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Liberty’s new coach, young swimmers hope to produce improved season

Thursday, Dec. 12 | By Jeff Malmgren
Junior Chuck Crum is Liberty’s top returning swimmer after placing fourth at the Region II meet in the 400 freestyle.
Kimmy Culver and Mikayla Ciuffo were mainstays on the Liberty Eagles’ postseason roster since they first qualified for state as freshmen during the 2009-10 swim season.

Now they’re gone.

The Eagles will try to replace that talent with an influx of new underclassmen.

“I see us in a rebuilding faze,” Liberty coach Kathy Maskell said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen and some sophomores and juniors. It’s an opportunity to start developing something.

“Half my team is new,” she said of a 25-swimmer roster.

Maskell is new, too. The first-year head coach took over this season following the departure of one-year coach Ryan Smith. She served as Liberty’s parent representative last season.

Maskell was “integral in trying to recruit a coach for this year,” she said. “As the conversations went on … that’s where I stepped up so we could continue the swimming program.”

Maskell swam in high school, has been involved in various summer swim clubs and has even been a life guard.

“So I’ve seen swimming from all different sides and just never stood in coach’s box, so to speak,” she said. “I’m having fun.”

Maskell’s daughter Courtney swam for Liberty last season, but graduated along with Culver, Ciuffo and Jacob Clopton, all of whom were region qualifiers in 2012-13.

The Eagles also have a handful of returning region qualifiers, though. Junior Chuck Crum is Liberty’s top returning swimmer

Junior Shawn Michanco also returned for the Liberty boys after placing 23rd in the region 50 free last season, and Isaiah Defnall is back after finishing 24th in the 100 backstroke.

While the Liberty girls lost most of their region qualifiers, Maskell expects a strong season from junior Alison Monsell and junior twins Abby and Katie Culver, Kimmy’s younger sisters.

At the 2012-13 region meet, Abby Culver placed 25th in 200 free and 12th in the 200 free relay with Courtney Maskell, Kimmy Culver and Ciuffo.

Kathy Maskell also expects a few newcomers to contribute.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” she said. “Of course I’m hoping my daughter will put something out there.”

Her daughter, Amanda Maskell, is a freshman.

Senior Parker Smith should also help the Liberty boys score points.

“He’s my one returning senior,” Maskell said. “So we’re definitely a very young team.”

Liberty will compete in the Class 4A North Region and Conference 22 after the recent VHSL reclassification.

“I know I’ve got swimmers that will get to regionals and it comes down to who our new competition is,” Maskell said. “I definitely have some really strong swimmers at the top.”

The Eagles will again be a member of the Evergreen District, but there will be no district championship meet.

“We’ll still compete really strongly against the Evergreen,” Maskell said. “But it doesn’t really matter” for postseason purposes.

It will be difficult, however, for Liberty to contend for the Evergreen regular season title against the likes of defending champion Kettle Run, a much larger squad.

“We’re not big enough,” Maskell said. “It’s a huge challenge."

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