LAKE WYLIE — Joan Epping begins her 12th campaign at the helm of the Clover Blue Eagles swimming teams, and she expects the 2013 season will be a good one.
The coach who helped organize the varsity swimming team for boys and girls in 2001 has lots of reasons to be optimistic about both her teams this year.
The leader of the girls’ team is junior Morgan Rulevich. She is back for her fifth year in the Clover program and already has some impressive credentials.
Rulevich, who is one of the captains on this year’s team, won the state championship last year in the 100-meter breaststroke and finished second in the 100 freestyle.
“She is a year-round swimmer,” said Epping. “She works extremely hard all the time. She wants it, and you gotta want it to do well.”
Epping has four other swimmers who are designated as captains for the upcoming season. They are Victoria Amiel, Abby Hines, Tiffany Lombardo and Meagan Martin.
In addition to Rulevich, Clover will count heavily on the performances of a trio of returning swimmers. All three are underclassmen.
Junior Lauren Jubenville is being counted on in the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley. Sophomore Kelcey Hines is strong in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 backstroke. Sophomore Anna Pettus is expected to do well in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly.
“I feel like our young girls team will perform well because we have the top swimmer in the breaststroke in the state,” added Epping. “We also have four swimmers who swim year-round, and that is the key.”
The boys’ team is also looking for a good year despite the fact that four of the top five performers from a year ago graduated.
Senior John Slavens will serve as the boys’ captain. He is also being counted on for outstanding performances in the 100 breaststroke and the 200 IM.
Four other swimmers are expected to contribute quite a bit this year in more than one event. One is a junior, two are sophomores, while one is a freshman.
Oscar Onoszko, Seth Hurst, and Nathaniel Hartley have been in the Clover program. Brice Beverly moved to Clover this summer from Virginia, and he is expected to contribute.
Onoszko is one of the sophomores. He is expected to do well in the 100 free, 100 breaststroke, and 200 IM. Hurst, also a sophomore, is counted on for leadership in the 100 breaststroke, 100 free and 50 free.
Hartley, a freshman, is being being counted on to perform well in the 100 breaststroke and 100 fly. Beverly, a junior, is strong in the 100 backstroke and 200 free.
“I have some outstanding leaders, but I am also counting on many of our swimmers to contribute,” said Epping. “I expect our relay teams to be good. We have some open spots, but we have had a lot of competition there. That will help us be better.”
Clover has two assistant coaches, and Epping knows both will help the Blue Eagles be a good team.
Rachel Hester, who swam in the Clover program for six years, is in her first season as an assistant coach. Buddy Clayton, who swam at Clemson, also is in his first year.
“Both of them have really done an excellent job thus far,” said Epping. “Clayton gives us the first male on the pool deck in the program’s history.”
Epping has built a solid program at Clover because of her feeder program. She has a large number of swimmers in the junior varsity program, and the River Hills Country Club Sharks move right into the Clover program.
“I am pleased with our effort thus far,” Epping said. “We have had 18 practices thus far, and all of our swimmers have worked very hard.”