LOWVILLE Marcia Kenealy never anticipated shed become a head swimming coach upon retirement.
She was quite content to assist the Lowville swim program from her lifeguard chair at the corner of the pool.
Kenealy is no spectator this season as she takes over coaching duties for the late Bobb Watkins, who nurtured the Lowville boys and girls swimming programs for 26 years. Watkins died at age 60 last December from complications of colon cancer.
Swimming is one of the few sports Kenealy hasnt coached, and she describes this season as on-the-job training.
Although I asked Bobb a zillion questions, I never really envisioned myself being a swimming coach, Kenealy said. But its the right thing to do; It feels right.
The Lowville team has had several months to process the loss of their mentor and friend, but the girls will be going through the grieving process all over again as they adjust to his absence at the pool this season.
Its definitely different without him, senior Tasha Widrick said. Mrs. Kenealy is awesome. Shes doing a really good job for the size shoes she has to fill. Its a big spot to come into. But its still really good, still fun to come here and be on the deck.
Kenealy retired from her job as an elementary school gym teacher in June. She has coached volleyball for 35 years, including varsity for 18, and worked as a lifeguard at the pool for the last four years. Most of the swimmers already know her well.
I knew she would have been the one to coach us, and I wouldnt have picked anybody else if I could have, said senior Megan Small, who swam for Watkins for five seasons. I knew that she would carry on his tradition and be as strict as he was and not deal with everybodys crap just as he didnt.
Kenealy said she thinks the transition was as comfortable as it could be for the girls.
It wasnt as hard as I thought it was going to be just because Mrs. Kenealy is here, senior Rachael Waite said. Shes doing a great job, and it cant be easy.
Watkins made a huge impact on the local swimming community. He accumulated 532 career victories over 23 seasons coaching the girls and 26 seasons with the boys program at Lowville. But his success in the pool wasnt measured by the number of wins he tallied. He was most beloved for his unusual personality, his coaching philosophy, and his love for swimming and those who embraced the sport. He stressed academics over athletics. He had a no-nonsense attitude, a witty humor and a gift for motivating teenagers.
He just has a way of pushing you past what you think you can do, Widrick said. He knows you can do so much more, even if you dont think you can.
Watkins was the head custodian at the school, and the students say they still miss seeing him in the halls during the day.
Youd definitely hear him first, thats for sure, Widrick noted. Youd always hear his keys, his whistling and his boots.
Small agreed: Sometimes I hear the sound of keys jingling and perk up and think its him.
Much of the atmosphere at the pool is still the same. Music tunes from the 60s and 70s still blast from the pools speakers. The office walls, windows, doors and file cabinets are still plastered with Lowville swimming history photos, newspaper articles, patches, art work and thank-you notes from the past two and a half decades. Its not just Lowville swimming history, its Bobbs history.
Hopefully it stays this way, Waite said. I wouldnt know half of what this stuff means. Im sure he has a story for all of it.
Bobb was such a presence in the pool, Kenealy said. This office, its his little corner of the world, and its going to be for a good, long time.
The team intends to honor Watkins by wearing silver swim caps with Lowville and 4 Bobb printed on them in royal blue. They also chose to wear blue-and-white swimming suits, the blue signifying his bout with cancer.
We dont want to base everything around him because we know thats not what he would want, Waite said. But those are the little things were going to do as a team to remember him.
Kenealy and modified boys coach Bill Marks took over the boys varsity team after Watkins became too ill to coach last season. Kenealy conducted the practices, while Marks ran the meets. Kenealy has been grateful for the help shes received from Marks and modified girls coach Marjorie Rush. Shes also received an outpouring of support from other schools.
The coaches in the league have been so kind in welcoming me and offering to help me in any way, Kenealy said. The officials at our scrimmage in Rome last week were phenomenal. They were helping my diver, they were helping my kids. They were excited to see us there. They werent sure if we would be there or not.
Heres a look at all the Frontier League teams:
Outlook: Watertown, which went undefeated in the league last year, will be especially tough to beat this season. The Cyclones have 10 seniors on the team, the most theyve had in years. Coach Lori Peters returns most of her top swimmers from last season, including Samantha Favret (200 IM, 100 backstroke), who will aim for state-qualification again, and Brittney Thesier (200, 500 freestyles). Peters says Bree Jefferds and junior Kaylee Cook are also looking strong. South Jeffersons young program strengthens each season. The Spartans will be solid despite the loss of Meagan Scott to graduation. Coach Tim Corbett has nine strong seniors on the squad, which will be led by Megan Scully, Jensen Beale, Leah Conners, Kim Widrick and sophomore Hannah Markey. Carthage will rely on junior Claire Sauter for leadership following the graduation of state competitor Ashley Fuchs. Indian River will be led by junior Rachael Rodriquez, who has been a steady contributor for the Warriors for the last four seasons.
