sectional Championships
100 Free (1:02.22) - League Championship
200 IM (2:40.59) - League Championship
Isabelle Sullivan (So.) – 50 Free (28.88) - League Championship
100 Fly (1:15.85) - League Championship
Girls Relays who qualified for Sectionals:
200 Free Relay (Shrayer, Pedorella, Castellano, Bodor)
200 Medley Relay (Bodor, Chofay, Pedorella, Shrayer)
Eildh Deans (sr.) 50 Free (29.97) League Championship
Cole Dunne (Sr. Capt.) – 50 Free (24.32) - Qualified for both League and Sectional Championships
100 Free (57.53) - League Championship
200 Free (2:05.95) - League Championship
100 Breast (1:08.32) - Qualified for both League and Sectional Championships
100 Fly (58.87) - Qualified for both League and Sectional Championships
200 IM (2:20.98) - League Championship
Jacob Hanna (So.) – 200 Free (2:23.27) - League Championship
Ethan LaRue (Jr.) - 50 Free (26.19) - League Championship
100 Free (59.96) - League Championship
100 Back (1:05.53) - League Championship
100 Breast (1:15.03) - League Championship
200 IM (2:31.70) - League Championship
Kellan Shave (So.) – 50 Free (27.59) - League Championship
100 Free (1:01.25) - League Championship
200 Free (2:20.72) - League Championship
100 Back (1:12.91) - League Championship
Simon Turcotte (So.) – 50 Free (26.47) - League Championship
100 Free (59.57) - League Championship
500 Free (5:55.68) - League Championship
100 Breast (1:15.63) - League Championship
100 Fly (1:16.22) - League Championship
Boys Relays that qualified Sectionals
200 Medley Relay (Shave, LaRue, Dunne, Turcotte)
400 Free Relay (LaRue, Shave, Turcotte, Dunne)