Sanzotti joins Miller as Decatur swim team coach

LISA CAPITELLI ¦ Assistant Editor

Stephen Decatur swimmers practice their strokes during Monday’s training session at the Sports Core pool in Ocean Pines. 
OCEAN CITY TODAY/LISA CAPITELLI Stephen Decatur swimmers practice their strokes during Monday’s training session at the Sports Core pool in Ocean Pines.OCEAN CITY TODAY/LISA CAPITELLI(Nov. 30, 2012) Damien Sanzotti will join Jenny Miller as coach of the Stephen Decatur boys’ and girls’ swim teams this season.

“He knows a lot about swimming and he has a lot to add,” Miller said.

Sanzotti has been training swimmers for a number of years. Most recently, he led the Hammerheads Club Team, based in Ocean Pines. A physical education teacher at Berlin Intermediate School, Sanzotti has also taught a number of the Seahawks, so the transition of coming in as a new coach has been fairly smooth, he said.

“The first season is a learning season and every one after that should get better. The kids are still in the process of warming up to me,” Sanzotti said. “I’m extremely excited to be coaching. I’m very firm, but fair. I like to have fun, but at the same time we have to get work done.”

A majority of the swimmers on Sanzotti’s 18-man roster participated last season when the group dominated its 3A/2A/1A East Regional competition. The Seahawks scored 62 points more than their closest competitor, Kent Island. Decatur earned first-place honors in nine of the 11 regional events to capture its second consecutive team title.

Regional champions who are back to compete this season are junior Jake Middleton (200-meter freestyle, 500m freestyle) and seniors Shayne Custodio (100m butterfly, 200m IM) and Jeff Middleton (100m backstroke).

Custodio also placed second in the 200 IM at states last year. Jake Middleton earned fifth in the 500m freestyle and seventh in the 200m freestyle. The Decatur boys’ team finished sixth overall out of 28 schools that competed for the state championship.

“We lost team captain Jake Blazer (a regional champion and state finalist) and we’ll miss his leadership, but I feel like stepping into the role as a team captain that I can lead and we can have a good season with the guys we have,” said Custodio, a three-year swimmer who has signed to compete for Div. II Clarion University of Pennsylvania. “We have a lot of new people, but we’re really excited about everyone. We have a great base going into the meets.”

Also returning to the pool is senior Zack Keiser and junior Colin Bankert. Sophomore Chris Poole is one of the newcomers who has done well so far, Sanzotti said.

“We have a lot of potential and I’m hoping they reach that potential, but it’s going to take a lot of work on their part and on my part,” Sanzotti said. “I’d like to see them drop their times [during the season] and for as many as possible to qualify for regionals and states.”

Sanzotti said he will have all the boys participate in a variety of events this season to see where they excel.

About half of the Lady Seahawks on Miller’s 21-swimmer roster competed last year. During the 2011-12 season, the girls’ team finished in second place (291 points) behind Cambridge (310) at regionals and 13th overall at states.

Senior Julia Wellen (backstroke, butterfly), a four-year swimmer, has taken on a leadership role this season.

“I hope to lead them in a more competitive way so that we can win more meets and do better than last season. We have lot of newcomers this year, but most of them are experienced so I think we’ll do well,” Wellen said.

Seniors Cailey O’Brien (backstroke, 200IM) and Kelly Adelhardt (backstroke) will join Wellen as captains.

Also returning are sophomores Maria Zweifel (breaststroke), Madison Tinus (freestyle) and Molly Wooten (freestyle). Despite being new to the team, freshman Hailey Williams (backstroke) has experience, Miller said.

“The team is pretty strong. We lost a couple of seniors that were big contributors, but the younger girls have filled those spots. We have six or seven new girls who bring a lot to the team,” said the second-year coach. “I would like to get more girls to qualify for state this year. The times were faster last year so some of them didn’t qualify. I’m happy when they drop their times and I hope we can continue to do that during the season.”

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