Coach: Nancy Mushtare (7th year).
2011 record: 8-2.
Roster: Allison Arquitt (Sr.), Tiffany Lincoln (Sr.), Courtney Williams (Sr.), Gabbi Wimmer (Sr.), Mari Ames (Jr.), Alison Barber (Jr.), Kendra Bates (Jr.), Nathasha Gamble (Jr.), Desiree Hodge (Jr.), Allison McGowan (Jr.), Emily OMalley (Jr.), Caitlin Nash (Jr.), Gabbee Park (Jr.), Haylie Pickerin (Jr.), Claire Sauter (Jr.), Carly Sullivan (Jr.), Danielle Baker (So.), Angie Castro (So.), Kristen Godlewski (So.), Stephanie House (So.), Alyssa Kamide (So.), Jasmine Lincoln (So.), Michaela OBrien (So.), Samantha Phillips (So.), Catherine Roberts (So.), Courtney Smith (So.), Kalie Strife (So.), Courtney Benson (Fr.), Lillian Benson (Fr.), Emma Buckley (Fr.), Erica Delles (Fr.), Rebecca Hanson (Fr.), Erica Nash (Fr.).
Indian River Warriors
Coach: Alan Baker (11th year).
2011 record: 1-9.
Roster: Ashlee Weldon (Sr.), Deanna Westlake (Sr.), Jessica Chartier (Jr.), Bailey Muntz (Jr.), Rachael Rodriquez (Jr.), Kylee Beckstead (So.), Johanna Green (So.), Taylor Kiechle (So.), Alexandra Larsen (So.), Morgan Lightner (So.), India Ledy (So.), Ashley Seybolt (So.), Kali Sherbino (So.), Julia Wallace (So.), Natalie Wicks (Fr.), Destiny Westlake (8th).
South Jefferson Spartans
Coach: Tim Corbett (5th year).
2011 record: 6-4.
Roster: Jensen Beale (Sr.), Angela Cataldo (Sr.), Leah Conners (Sr.), Shelby Davis (Sr.), Anna Gosselin (Sr.), Nichole Hess (Sr.), Hannah Mullin (Sr.), Megan Scully (Sr.), Kim Widrick (Sr.), Amy Johnson (Jr.), Heather Williams (Jr.), Lydia Babcock (So.), Halei Loya (So.), Hannah Markey (So.), Lauren Perry (So.), Kylie Snow (So.), Hannah Sutton (So.), Kayla Vanderpool (So.), Kali Becker (Fr.), Libby Conners (Fr.), Maddie Lowe (Fr.), Cierra Lucas (Fr.), Tessa Winkler (Fr.).
General Brown: Maggie Ambrose (Sr.).
Coach: Lori Peters (19th year).
2011 record: 11-1, 10-0.
Roster: Maria Bufalini (Sr.), Megan Donato (Sr.), Samantha Favret (Sr.), Sydney Finster (Sr.), Alicia Gayken (Sr.), Bree Jefferds (Sr.), Paxton Lawlee (Sr.), Meghan LHuillier (Sr.), Kate Moore (Sr.), Brittney Thesier (Sr.), Kaylee Cook (Jr.), Meredith Griffin (Jr.), Lydia LaVere (Jr.), Allia Ruparelia (Jr.), Abigail Wells (Jr.), Maggie Finster (So.), Julia Marilley (So.), Hannah Martini (So.), Emily Medley (So.), Victoria Olsen (So.), Maggie Valentine (So.), Alexa Gallo (Fr.), Tia Mathison (Fr.), Allison Medley (Fr.), Tiffany Willix (Fr.), Brooke Peters (7th).
Outlook: In the B Division, Lowville lost seven to graduation from last years 7-3 team, including distance swimmer Tabatha Hartshorn. That may make for a decent battle between Lowville and Thousand Islands for division honors. Lowville will seek strong performances from Megan Small (100 backstroke), Tasha Widrick (100 butterfly), Rachael Waite (50, 100 freestyles), Kelsey McLean (500 freestyle), Kendal Lazarus (200 IM) and Megan Denise (diving). The Vikings will be powered by Erica Sullivan (50 free, 100 backstroke), Joanne Bechaz (diving, 500 free), Darien Frederick (diving) and Larisa Pinchin (100 butterfly). Beaver River will lean heavily on Keegan Bowman and Heather Bush. Beaver River and South Lewis each earned nonleague victories over West Canada Valley last week, which gives those North Division teams a nice start to the season.
Beaver River Beavers
Coach: Anne Davis (26th year).
2011 record: 5-6, 4-6.
