Latrobe girls swimmers relying on strength in numbers

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 8:45 p.m.

With many of its top competitors returning, the Latrobe girls swim team is looking forward to its best season ever.

“We should be really strong,” said Grey Arrigonie, in his first year as head coach after serving as an assistant. “North Allegheny is a perennial favorite at (the WPIAL Class AAA championship), but we should be up there with the top teams.”

Latrobe finished eighth in the WPIAL a year ago. North Allegheny is four-time defending WPIAL champion.

Latrobe never has been WPIAL champion. The Wildcats were WPIAL runners-up in 2010.

Junior Kayla Owens is Latrobe's top returning competitor. Owens was WPIAL runner-up in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke last year. At the PIAA championship, she was fourth in both events.

Senior Maddie Hoopes is back after finishing sixth in the 50 freestyle and sixth in the 100 freestyle in the WPIAL. Hoopes was WPIAL champion in the 100 freestyle in 2010.

Sophomore Monica Sowinski, who qualified for the WPIAL championships in the 50 and 100 freestyle events last year, considers Hoopes a role model.

“Her success as a freshman really inspired me,” Sowinski said. “She's been very helpful and a great leader.”

Hoopes anchors the 400 freestyle relay team that returned intact after placing fifth in the WPIAL and eighth in the PIAA meets. Owens, Sowinski and junior Gina DeFrancesco also are on the team.

Owens, Sowinski and Hoopes also belonged to the 200 freestyle relay team, which finished seventh in the WPIAL and 13th in the state.

DeFrancesco and senior Maria Mulheren were part of the 200 medley relay that competed at the WPIAL championship.

“I'm really excited about our relays,” said Hoopes, 18.

Freshmen Megan Douds, Karley Owens and Courtney Kinkead also will compete for the Wildcats, who finished 13th in the state last year.

The Latrobe boys team is rebuilding after losing Lucas Bureau to graduation.

Bureau, who now attends Virginia Tech, was WPIAL and PIAA champion in the 200 freestyle and WPIAL champion and state runner-up in the 100 freestyle. It was the second straight year he won the WPIAL title in the 100 freestyle.

“The only way to replace a state champion is with another state champion, which we don't have,” said Arrigonie, who also coaches the boys team.

The Wildcats also are without Tim Cengia, the WPIAL runner-up in 1-meter diving.

The Wildcats placed 17th in the state a year ago.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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