Great Waves Aquatics making splash in club swimming despite brief existence – News-Herald


University’s Miguel Figueroa prepares to depart the blocks during the 2022 Viking Invitational. (Brian Fisher – for The News-Herald)

High school swimming doesn’t end with the state meet in February, of course, and pick up the following November.

It doesn’t take long for focus to shift into club thereafter.

Lots of club programs are established, with a lineage of success to show for it.

Great Waves Aquatics, entering its third season, doesn’t fit into the former but has delivered plenty of the latter already.

Great Waves’ boys 15-and-over senior team repeated as champions and the girls squad took second last month during the Lake Erie Swimming summer long-course senior championship meet.

The program, led by longtime Chardon coach Matt Parrish, has established its place as a Northeast Ohio club power broker, one which benefits high school programs around The News-Herald coverage area and beyond.

“It did come quite quickly,” Parrish said of the success of the program, which he founded after a long tenure with the Geauga Otters. “The older kids especially, they’re having a lot of success. I’m still working on building up that younger group.

“But our kids have been working really hard. It’s been fun to see them do well. I’m always surprised by the success, but that’s what we strive for and I’m a pretty competitive person. That’s what I gear for.”

Parrish, a Detroit native, explained his upbringing there in prominent programs motivated him to want to bring a similar vision to this area at the club and high school level when he moved to Chardon.

With the Hilltoppers in high school season, and now with Great Waves, that vision is being achieved.

For the victorious Great Waves boys team, Perry sophomore-to-be Brody Hicks swept 50 and 100 butterfly, was second in 50 backstoke and 200 fly and third in 400 freestyle and 100 back.

Geneva stalwart Nathan Reigle took second in 1,500 free, and former Mentor standout Caleb Gemmen won 50 breaststroke, was second in 200 breast and third in 100 breast.

Geneva sophomore Nathan Reigle was a double individual-event champion Dec. 3 at the Hilltopper Invitational and hopes to make a state charge in sprint freestyle this winter. (Submitted)

Great Waves’ 400 free and 400 medley relays each took second.

Hicks (100 fly and 100 back) and Reigle (100 free and 200 free) were Division II state qualifiers this past season, each breaking lengthy individual-event state droughts for their programs and earning second-team News-Herald boys swimming and diving all-star honors.

“That’s one thing the past few years I’ve really, really embraced is the range and how many high schools that our kids are going back to and really having an impact on those teams,” Parrish said. “I find that awesome. I grew up on programs where our reach was very wide.

“Brody Hicks … jeez, he’s going to have a year I think with what he did this summer. … I think going into the high school season, people are really starting to take notice of him. He’s such a talented, dedicated and sweet young man. He has such a big heart. Yeah, it is really nice to see those high schools in our area and then the success they’re having, and to be able to open up our playbook and see the amount of kids in the area that we’re affecting is great.”

The boys accumulated 776.5 points, well ahead of SwimUnited (591).

The girls, who got top threes from Mentor’s Juliana Slaninka (second, 50 back), Chardon’s Briella Hewitt (third, 50 fly) and their 400 free (second) and 400 medley (third) relays, were second to Firestone with 545 points.

University’s Alex Pesek competes in the 2022 Viking Invitational at Cleveland State. Pesek was part of the Great Waves Aquatics’ boys squad that repeated as Lake Erie Swimming summer long-course champions last month. (Brian Fisher – for The News-Herald)

Both rosters are dotted with names familiar to swimming fans during high school season in the winter. In addition to the aforementioned top-threes, Mentor’s Annie Berrow, Chardon’s Janet Rockenberger, Perry’s Grace Kitchen, University’s Brad Perry, Miguel Figueroa and Alex Pesek and South’s Joris Boeman also cracked the top eight.

Great Waves is also the club program for Andrews Osborne’s dynamic senior-to-be Krys Gorski. The 2023 News-Herald boys swimmer of the year, who was Division II state runner-up in 200 free and 100 back, committed to Ohio State last season.

Andrews Osborne’s Krys Gorski, shown after taking second in 100 backstroke during the Division II state meet, is the 2023 News-Herald boys swimmer of the year. (Chris Lillstrung – The News-Herald)

Gorski, along with US’ Paul Moody, recently took part in the junior national meet held in Irvine, Calif. Gorski was 11th in the ‘B’ heat of 200 back and 45th in 100 back, and Moody also swam in 200 back.

Julia Hixson, a trailblazer for para swimming in her high school days just completed at Riverside, will continue her career competing on the first para swim team at Arizona.

“I often tell kids that if they want to continue swimming in college that I always wanted to be their first and one of their favorite coaches, but I don’t ever want to be their last coach,” Parrish said. “I think swimming is a lifestyle, and it always offered me a certain amount of structure in my life.

“It is always fun to watch those kids go off into college and continue their success. And that’s always been a motto of mine is that I don’t want to be your last coach. I also don’t want you to be burnt out or used up when you leave our program. I want to see you continue your success.”

In August, several swimmers from the program meet at Mentor Headlands Beach at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an open swim, a ritual also transpiring on Saturdays in September.

If they keep up at the rate they’re going, those swimmers will have plenty there upon which to reflect.

“My personal goal in coaching is I’ve always, always, always prided myself on the fact that I just want to make better people through the great sport of swimming,” Parrish said.

“The success in swimming has been a bonus. I enjoy being one of the top programs in Lake Erie. I think we’re not going anywhere. I think we’re going to stay there with my philosophies and just the team atmosphere we promote. But I just want to continue changing people’s lives through swimming and to continue to help growing swimming in our area.”

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