Roster: Keegan Bowman (Sr.), Heather Bush (Sr.), Allison Meyer (Sr.), Alexandra Davis (Jr.), Sidney Hawksley (Jr.), Emily Johnson (Jr.), Ariel Ortlieb (Jr.), Maysa Osama-Tannous (Jr.), Isabella Rollin (Jr.), Madyson Bennett (So.), Bethany Prashaw (So.), Sarah Steiner (So.), Leah Lapp (Fr.).
Lowville Red Raiders
Coach: Marcia Kenealy (1st year).
2011 record: 7-3.
Roster: Chelsea Lobdell (Sr.), Megan Small (Sr.), Rachael Waite (Sr.), Tasha Widrick (Sr.), Abigail Jantzi (Jr.), Kendal Lazarus (Jr.), Kelsey McLean (Jr.), Olivia Moshier (Jr.), Adrienne Tabolt (Jr.), Megan Denise (So.), Brianna Kloster (So.), Sylvia Larkins (So.), Noelle McCall (So.), Karlaina McClelland (So.), Megan Weber (So.), Lyndsey Young (So.), Heather Adsit (Fr.), Emily Birchenough (Fr.), Olivia Brooker (Fr.), Megan Lazarus (Fr.), Bryanna Malbouf (Fr.), Caitlin Morris (Fr.), Nakayla Souva (Fr.), Daisy Unger (Fr.), Charley Zicari (Fr.).
South Lewis Falcons
Coach: Neil Austin (13th year).
2011 record: 0-10.
Roster: Allie Carpenter (Sr.), Elizabeth Egnew (Sr.), Elizabeth Fairbanks (Sr.), Lyndsay Hurilla (Sr.), Keanna Reiter (Sr.), Carson Chruscicki (Jr.), Shauna Darling (Jr.), Myanna Gokey (Jr.), Rachael Humphrey (Jr.), Mia Poste (Jr.), Cheryl Staats (Jr.), Megan Woolschlager (Jr.), Chloe Stinebrickner (So.), Mariah Ward (So.), Morgan Austin (Fr.), Brooke Durgen (Fr.), Taylor Eaton (Fr.), Crystal Farney (Fr.), Jenna Matuszczak (Fr.), Destiny Mooney (Fr.), Paige Rivers (Fr.), Keely Sullivan (Fr.), Vickie Weber (Fr.).
Thousand Islands Vikings
Coach: Jon Benner (4th year).
2011 record: 4-6.
Roster: Erica Sullivan (Sr.), Joanne Bechaz (Jr.), Stephanie Boon (Jr.), Daniela Conti (Jr.), Darien Frederick (Jr.), Amanda Hunter (Jr.), Kim Korcz (Jr.), Larisa Pinchin (Jr.), Karly Sherman (Jr.), Taylor Baird (So.), Taylor Campbell (So.), Emily Cooper (So.), Emily Putnam (So.), Megan Rupp (So.), Ally Aiken (Fr.), Abby Duffy (Fr.), Paige Durdon (Fr.), Nicole Farmer (Fr.), Ellen Oliver (Fr.), Amity Schoff (Fr.), Claire Sheley (Fr.), Kalie Sposato (Fr.), Maura Warren (Fr.), Schuyler Withington (Fr.), Emily Rich (8th).
Holland Patent Golden Knights
Coach: Mark Celecki (25th year).
2011 record: 11-3, 8-2.
Roster: Michelle Dubbi (Sr.), Emilee Kocyba (Sr.), Sophia Mostafa (Sr.), Kelly OHern (Sr.), Alexandra Wynne (Sr.), Samantha Cieniewicz (Jr.), Ashley Engstrom (Jr.), Andrea Marfone (Jr.), Molly McCulloch (Jr.), Kaitlyn Mytych (Jr.), Martha Redmond (Jr.), Laura Allen (So.), Angela Chmielewski (So.), Brianna Giannini (So.), Leah Harter (So.), Amy Kousouros (So.), Michaela Kozenewski (So.), Devyn Alberico (Fr.), Kali Barnhart (Fr.), Jennifer Bieksza (Fr.), Jenna Gotte (Fr.), Kayla Mcnaney (Fr.), Hanna Reigi (Fr.), Jenna Smith (Fr.), Jenna Sweet (Fr.), Makaela Wood (Fr.), Sarah Harter (8th).
Rome Free Academy Black Knights
Coach: Michelle Moore (10th year).
2011 record: 5-4, 4-4.
Utica Proctor Raiders
Coach: Jeffrey Friedel.
2011 record: 1-9.
Coach: Kelly Humphreys (1st year).
2011 record: 10-0.
Coach: Elizabeth Ritter (2nd year).
2011 record: 8-3.
Coach: Katy Haseley (7th year).
2011 record: 6-3-1.
Coach: Russ Cutting (3rd year).
2011 record: 0-10.
West Canada Valley Indians
Coach: Eric Hansen (3rd year).
2011 record: 4-9, 4-8.