East Xtra: Hempfield girls have high hopes for WPIALs
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Amanda Kedzeirski and Molly Sternick are separated by a couple of grades, but both provide key examples of Hempfield Area High School's long-term progress approach to swimming.
In recent postings, Kedzeirski, a junior, had the sixth fastest 100-yard breaststroke among WPIAL Class AAA girls for her time of 1:08.75. Kedzeirski was also 19th for the 200-yard freestyle (2:02.86).
In the same listings, Sternick, a freshman, was sixth in the WPIAL for the 100-yard butterfly and 13th for the 200-yard individual medley (2:16.61).
In addition, both girls are members of the Spartans' WPIAL fifth-place 200-yard medley relay (1:53.89) as well as the seventh place 400-yard freestyle relay (3:51.33).
Sternick and Kedzeirski swim the relays alongside teammates Meghan Gaza and Gina DeFloria. On the medley relay, Sternick swims the butterfly and Kedzeirski swims the breaststroke.
"We've been fortunate over the past five, six, seven years to have one of the better medley relays in Western Pennsylvania," Hempfield coach Kevin Clougherty said. "We've graduated a number of former All-Americans. Most of the kids this year are newer to the limelight, but they've done a heck of a job."
The numbers nicely illustrate Sternick's and Kedzeirski's accomplishments, but Clougherty explained that the two were among Hempfield's best representatives of training for the long haul.
"Molly started with this [Hempfield Aqua Club] team when she was 9 or 10 years old," Clougherty said. "We identified her pretty early on -- she had some potential ... We worked pretty hard at trying to avoid making her a 'fast 12 year old.'"
Clougherty said that making Sternick merely a "fast 12 year old" would have limited her potential for high school.
"It's easy to make a fast 12 year old," he said. "You get them strong -- but it's really about technique."
In a nutshell, Hempfield swimmers focus on technique from early ages. They do this in order to set realistic performance goals, a progression designed to lead to success in high school.
In fact, Kedzeirski's progression is ongoing.
"This year we made some mechanical changes to her stroke," Clougherty said.
Clougherty and the Hempfield coaching staff had observed Kedzeirski over the summer. They even broke down video of Kedzeirski.
"She's a tall girl," Clougherty said. "So we've lengthened the front end of her stroke. It's allowed her to use her long arms to her advantage."
The work ethic of Sternick and Kedzeirski, along with Hempfield's careful attention to progress, has allowed both swimmers to make major differences in important meets.
On Jan. 24 at Class AAA power Franklin Regional, Sternick controlled the 100-yard butterfly for a 1:00.32 win. Later in the meet, Kedzeirski did the same thing in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:09.28). Although Hempfield's girls lost the meet, 96-89, it took Franklin until the final event to clinch the victory.
"I was a little bit nervous," recalled Sternick about racing the butterfly event against Franklin. "But I've practiced really hard this year so I trust my training and my coach. Franklin is a good team -- I had been thinking about that going into the meet."
Kedzeirski remembered the end of the 100-yard breaststroke race being easier than the beginning. She had pulled out in front on the race's back half.
"Last year when we swam against Franklin Regional," Kedzeirski said, "they were good and pretty much killed us. So I just wanted to keep the team spirit high."
Clougherty noted that Sternick's and Kedzeirski's successes were points of leadership for the entire Hempfield team.
"Their teammates looked over and said, 'Wow, if Amanda and Molly can do this, maybe we can hang with [Franklin Regional]," Clougherty said. "Amanda's and Molly's abilities to lead the team were big steps up for us. They've grown up seeing some very successful kids come through the program. Now, they see it as their turn, their time to step up."
First Published February 21, 2013 12:00 am