Meadville’s Josh Merchbaker comes up for air while swimming the 200-yard freestyle race during the Bulldogs’ Region 3 dual meet with Mercyhurst Prep on Thursday at the MARC. Merchbaker won two events as the boys topped the visiting Lakers 136-36. 

Meadville’s veteran swimming coach Pete Coppelli has always emphasized individual success. He’s not one to get too concerned about the numbers in the win-loss column.

But after Thursday’s Region 3 dual meet against Mercyhurst Prep, those might be hard to ignore.

The Meadville boys graduated a lot a year ago, including three members of the Bulldogs’ District 10 champion 200 yard medley relay team. And in November, Coppelli said it wasn’t a group the Bulldogs would replace in one season.

“Put that in the paper,” Coppelli said at the time. He wanted to light a little fire under the youth-laden squad. It apparently worked.

The Bulldogs won all but one event against the Lakers last night en route to a 136-36 win, and improved to 3-1 overall and 3-1 in Region 3. The Lady Bulldogs weren’t as fortunate, dropping a hard-fought battle to the Lakers 90-71. The Meadville girls are now 1-3 overall and in region action.

“We picked up an experienced (YMCA) swimmer in Daniel Button,” Coppelli said. “He’s really starting to come into his own. That helped fill some of the void of losing Wade Clark, Ryan Girvan and Ben Crowl. Even the guys who remained from last year, they are already improving and working hard.

“I had a really great week at practice just watching how hard they were attacking the challenges we set before them. All of a sudden everything just clicked. They have an expectation to do well and they are working hard to achieve that.”

Tallying individual wins for the Meadville boys were: Josh Merchbaker (200 freestyle, 1:56.92 and 100 freestyle, 50.68), Braden Bosco (200 individual medley, 2:17.33 and 100 breaststroke, 1:08.98), Gabe Cummings (50 freestyle, 23.20), Isaac Fiely (diving, 207.80), Button (500 freestyle, 5:40.41) and Joe Su (100 backstroke, 1:13.03).

The Bulldogs’ 200 medley relay team of Fiely, Parker Lord, Isaac Johnson and Cody Kearns also took first in 2:03.05. As did the 200 freestyle relay team of Merchbaker, Bosco, Cummings and Button (1:35.55) and the 400 freestyle relay team of Cummings, Merchbaker, Button and Bosco (3:40.73).

“We just started the next phase of our training the end of last week and this week,” Coppelli said. “For the kids who are really nailing that in practice, it’s going to take a toll on their racing performance for a little while until they adapt a little bit. It could have some glaring effects from one swimmer to another.”

Not the case for Cummings. Coppelli believes Cummings’ time of 23.20 in the 50 freestyle may be a personal best. What is even more impressive to Coppelli, however, is how he got to that time.

“I really liked his self discipline,” Coppelli said. “I think he maybe took one breath on the second 25. So he’s really focused on keeping his head down, working on his stroke and big turnover. It hurts not to breathe. So you have to really have good concentration so that’s not a distraction. It should be faster in a 50 and that’s what he’s going for.”

Jaeda Johnston

Meadville’s Jaeda Johnston swims to the win during Thursday’s dual match with Mercyhurst Prep. 

While the girls didn’t tally a team win against the Lakers, the competition certainly didn’t lack excitement. And it started right from the get-go in the 200 medley relay. The Bulldogs had built a decent lead through the first two strokes. Mercyhurst Prep gained some ground on the first leg of the butterfly and eventually overtook the Bulldogs in the freestyle to win the event in .50 seconds. 

The girls 50 freestyle was also exciting — albeit with some help. 

“There was a little glitch in the starting system,” Coppelli said. “The timer said, ‘Take your mark.’ And instantly the horn went off. So they were all taken off guard. The officials wanted to re-swim it after the diving, but both coaches realized we had swimmers who would come out of that 50 and then right into the 100 fly. So it was going to cause problems on down the line. We just said we would accept the results. Both teams were equally effected.”

It wound up being quite entertaining for fans as the top four swimmers finished within .48 seconds. Mercyhurst Prep’s Mary-Clarke Stark hit the wall first in 26.77 followed by Meadville’s Brittany Houck (27.12), Prep’s Gabriela McAllister (27.14) and Meadville’s Olivia Philbrick (27.25).

The Lady Bulldogs did get a win in the 200 freestyle from Jaeda Johnston (2:13.21). Ella Stewart, who was late getting to the blocks, finished nearly 16 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor in the 200 IM (2:36.71) and also won the 100 breaststroke (1:20.53). Philbrick was first in the 100 backstroke in 1:02.74 — 10 seconds ahead of second place.

“Everybody was racing to beat somebody (tonight),” Coppelli said. “Nobody was thinking, ‘Oh, we can’t win here so we’re just going to kind of take it easy.’ They were all going hard.”



