Chieftains eyeing league championship

Utica swimming unbeaten heading into second half

By: Thomas Franz | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 29, 2014

 Utica High’s Zak Katsuba swims the 200-yard individual medley against Warren Mott on Jan. 21. Katsuba won the event in 2 minutes, 13.05 seconds.

Utica High’s Zak Katsuba swims the 200-yard individual medley against Warren Mott on Jan. 21. Katsuba won the event in 2 minutes, 13.05 seconds.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

UTICA — In his third year as head coach of the Utica High swim team, Joe Michol is starting to see the results of the hard work he and his swimmers have put in during that time. The freshmen and sophomores he began with are now leading Utica’s program, and so far, that has been a very good thing for the Chieftains, who remain unbeaten this season at press time. “It came together late last year at leagues when we had phenomenal splits from everybody across the board, and that excitement energized the kids and made them realize that this year could be something special,” Michol said. In a pivotal 97-86 victory against Warren Woods Tower on Jan. 21, the Chieftains displayed their versatility by winning nine events. Junior Zak Katsuba swam on the winning 200-yard medley and 400 freestyle relays while also winning the 200 individual medley and 100 fly. “He’s (Katsuba) improved so much from last year. He swam in the offseason, and that’s just translated into swimming this season phenomenally. His butterfly has just improved tremendously. We’re hoping he can get a state cut by the end of the year, and his freestyle has really improved because of what he did in the offseason,” Michol said. Utica is getting its leadership this year from a pair of senior sprinters in Jared Olewski and Collin Newton. Michol explained that the pair of captains began swimming in their sophomore years but have worked hard to become contributors and leaders of the team. Marc Galui and Nick Martin were two other key contributors who Michol mentioned as key to Utica’s success in the second half of the season. “Nick qualified for the state meet last year in 100 breaststroke, and we’re hoping this year he’ll qualify in both,” Michol said. “Marc is one of four swimmers who swim for a club. He’s our distance swimmer; that’s his specialty. He’s a strong swimmer and one that we’re going to count on next year to be a leader.” Diver Matt Buechler turned in an impressive set of dives against Tower as he won the event by nearly 50 points. “Matt (Buechler) has improved tremendously last year. He swam for us last year, but this year he decided to stick with diving only, and it’s definitely starting to pay off. He had surgery in the offseason, so he didn’t start until the first week of December,” Michol said. Despite the improvements Utica has made, it, along with many other teams, has been hampered due to loss of practice time because of snow days. Michol said that having the extended break forced him to change the mentality of this year. “We missed nine days of practice in a row. When we came back, it was like starting a second season. I pulled the guys over after that first practice and said we’re starting over; the season is now eight weeks instead of 13,” Michol said. As the second half gets going, Michol hopes that his swimmers can begin to see more consistent improvement in the pool so that their hard work as a team pays off. “I’m hoping to see the intensity pick up more in the practices, and I’m hoping to see our sprinters come together and peak at the right time at the end of the season,” Michol said. “They’re starting to develop. They work hard, they get along as teammates and they pull for each other.” Utica had a meet against Anchor Bay on Jan. 28 after press time.The Chieftains will continue their MAC Blue schedule on Feb. 4 when they host St. Clair.