Few things get a Stow student’s blood boiling more than the prospect of facing Cuyahoga Falls in a sporting event. The two schools have maintained a ruthless rivalry over the years, sometimes throwing sportsmanship to the wind in favor of preserving total devotion to the colors on their uniforms.
Ask a swimmer from either school about the rivalry, though, and you probably won’t get the kind of response one might expect.
“We grew up swimming and competing with a good amount of people on their team, so it is always fun swimming against them,” said junior Cody Vantrease “We both badly want to win, especially us since we lost to them for the first time in about ten years last year which made this meet even more intense. However, we do maintain are friendships as we’re always complimenting each other after we swim. It’s friendly, but intensely competitive.”
Such is the attitude of the rivalry’s unique side, one that tends to get overlooked next to sports like basketball and football. Although those sports have sparked their fair share of intense moments, the swim and dive teams from both schools have long shared a relationship marked more by camaraderie than hostility.
This uniqueness sets this rivalry apart from most others. Coaches from both teams coached many of the kids on the same youth team, the Cuyahoga Falls Tiger Sharks, for years before high school. When Stow’s new head coach, Dan Reese, a Tigershark coach for the last seven years and a former Black Tiger took the reigns of the Bulldog program this season, the rivalry took on a whole new meaning. Each team was fired up for the chance to beat their crosstown rival, but that competitive energy yielded to handshakes and high-fives rather than slurs and blows.
The rivalry continued Friday night in a packed house at Akron General Medical Center in Stow. The atmosphere was a buzz with alumni, former coaches and teammates as the Bulldogs boy’s team defeated Cuyahoga Falls 93-91 and the Lady Bulldogs won 99-87. Coach Reese added, “Many of our kids had personal best times which really shows how hard we've been working.”
In any close swim meet it comes down to the amount of places a team can earn. The boys and girls teams won their meets by winning the most places. First place finishes didn’t’ come easy for Stow. “Our girls did a great job taking control right from the first event.” Commented head coach, Dan Reese. “By going out there and winning the medley relay they really set the tone for the rest of the meet.” Scoring first place finishes was the girl’s 200 Medley Relay team of sophomore Kelsey Wenk, junior Ainsley Wilbur, junior Jenni Heid and sophomore Kelly Vantrease in 1:58.22 seconds.
Wenk won the girl’s 50 Free in 26.01 and the 100 Back in 1:05.09. Heid won the 100 Fly in 1:05.59 and the 100 Breast by .23 tenths of a second with a time of 1:13.37. The girl’s 200 Free Relay of Wenk, Vantrease, junior Tori McCauley and Heid took first in 1:46.03. Also taking first was the girl’s 400 Free Relay team of McCauley, junior Maddie Dyer, Wilbur, and junior Lindsey Adkins 3:56.14. “It was close for both the boys and girls,” commented Dyer. “Everyone had amazing performances allowing us to win. The best part was getting to compete against so many of our friends.”
For the boys junior Cody Vantrease earned two first place finishes in the 100 Fly in 55.32 and the 500 Free in 5:14.13. Senior Jacob Earle won the 100 Breast with a time of 1:06.08. The 200 Free Relay team of junior, Curtis Henry, sophomore Schuyler Morris, junior Justin Faluotico and senior Cameron Potter took first in 1:39.54.
The boy’s 200 Free Relay team of sophomore Shane Riddle, Earle, Vantrease and Henry took 2nd 1:49.23.
Earle took 2nd in the 200 IM with a time of 2:11.82 and Riddle took 4th in 2:22.75.
The boy’s 200 Free swimmers took 2nd, 3rd and 5th to help the boys team. Faluotico took 2nd (1:59.97), Potter 3rd (2:00.10) and sophomore Max Bauer 5th (2:08.92). Again in the boy’s 50 Free Stow took 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place. Senior Parker Gabriel who has only been diving this year practiced with the swim team this past week and went a 24.63 for 2nd, Henry a 24.93 for 3rd, and Morris 25.59 for 5th.
In the girl’s 200 Free Dyer and Adkins took 2nd and 3rd with times of 2:08.79 and 2:09.41 respectively. Wilbur took 2nd in the girl’s 200 IM 2:23.89 and Vantrease took 3rd 2:25.87. In the girl’s 50 Free McCauley went a 26.26 for 2nd place and senior Rachael Moretti took 5th 28.60. “Moretti has been battling a knee injury all season so having her back was huge for our team.” according to assistant coach, Warren Schneider.
Wilbur took 2nd in the girl’s 100 Fly (1:07.34). In the girl’s 100 Free McCauley took 2nd (57.23) and Vantrease took 3rd (59.65).
In the boy’s 100 Free, Potter took 2nd (53.14), Henry 3rd (55.52) and Morris 5th (57.08).
Freshman Travis Delker took 4th in the boys 500 Free (5:37.69) and freshman Isaac Lumley took 5th (6:11.40).
The girl’s 200 Free Relay of Moretti, Dyer, sophomore Erin Fenwick and sophomore Katie Kissinger took 3rd (1:55.07). The boy’s 200 Free Relay team of Gabriel, Bauer, sophomore Josh Pflug and Delker took 3rd (1:43.23).
In the girl’s 100 Back Adkins took 2nd with a 1:07.79. In the boy’s 100 Back Riddle took 3rd (1:05.49) and sophomore Corey Dyer took 4th (1:06.77).
In the girls 100 Breast freshmen Gretchen Evan went a 1:18.24 for 4th place and sophomore Sara Kassinger took 5th with a 1:26.74.
Delker took 3rd in the 100 Breast at 1:14.33 and sophomore Alex Cremer went a 1:14.59 to take 4th.
In the diving event for the boys senior Will Sheppard took 2nd with 128.77 points, Gabriel 3rd (105.22 )and Kyle Miner 4th. For the girl’s team freshman Erika Delker took 3rd with116.92 points, sophomore Sierra Clark 4th (100.42) and sophomore Frances Haas, 5th (90.97).
The boy’s meet was a virtual tie going into the final event. Only a few points separated both teams. The swimmers enjoyed a deafening crowd cheering all the way. Cuyahoga Falls needed a first and third place finish in the final relay to win the meet, but the Stow boys wouldn’t be denied. Although the 400 Relay Team of Potter, Earle, Faluotico and Vantrease was just out touched to place 2nd by .35 seconds, the 400 Free Relay team of Morris, senior Ethan Schur, Delker and Bauer took 3rd with a time of 3:52.26 to secure the win for the Bulldogs. Team captain senior Willy Donahue commented, “We did a really good job and everybody gave it there all every race. We have improved so much this year in all aspects which allowed us to swim past Cuyahoga Falls.”
As the scores were announced both Bulldog teams erupted in loud cheers of intense joy and emotion. And now another chapter has been written in this unique cross-town rivalry.