Meadville 136, Mercyhurst Prep 36

200 medley relay: 1. Meadville (Isaac Fiely, Parker Lord, Isaac Johnson, Cody Kearns) 2:03.05, 2. Mercyhurst Prep (Ryan Kelly, Royal Miller, Tyler Hansen, Jacob Kennedy) 2:11.94, 3. Meadville (Joe Su, Braden Green, Andrew Sanner, Eddie Hazlet) 2:12.03. 200 freestyle: 1. Josh Merchbaker (M) 1:56.92, 2. Hansen (MP) 2:07.46, 3. Charlie Minor (M) 2:32.10, 4. Jacob Lyon (M) 2:56.44. 200 IM: 1. Braden Bosco (M) 2:17.33, 2. Daniel Button (M) 2:20.93, 3. Miller (MP) 2:46.30, 4. Hazlet (M) 2:51.19. 50 freestyle: 1. Gabe Cummings (M) 23.20, 2. Kelly (MP) 26.55, 3. Lord (M) 26.78, 4. Kearns (M) 27.20. Diving: 1. Isaac Fiely (M) 207.80, 2. Minor (M) 140.00. 100 butterfly: 1. Hansen (MP) 1:05.40, 2. Johnson (M) 1:09.45, 3. Su (M) 1:17.12, 4. Hazlet (M) 1:27.00. 100 freestyle: 1. Merchbaker (M) 50.68, 2. Cummings (M) 51.32, 3. Kearns (M) 1:00.30, 4. Kennedy (MP) 1:07.42. 500 freestyle: 1. Button (M) 5:40.41, 2. Kelly (MP) 6:18.76, 3. Sanner (M) 6:19.72, 4. Green (M) 9:38.81. 200 freestyle relay: 1. Meadville (Merchbaker, Bosco, Cummings, Button) 1:35.55, 2. Mercyhurst Prep (Hansen, Miller, Kelly, Kennedy) 1:52.58, 3. Meadville (Kearns, Hazlet, Lyon, Sanner) 1:56.25. 100 backstroke: 1. Su (M) 1:13.03, 2. Johnson (M) 1:14.66, 3. Miller (MP) 1:20.88, 4. Green (M) 1:46.90. 100 breaststroke: 1. Bosco (M) 1:08.98, 2. Fiely (M) 1:15.92, 3. Lord (M) 1:17.72, 4. Kennedy (MP) 1:34.98. 400 freestyle relay: 1. Meadville (Cummings, Merchbaker, Button, Bosco) 3:40.73, 2. Meadville (Su, Sanner, Lord, Fiely) 4:23.65, 3. Meadville (Green, Johnson, Lyon, Minor) 4:51.97.

Records: Mercyhurst Prep 0-4, 0-4 Region 3; Meadville 3-1, 3-1 Region 3.


Mercyhurst Prep 90, Meadville 71

200 medley relay: 1. Mercyhurst Prep (Gabriela McAllister, Mary-Clare Stark, Maya Morrison, Sarah Sweet) 1:59.28, 2. Meadville (Olivia Philbrick, Brittany Houck, Amanda Crowl, Ella Stewart) 1:59.78, 3. Mercyhurst Prep (Maria Piecuch, Halle Noonan, Elise Rinke, Ava Gardner) 2:25.30. 200 freestyle: 1. Jaeda Johnston (M) 2:13.21, 2. Rinke (MP) 2:28.48, 2. Piecuch (MP) 2:29.34, 4. Gardner (MP) 3:17.85, 5. GraceAnne Weibel (M) 3:26.92. 200 IM: 1. Stewart (M) 2:36.71, 2. Lauren Jamolowicz (MP) 2:52.25, 3. Noonan (MP) 2:59.86. 50 freestyle: 1. Stark (MP) 26.77, 2. Houck (M) 27.12, 3. McAllister (MP) 27.14, 4. Philbrick (M) 27.25, 5. Morrison (MP) 29.48. 100 butterfly: 1. McAllister (MP) 1:07.14, 2. Houck (M) 1:07.53, 3. Sweet (MP) 1:08.76, 4. Johnston (M) 1:09.36, 5. Peytyn Bailey (M) 1:14.66. 100 freestyle: 1. Stark (MP) 57.42, 2. MaryKelly Moreland (M) 1:04.14, 3. Brynn Kriner (M) 1:04.94, 4. Machaela Yurchak (MP) 1:13.62. 500 freestyle: 1. Rinke (MP) 6:45.05, 2. Morrison (MP) 6:52.30, 3. Crowl (M) 6:59.05, 4. Weibel (M) 8:25.57, 5. Gardner (MP) 8:49.78. 200 freestyle relay: 1. Meadville (Bailey, Johnston, Houck, Crowl) 1:53.94, 2. Mercyhurst Prep (Yurchak, Piecuch, Jarmolowicz, Noonan) 2:06.31. 100 backstroke: 1. Philbrick (M) 1:02.74, 2. Sweet (MP) 1:12.25, 3. Moreland (M) 1:13.44, 4. Kriner (M) 1:14.50, 5. Jarmolowicz (MP) 1:15.32. 100 breaststroke: 1. Stewart (M) 1:20.53, 2. Piecuch (MP) 1:24.38, 3. Noonan (MP) 1:25.49. 400 freestyle relay: 1. Mercyhurst Prep (McAllister, Sweet, Rinke, Stark) 4:01.34, 2. Meadville (Philbrick, Johnston, Bailey, Stewart) 4:03.46, 3. Mercyhurst Prep (Gardner, Yurchak, Jarmolowicz, Morrison) 4:58.05.

Records: Mercyhurst Prep 2-2, 2-2 Region 3; Meadville 1-3, 1-3 Region 3.

React to this story:


Recommended for you