Former Highlands swimming great returns to roots
TribLIVE Sports Videos
For former All-American swimmer Beth Brancato, home is where her heart is.
Brancato had an illustrious prep and college swimming career and found herself wanting to give back to the sport, so she got into coaching.
It just so happens her first head coaching position is at her alma mater.
Brancato, 34, is coaching the Highlands boys and girls teams this season, roaming the edges of the same pool in which she broke numerous records.
“My whole family is here, so this just made sense to me,” said Brancato, who's maiden name is Karaica.
One of the A-K Valley's top swimmers in the mid-1990s, Brancato won the WPIAL and PIAA 50-yard freestyle as a senior. She also won the WPIAL 100-yard freestyle.
Her records of 23.63 seconds in the 50 free and 52.50 in the 100 free remain unbroken.
High school success led her to the University of Nebraska, where she continued her assault on the record books.
At Nebraska, she helped the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams to records that still stand. She also has the second-fastest time in school history in the 50 free.
A three-time All-American, she was invited to swim for the U.S. National Team in 1999.
“In high school, I felt I could compete in all of my events,” Brancato said. “The coach puts you in everything and you learn what kind of events you should specialize in.”
Now, Brancato is on the other side of the water, bestowing her knowledge on a new batch of swimmers.
“I missed being around swimming and I felt that it was the right time,” she said. “I've had kids, wanted to spend time with my family and had other priorities in life. Now my kids are older and involved in their own things.”
Brancato had never coached at the high school level before. Her only coaching experience came from her days with the Nebraska Husker Aquatics club when she was a student coach.
Enrollment is up for the girls team at Highlands, while the boys have just seven on the roster.
Highlands' team captain Carly Boda said Brancato has been invaluable to her development.
“She's an amazing coach, she really is,” Boda said. “She's very good with us and pushes us. Our practices are disciplined and tough.”
Senior captain Cole Emanuelson reiterated Boda's stance.
“It certainly makes you feel confident when your coach says you're doing well, when your coach was a good swimmer herself,” Emanuelson said.
So far, the swimmers have responded to their new leader. Brancato said she's received a lot of positive feedback from parents and swimmers.
Former Kittanning swimmer Tom Mechling is Brancato's assistant coach.
“I feel like what helps our swimmers is the experience and the knowledge that we can share with them,” Brancato said. “We've tried to pass along our techniques and our training methods, and the kids seem to respect us a lot. They're very receptive.”
The watchful eyes of Brancato and Mechling can be intimidating.
“Sometimes when I screw up, she'll correct us,” Boda said. “She just wants us to do our best, have a good mentality and picture your race. She wants us to think that we'll win every time we swim and always wants our best.”
Emanuelson said the team has a friendly contest to best their coach.
“One of my teammates has a goal to beat her time from high school, it gives motivation to keep getting better,” Emanuelson said.
Now that Brancato is back in the fold, she reassured her commitment to the program. However, family comes first.
She and her husband, Keith, have a son (Christian, 7) and a daughter (Casey, 4).
“It takes a few years to build a foundation for your program,” Brancato said. “I'm not going to rule out a long tenure as coach, but I do have my family and would never miss out on my kids' events.”
Jesse Huba is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lopsided loss to Eagles shows Steelers have issues aplenty
- Harrison’s 5 RBIs help Pirates pound Brewers
- Steelers notebook: Keisel always hoped to return
- Fayette County under flood warning after heavy overnight rains
- Sandusky cover-up case unusually shrouded
- Records: Steelers RB Bell admitted smoking pot before traffic stop but denied being high
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Sanchez makes 1st start at first base with Indy
- Mother Nature takes a swat at Western Pa. stink bugs
- Roundup: Keurig strikes deal with Kraft on coffee brands; more
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Pitt football team rallies around its youth