by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
They have the opportunity to go where no team has gone before them.
Unfortunately, there is one question mark for the Lady Blue Devils as they enter the 2012-13 season.
Will they stay healthy?
The Tallmadge girls swimming team won four meets last season and had four athletes reach the Division II district competition.
The Lady Blue Devils have a chance to exceed those goals this season, but there are some lingering injuries that could cause havoc.
“The No. 1 priority is keeping everyone healthy and keeping everyone’s head in the right place,” Tallmadge first-year head coach Ryan Miller said. “We want to keep them motivated to let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Lady Blue Devils lost two key performers to graduation in the spring.
They are Jenna DiFiore and Melanie Sass.
Both swimmers were part of the 200-yard medley relay team that reached the district competition.
Tallmadge’s top swimmer from last season is back in the lineup.
Senior Brittany DiFiore qualified for districts in the 100 breaststroke and as a member of the 200 medley relay team.
Unfortunately, DiFiore has been having some shoulder issues.
“Brittany is taking the right steps to recover,” Miller said. “She is doing physical therapy and everything she needs to do.
“Brittany has that unique breaststroke kick that just comes natural to her. It doesn’t affect her shoulder. She’s doing a lot of kick workouts. We’re hoping as her shoulder gets stronger, we can have her for regular workouts just in time for sectionals.”
The other two seniors are Natalie Beckwith, who plans to swim the 100 backstroke and the 100 freestyle, and Marissa Ridenour (50 freestyle and 100 freestyle).
“Marissa is usually a distance swimmer, but she is battling some chronic shoulder issues,” Miller said.
The three juniors are Tori Ruggles (100 freestyle and 200 IM), who has an injured back; Hailey McCracken (100 freestyle), who is expected not swim for another month because of a stress fracture; and Jen Deaton (100 freestyle and 200 freestyle).
The lone sophomore is Sam Rhine, who also is dealing with a shoulder injury. She is expected to swim the 100 butterfly, the 100 backstroke and as a member of the 200 medley relay.
The three freshmen are Katie Ridenour (200 freestyle), who has an injured shoulder and is Marissa’s cousin, Madison Kovacevic (100 freestyle and 200 freestyle) and Sage Luedke (50 freestyle and 500 freestyle).
Luedke swam for the Tallmadge Marlins and has made a strong impression on her coach.
“Sage has a ton of potential,” Miller said. “We can put her in anything.”
Depth could be a concern for the Lady Blue Devils. Nevertheless, Miller likes what he sees.
“We don’t have as many girls as we did last year,” he said. “It’s not about wins or losses. The good thing about a swimming team is it’s a sport where you can help each other out.”
The Lady Blue Devils are scheduled to make their 2012-13 debut Nov. 28 against league rival Revere Nov. 28 at the Akron General Health & Wellness Center West. The meet is set to begin at 4:30 p.m.