WHEELING, W. Va. — The second full season since I 2016-17 begins for the Wheeling University swim team Friday as they open day one of the West Virginia State Games. It’s also the first two-day event of the year for the Cardinals as they compete against some of the area’s best swimmers. It will be a chance for both teams to show what they can do and set their baseline for the season.
In 2021-22, the Cardinals gained experience in the pool after restarting the program for the first full season since that 2016-17 season. They had several standout performances throughout the season as they prepared for the 2022 Mountain East Conference (MEC)/Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) Championships. They had an individual MEC championship and multiple personal best and program records. With that experience under their belt, the Cardinals look to build on this as many enter their second collegiate swim season, with some standout freshmen looking to make an immediate impact in the pool.
For women, the sophomore is in the lead Jade Mueller, who was the Cardinal’s only MEC champion last season. She won the honors in the 200-yard backstroke, where she managed a time of 2:08.3 to place sixth overall and first among MEC opponents. She is accompanied by another returnee Meredith Mandel, who took home fifth and sixth place at last year’s event. Overall, the Cardinals are bringing back five returnees to the pool, along with three freshmen, while laying the foundation for the program’s advancement.
The men’s roster is still small with three swimmers total, but they remain focused on individual successes in the pool. Junior Ethan Banks returns as a veteran of the group after proving to be a strong distance swimmer for the team. He wrote his name in the history books of wheeling swimming when he set the fifth fastest time of 10:13.73 at the 2022 MEC/GMAC Championships. Nathan Yost also showed success by swimming in the shorter disciplines. He also had a cardinal’s record performance, finishing ninth in program history and swimming 22.98. Newcomer joins them Tadiwa Tayali while trying to lay the foundation of the swim program.
The West Virginia state games will be a good test for the Cardinals to start the season as they face competition from all three tiers of the NCAA. It will be the first two-day event of the season, allowing them to show off their skills across several different events. With a young team at hand, head coach Cory Kephart is not as concerned with team results as with the individual development of each swimmer in the pool.
The West Virginia State Games are played at Mylan Park in Morgantown, West Virginia and feature competition from all three levels of the NCAA. The first session is a night swim starting at 6:00 p.m. and the second day of competition starts at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Different events will take place on both days, with the total score of the teams being counted on the last day of competition.
This is Wheeling’s first appearance at the West Virginia State Games since the 2016-2017 season, when they finished third among the eight teams in attendance. In this event, the men had a strong performance from former Cardinal Thomas Caixeta, who was placed in four different races that day. There was no female competitor at this year’s event and they are competing for the first time since the 2015-2016 WV State Games.
The West Virginia State Games begin Friday at 6:00 p.m. at Mylan Park Aquatics Center in Morgantown, WV. Stay tuned to wucardinals.com for a full recap of each day of competition.