Bennett, Vincent, girls relay team secure state titles

Junior Swimmer Preston Bennett proudly displays his gold medal at the WVSSAC State Swim Championship. PHOTO SUBMITTED

MORGANTOWN — The Buckhannon-Upshur High School swimming team and head coach Michael Roessing entered the 2021-22 season with lofty expectations and goals. With several new faces joining an elite group of returning swimmers, the Bucs largely lived up to and even exceed their preseason hype, consistently collecting top finishes on their journey to the state tournament. In total, 9 Buccaneers made the trip to Morgantown this past week for Thursday and Friday’s WVSSAC State Swimming Championship meet, held at the Mylan Aquatic Center. 

As a team, the Bucs combined to finish in third-place overall; with only George Washington and Morgantown finishing ahead of them. Bridgeport, followed by Fairmont Senior filled out the rest of the top 5 performing teams at the state championship meet. The stars shined their brightest on the sport’s biggest stage in the state, as Cadence Vincent and Preston Bennett both capped off their dominant 2021-22 campaigns with individual state championships.

 Last year, Vincent, the state’s top-ranked female swimming prospect took home two gold medal finishes in the 100-yard freestyle and the 50-yard freestyle. This year at regionals, Vincent earned another two gold medal finishes, this time in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke to ensure her chance to defend her title. Vincent won the 50-yard freestyle with a final time of 23.35 seconds; slightly slower than her state record time of 23.11 seconds in the event last year. Vincent also won the 100-yard backstroke, finishing in just 56.55 seconds. Vincent was not quite done adding to her ever-growing collection, also playing a huge role on the Bucs 200-yard freestyle relay team. The team consisting of Vincent, her younger sister freshman Riley Vincent, junior Alayna Whitehair and senior Cameron Zuliani, was crowned state champions after posting an impressive, combined time of 1:41.62. This dangerous foursome was not done, also taking home first-place honors in the 200-yard relay, securing the win with another strong combined time of 1:41.64, nearly three seconds faster than the second-place team. This team had a special kind of chemistry. Coach Roessing really found something special with this pairing, as they were dominant all year long; capping it off with a state championship just proves how special the competitive bond this group shares really is. 

As for Bennett, he was not a returning state champion and did not win any races last season, but this season he has grown into one of the state’s top male swimmers; notching several key wins while shattering some school and meet records on the way. After putting together a strong outing at regionals, winning both the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events, Bennett entered the state championship meet more focused than ever on his goal of becoming a state champion. Bennett put in the hard work it takes to get to this point, to compete at this level and it paid off as his dream manifested itself last week, as he won the 200-yard freestyle with a final time of 1:42.47, clinching his title. Bennett also recorded a silver medal finish in the 500-yard freestyle, breaking two school records in the process. The two relay teams he is a part of alongside junior Reis Leonard, junior Owen Caynor and freshman Carter Zuliani finished fourth and fifth respectively, also breaking a school record, capping off a very successful WVSSAC State Swimming Championship meet for coach Roessing and the Bucs. 

The boys all-state team was made up of, from left to right: Bridgeport’s Randy Keener, Wheeling Park’s Owen Leary, Huntington’s Henry Sheils, Buckhannon-Upshur’s Preston Bennett, University’s Frankie McCutchan and Charleston Catholic’s Matthew Smith. While the girl’s all-state team was comprised of: McGlothen, Wilcher, Riggs, Householder, Foster and Cadence Vincent.

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