Bill Bayly, the swim coach at St. Vincent Pallotti High, senses an opening this season for his girls team to reach an elite level.
The Panthers placed second the previous two seasons in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference.
Both times, the Laurel private school placed second to The Key School. But the Annapolis school has moved up to the B Conference this year, creating an opportunity for Pallotti.
“I told them it is our championship to lose,” said Bayly, in his sixth season as the head coach.
Bayly grew up in Bowie and was a swimmer at Eleanor Roosevelt High, in Greenbelt, before he graduated in 1995. He also teaches world history in the social studies department at Pallotti.
The boys swim team competes in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference and last season was fourth out of 10 teams. The year before that the Panthers placed second in its conference.
“On the boys side we lost several seniors who were really good swimmers,” Bayly said. Our team is much smaller for the boys’ side this year. There are more like 15 guys on the team.”
“On the girls side, we lost a couple of seniors but we brought back most of our relays and heavy hitters,” Bayly added.
One of the top swimmers for Pallotti is Molly Cronin, who won titles in the IAAM championship meet last season in the 200 IM and the 100 breast.
“Molly is one of the captains. She signed to swim at (Division III) Hood College. The breaststroke is her signature event,” Bayly said. “She also swims the IM.”
Another captain is Tracy Pham.
“She does swim on a club team. She is a big-time leader of the young girls,” Bayly said.
Another key swimmer for the Panthers is senior Lauren McFadden.
“She is good in the 200 IM and 100 fly,” Bayly said.
A top boys swimmer is senior captain Chris Culley..
“He has been on the team for four years. He is a good leader on the team,” Bayly said.
The boys team improved to 6-2 in the B Conference with a 50-42 win over John Carroll on Dec. 12. Alex Toth and Culley each won four events and teammate Kendall Bankett won three.
“I feel like a lot of people have stepped up the plate and done better than last year,” Toth said. “We have to try and do our best.”
Other top swimmers for the Pallotti girls are freshman Malea Burroughs, sophomores Lauren Watson and Laila Webb and juniors Kaylen Hurst and Rylee Roberts.
The Pallotti girls lost on Dec. 8 to The Key School by a score of 92-74.
But Bayly feels his team will contend in the C Conference.
“We are kind of here in the C conference to bring the title home,” he said.
The Pallotti girls have a meet on Jan. 5 against Annapolis Area Christian.
Both teams will face Bowie High in a non-league meet on Jan. 25 at the Fairland Aquatic Center in west Laurel.
The IAAM championship swim meet is Feb. 4 at Notre Dame Prep.
The boys MIAA championship swim meet is Feb. 6 at Calvert Hall in Towson.
Toth shines at S. Francis
Pallotti graduate Kristen Toth is a junior with the Division I swimming program at St. Francis, PA.
St. Francis is a member of the Northeast Athletic Conference.
Last season at the NEC championships, Toth was 13th in the 200 IM (2:09.38), 15th in the 100 freestyle (54.26) and 15th in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.57) – the eighth-best time in school history.
Toth was a four-year letterman at Pallotti and helped the Panthers to the 2015 IAAM C Conference title.
Whalen coaching Howard
Former Pallotti basketball standout Sean Whalen is an assistant coach with Division I Howard of the Mid-Athletic Conference (MEAC).
The Bison was 6-5 overall through Dec. 17.
The associate head coach for Howard is Keith Coutreyer, the former Laurel High boys basketball coach.