Athletes seek championship times at 2016 Groundhog Meet

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville Swim Association gears up for the 2016 short course championship season by hosting the Groundhog Invitational this weekend at the Natatorium.

The meet typically features top swimmers from all across the South region. Competition begins at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29. Age 10-and-under swimmers start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with the older athletes participating in the afternoon sessions.

HSA currently ranks 105th in the nation out of more than 2,800 club teams. The squad has earned USA Bronze Medal Club status for the second consecutive year and owns its highest ranking in team history.

Sarah Margaret Cimino, Crosan Cooper, Macon Graves, Alison Hu, Chloe Hui, Kobie Melton and Regan Weakley competed in the Speedo Winter Juniors in Atlanta last month at the Georgia Tech University McAuley Aquatic Center.

“We’ve done well this past season and are looking for some big things this year,” said HSA Head Coach Matt Webber, who has shepherded the team for seven seasons. “These championship meets are sometimes a learning experience for the athletes, but we now bring several experienced swimmers. They have to achieve strict qualifying standards just to get there and then they attempt to step it up even more. It’s always a very exciting thing to witness.”

Zach Harting, a world-renowned butterfly specialist, and now a freshman at the University of Louisville, qualified for this summer’s Olympic Trials while swimming with HSA.

Former University of Alabama star swimmer Cameron Conners is back working with HSA as he tunes up his breaststroke for another possible return to the Trials. Several other HSA swimmers are closing in on Trials qualifying standards as well. The 2016 Olympic Trials are slated for Omaha, Neb., in June.

Mary Northcutt (left) recently signed a college swim scholarship with Carson Newman. (Photo: Elizabeth Hinely)

Mary Northcutt (left) recently signed a college swim scholarship with Carson Newman. (Photo: Elizabeth Hinely)

Other recent team highlights include Mary Northcutt signing a swim scholarship with the Carson Newman University Eagles of Jefferson City, Tenn.

“I love the coaching staff and their coaching philosophy,” said Northcutt, a senior at Grissom High School. “They want you to become the best you can be, both in and out of the water.”

Macon Graves of St. John Paul II Catholic High School has signed with the Cincinnati Bearcats. Westminster Christian senior Isaac DeVaney inked with University of Evansville, Ind.

Over the course of the previous season, HSA’s Claire Blasingame was selected to the Southern Zone Age Group Championship Meet in Tupelo, Miss. She was one of eight age 11-12 girls representing the entire Southeastern LSC after her performance at the Southeastern Championship. The Zone meet showcases the top eight age group swimmers from 13 teams of a 10-state region.

Claire Blasingame (center) was selected to the Southern Zone Age Group Championship Meet last season. (Photo: Elizabeth Hinely)

Claire Blasingame (center) was selected to the Southern Zone Age Group Championship Meet last season. (Photo: Elizabeth Hinely)

Kobie Melton was high-point runner-up at the Futures Meet as HSA finished sixth versus girls teams and 12th against the boys. The regional Futures format debuted last season. The Futures is designed to bridge the gap between Sectionals and Junior Nationals.

Based on geographical location, each USA Swimming LSC was designated to one of the three Futures championship sites. The venue has been expanded to four regions this year.

Six HSA swimmers achieved prestigious top 10 national age group awards by USA Swimming: Marybeth Monk, Zach Harting, Kobie Melton, Alison Hu, Ryan Barlow and Regan Weakley.  Several team records were also set this past season.

The current short course season culminates with a series of championship meets, including the Southeastern Championships, Feb. 19-21, on the Auburn University campus and the NCSA Junior Nationals, March 15-19, in Orlando, Fla.

Some of the HSA swimmers who have already achieved Southeastern standards include: Claire Blasingame, Ryan Barlow, Emerson Barrett, Becca Blevins, Annie Calatrello, Maddie Cimino, Sarah Margaret Cimino, Devin Campbell, Grace Dougherty, Emily Ferguson, Virginia Graves, Chloe Hui, Rebekah Hamilton, Alison Hu, Julia Krickev, Eboni McCarty, Kobie Melton, Merybeth Monk, Mary Northcutt, Emma Preston, Claire Quadrini, Grace Quadrini, Anna Kathryn Schloss, Jia Jia Shen, Emily Vasquez, Regan Weakley, Carson Amos, Andrew Amos, Bo Barlow, Cole Beddingfield, Chris Bedsole, Luke Bedsole, Henry Calatrello, Cameron Conners, Caleb Chance, Crossan Cooper, Isaac DeVaney, Macon Graves, Riley Groves, Samuel Hardy, Jonathan McDonald, Will Neville, Cade Overbeek, Jack Sentell, Ming Shen, Joe Swing, Gabe Shreve, Austin Smith, Andrew Sterns, James-Hale Thomas, Same Vasquez, Ethan Wan, Caleb Worshek and Riley Worshek.