Franklin Regional sending 26 swimmers to WPIAL meet
When the WPIAL, in the offseason, reduced its qualifying time standards for the swimming championships at Pitt's Trees Pool, Franklin Regional coach Vic Santoro wasn't sure how many individual or relay teams would qualify.
In the past, Santoro said, a group of 28, including divers, would be the Panthers' standard number of qualifiers to WPIALs.
When this year's list read 26, Santoro was a mix of shocked and pleased.
“We're down a few, but not that many,” he said. “The kids responded. We also had about a half dozen kids just miss qualifying by a couple tenths of a second. I think if we had a couple more meets, they would've done it.”
The WPIAL Class AAA competition will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
The 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 free, 100 free and 200 free relay will be contested Thursday, with the 100 free, 500 free, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay set for Day 2.
The top three finishers in each individual and relay event automatically qualify for the PIAA championships, set for March 15 to 18, at Bucknell University.
Also, those who finish in places four through eight will be on a provisional list with the chance to be selected for the state meet based on their WPIAL time.
Franklin Regional swimmers find themselves in every event.
The boys 100 fly (senior Andrew Roote, freshman Elias Holm, senior Alec Faiola and senior Giacomo Oldrini); the boys 100 back (Oldrini, Roote, Faiola and senior Kevin Edwards); and the boys 100 breast (sophomore Patrick Cavanaugh, Edwards, freshman Marshall Mao and senior Jack Baker) lead the way with four Panthers entries.
Last year, the boys 200 free relay and 400 free relay both placed fifth at WPIALs and qualified for states on time, and swimmers from those teams, seniors Jarod Crowell and Ethan Miller and junior Ethan Yant, hope to compete at Bucknell University again this year.
Senior Morgan Birdy and junior Michelle Lopes were on the 2016 girls 200 free relay team that placed fifth and lost out on a trip to state based on a qualifying tiebreaker.
The girls 200 medley relay, with returnee Abbie Ramey, a sophomore, among the quartet, posted a sixth-place finish at WPIALs. They hoped their time would get them to states, but they were not selected to go to Bucknell.
Santoro said there is a high emphasis placed on the six relays this year in order to get as many to states as possible and to score a higher amount of team points.
Lopes, Birdy and Ramey will swim all three girls relays, while Crowell will swim all three boys relays in addition to the individual 50 free. Santoro said the other relay names don't have to be announced until the day of the meet.
“You never know what could happen,” Santoro said. “We have the potential to have all six get to states. Automatic bids will be tough. There are so many solid relay teams.
The girls 400 free relay owns the highest seed among the six Panther relay teams as it checks in as the No. 4 seed (3:38.33) behind North Allegheny, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair.
On the individual side, Birdy just missed out on a trip to states last year in the 100 fly, but she earned a sixth-place medal at WPIALs (58.12). This year, she's seeded sixth.
Ramey returns to WPIALs in the 200 IM after placing ninth last year and missing a trip to states by 0.02 seconds.
Additional individual entries include sophomore Laura DiNunzio (200 free, 500 free); senior Kara Miller (200 free, 500 free); Ethan Miller (200 free, 100 free); Cavanaugh (200 IM); Lopes (50 free); junior Lily Wang (50 free); senior Rory Lingg (50 free); Yant (50 free, 100 free); sophomore Mason Fishell (50 free); senior Shannen Cloherty (100 free, 100 back); junior Marjorie Myers (500 free); Holm (500 free); and Evelyn Siler (100 breast).
“We are fortunate to be seeded where we are in both individual and relay events,” Santoro said. “We're a small school going up against many other larger schools. But it's nice to go up against the best competition.”
Mason Fishell, as a freshman, was the understudy at the WPIAL Class AAA diving championships last year.
He learned throughout his first season from veterans Andrew Sederholm and Kevin Schon and turned those lessons into a 16th-place overall finish.
Fishell returned to North Allegheny on Saturday with that WPIAL experience under his belt, and he made the most of it.
One of the top seeds entering the boys competition, Fishell executed his dives and turned in a fifth-place PIAA-qualifying performance.
The top five punched tickets to states, and Fishell ended with 413.85 points, seven points clear of Penn-Trafford sophomore Logan Sherwin and eight better than Sherwin's teammate, Warriors senior Nate Paszek.
The top 20 divers advanced to the semifinals. The leading 14 after the semifinals moved on to compete in the finals.
All five who are moving on to the PIAA championships, set for March 18 at Bucknell University, are underclassmen.
Leading the way is Fox Chapel sophomore Jonah Cagley, who won the WPIAL title with 525.20 points.
FR junior Riley Rizzer placed 25th overall (122.35) in his first trip to WPIALs.
On the girls side, Franklin Regional sophomore Elissa Novella made the most of her first trip to WPIALs.
She came close to earning a spot in the finals Saturday at North Allegheny, ending 17th overall with an eight-dive score of 241.90 points.
The preliminary round consisted of five dives, with three additional dives in the semifinals.
The finals contained three more dives, and Mars' senior Taylor Hockenberry broke 500 points (505.90) to claim the Class AAA championship.
Hockenberry won WPIAL titles as a sophomore and a junior at the AA level.
Places two through four were separated by only two points.
Fellow Franklin Regional sophomore Julia Perry placed 26th overall (142.45) in her first WPIAL appearance.