Quaker Valley swim teams optimistic for season's 2nd half

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Quaker Valley boys swimming team is doing better than expected, but not without some convincing by coach Sue Morgan.

Entering the second half of the season, the Quakers were 6-0.

“I'm trying to get them to understand that we can do well without Bobby Francis,” Morgan said. “They see his name many times on our record board and have the mindset that he can't be replaced.”

Francis, who now competes at the University of Pennsylvania, swept WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles in the 100-yard breaststroke last season.

He set a WPIAL record of 58.44 seconds in winning the WPIAL championship for the second straight year.

He also was WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up in the 200 individual medley.

Quaker Valley has relied on depth to ease his loss.

So far, seven Quakers have qualified for the WPIAL championships: sophomore Griffin Nincke (200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 500 freestyle and 100 breaststroke), sophomore Josh Chamberlain (200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke), freshman Evan Ragoowansi (200 individual medley), senior Rhet Happel (50 freestyle), junior Robert Cary (100 backstroke), freshman Kyle Hrabovsky (100 breaststroke) and sophomore Fritz Wiltman (100 breaststroke).

With more boys expected to qualify, the Quakers are looking forward to the same number of competitors they had a year ago, Morgan said.

Morgan said first-year team members were in awe watching Francis swim recently in an alumni meet.

Chamberlain hates to see his teammates discouraged.

“Bobby is probably the best swimmer Quaker Valley has ever seen, but he's only one guy,” he said. “He wasn't the only senior we lost.

“We can still make it happen.”

Quaker Valley finished eighth in the WPIAL and 18th in the state a year ago.

The Quaker Valley girls team (4-2) expects big improvement in the second half of the season.

“We had some injuries and illnesses, and were missing some girls because of the holidays,” said Morgan, who also coaches the girls squad.

Morgan was encouraged with the way the Quakers performed in a dual meet against two-time defending WPIAL Class AA champion West Allegheny.

“We lost, but still did well,” she said.

Senior Sarah Francis, Bobby's sister, also is optimistic.

“We had a rough start, but with little easier meets coming up, we should be more competitive,” she said.

Francis (200 freestyle and 100 freestyle) is one of four girls who has qualified so far for the WPIAL championship.

Junior Alexis Glenn (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle), senior Hayley Ashner (diving) and junior Olivia Ragoowansi (diving) also qualified.

With four competitors, diving has been a strong point for the Quakers.

“We have depth,” Olivia Ragoowansi said. “We all can't compete in the same meet.”

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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