Mount swimmers focus on positives

Mount swimmers focus on positives

Mount Saint Charles sophomore Allison Melnychuk swims in the butterfly portion of the 200-yard individual medley during last Thursday’s girls’ meet against North Providence. Melnychuk won the 100-yard breaststroke and took second in the IM, but the Mounties suffered a 65-28 loss. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Low in numbers, MSC teams look to ‘enjoy experience’

WOONSOCKET – The good news for the Mount Saint Charles Academy boys’ and girls’ swim teams this winter is that, after spending the past two seasons in Division II and combining to win just six meets, the Mounties will dive into a new Brother Anthony Division that primarily houses most of the teams that will compete in next month’s Division III championship meet.

The bad news? The Mounties have just 13 swimmers in their entire program, and only two of them are boys.

Add in the fact that a handful of the swimmers are new to high school swimming, and it sounds like this could be a challenging winter for the program.

But wins or losses will be the furthest thing from veteran head coach Bill Evans’ mind this season. Watching his swimmers enjoy a positive experience – and maybe pick up a few personal-best times along the way – would definitely qualify as a successful season in his view.

“All in all, they’re probably one of the best groups of kids I’ve had,” Evans said last Thursday afternoon at the Woonsocket YMCA’s pool after his teams were swept in their meet with North Providence. “They’re fun, they’re enjoyable, and they work hard. We’re not going to put any kids in the Olympics and we’re not going to win states. They’re here to get the high school experience and we’re having a good time.”

Evans knew this season had the potential to be a fun one at the girls’ season-opening Injury Fund Relays at Cumberland High. Swimming against three Division I teams, Lincoln, Bay View, and the Clippers, Evans knew that victories were coming to be extremely hard to come by.

“When the meet started, I just looked at the girls and said, ‘Look, these are three D-I schools,’” said Evans. “‘You’re going to have fun. Do your best and don’t be last.’ And they came in third in one of the races and they were so excited. I’ve never seen anybody so excited to come in next-to-last. It was fun, and (seeing) all the smiles, that’s what this is for. Just have a good time. If these kids have a positive experience, then we did our job.”

The Mounties certainly did their job in their season-opening dual meet on Dec. 11 on the road against East Providence. Thanks to big meets by sophomore Allie Melnychuk; the team’s only two seniors, Olivia Charbonneau and Molly Bogner; and junior Katherine O’Brien, they were able to bus home with a 51-36 victory.

Melnychuk, who is coming off a solid freshman season with the Mounties, captured a pair of events, the 100-yard freestyle (1:10.96) and breaststroke (1:25.38), to lead the way, and she also swam on the first-place 200-yard freestyle relay team of freshman Olivia Antonelli, O’Brien, and Bogner, which posted a time of 2:17.52.

Charbonneau, a four-year swimmer for the Mounties who helped the girls’ team capture the Division III championship in 2016, won the 100-yard backstroke (1:23.56), placed second in the 100-yard butterfly, and helped the 400-yard freestyle relay team of junior Sophia Trenouth, sophomore Isabelle Tanner, and O’Brien win its event in a time of 5:31.17.

Bogner, who is a transfer from the defunct Marian High School in Framingham, Mass., took first place in the 200-yard individual medley (3:22.55), and O’Brien also added second places in the 50-yard and 500-yard butterfly events.

Unfortunately for the Mounties, the Cougars topped them last Thursday by a 65-28 score. Melnychuk produced Mount’s only victory in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:25.38) and finished second in the 200-yard I.M., and O’Brien again had two runner-up finishes in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles.

“I graduated half my team last year,” added Evans. “A couple of girls transferred to different schools, but most of our girls came back and we picked up four freshmen. It’s a small team, and they’re all just 12-week-a-year swimmers; there’s not a single club swimmer on the roster. But we have a middle school team that’s all girls and has about a dozen kids on it. It has five or six 8th-graders, so we look good for the future – graduate two, maybe bring in five or six more. I’m hoping this is a building year, so we’ll see what happens.”

On the boys’ side, the Mounties carried just a nine-man roster last winter, but five swimmers graduated and another one transferred to another school. “And we had no middle schoolers coming up for the boys, so we’re just going to go with what we got,” Evans added.

Senior four-year swimmer Zac Robinson and junior Ryan Breitenbach are Mount’s lone swimmers, but they’ve done their part to rack up points in their meets and work toward qualifying for next month’s RIIL Championships at Brown University.

In their season-opening 36-12 loss to East Providence, Robinson won the 100-yard freestyle (1:03.77) and took second in the 100-yard backstroke, and Breitenbach finished second in the 50-yard freestyle and third in the 200-yard freestyle. Last Thursday’s 74-14 loss to the Cougars saw Robinson claim the backstroke (1:10.62) and take second in the 50-yard freestyle and Breitenbach place first in the 100-yard freestyle (59.38 seconds) and second in the 200-yard freestyle.

“As far as individual glory, they’re trying to make states and do what they can in divisions,” remarked Evans. “I think both of them have a shot at making states, which would be good for them, so we’ll see what happens.”

The Mounties were back in action at the YMCA on Monday afternoon with a meet against Smithfield, but they dropped both meets. The girls were dealt a 53-41 defeat to the two-time defending D-III champion Sentinels, while the boys suffered a 30-16 loss to a five-man Smithfield team in a meet that had just seven events.

Robinson and Breitenbach were double winners in the boys’ meet, with Robinson capturing the 50-yard freestyle (27.06) and 100-yard backstroke (1:11.47) and Breitenbach winning the 100-yard (59.76) and 200-yard (2:19.81) freestyles, and the 200-yard freestyle relay team of junior Christina Berry, O’Brien, Trenouth, and Bogner provided the girls’ team with its lone victory in a time of 2:21.40.

The girls’ team will be back in action on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Warwick’s McDermott Pool against Toll Gate, and next Wednesday at 4 p.m., the Mounties will return to the Woonsocket YMCA to host Pilgrim.

As for Robinson and Breitenbach, they won’t get to compete in a meet until the Mounties’ showdown against Burrillville on Jan. 29 at CCRI-Lincoln’s pool because neither Toll Gate nor Pilgrim have boys’ teams.

Mount Saint Charles senior Olivia Charbonneau placed third in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke during last Thursday afternoon’s girls’ meet against North Providence. A four-year swimmer for the Mounties, Charbonneau helped Mount win the Division III championship in 2016.
Mount Saint Charles senior Zac Robinson gets ready for the start of the 100-yard backstroke during last Thursday’s meet against North Providence at the Woonsocket YMCA. Robinson won the event in a time of 1:10.62 and added a second-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle, but the Mounties’ two-man boys’ team suffered a 73-14 loss.