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P-T boys, Latrobe girls win county swim-diving titles

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 9:12 p.m.
Franklin Regional's Kaitlyn Ruffing lines up at the start of the 50 freestyle at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Swimming and Diving Championship on February 2, 2013 at Derry Area High School in Derry Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

It came down to the final events to determine the first-place teams in the swimming portion of the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association Championships on Saturday at Derry High School.

The higher-placing teams in the 400 freestyle relays — the Class AAA Penn-Trafford boys and the Class AAA Latrobe girls — finished atop their respective standings for a record number of schools at the two-day event that began Friday with the diving competition.

“Each year this event gets bigger and bigger,” meet coordinator Donna Harshell said. “We had a record-number 17 schools and 303 athletes take part.”

Matt Loughner and Tony Sekowski won two events each to lead Penn-Trafford to its fifth consecutive boys crown with 265 points, while Latrobe, which set individual meet records in three events, captured the girls title with 262.5 points. That ended a two-year run by Franklin Regional.

The Panthers finished second in both team scores with 254 boys points and 248 girls points.

“I'm satisfied with our overall performance,” Franklin Regional coach Vic Santoro said. “We had some unexpected winners. We were just trying score as well as we could.”

Mt. Pleasant won the Class AA boys team scoring, finishing fifth overall, and Derry was the Class AA girls team winner with a fourth-place overall showing.

“We stepped up to that last event with confidence,” Penn-Trafford coach Dave Babik said. “We were ecstatic at the end of that meet.”

Hempfield, the third-place overall finisher in the boys scoring, edged Penn-Trafford for first-place in the 400 freestyle relay, but the Warriors bested third-place Franklin Regional to earn enough points to secure the boys team title.

Loughner (100 freestyle) and Sekowksi (100 breaststroke) each won an individual event for Penn-Trafford and were on the Warriors' winning 200 medley relay team.

While Latrobe did not produce any multiple winners in the girls events, meet records were set by Wildcats swimmers Monica Sowinski (200 freestyle), Gina Defrancesco (500 freestyle) and Kayla Owens (100 breaststroke).

“We had a number of girls do well today,” Latrobe coach Grey Arrigonie said. “One of our goals at the beginning of the year was to win the county meet. We hadn't done it the past two times.”

The Franklin Regional boys 200 freestyle relay team of Jon Palmer, Nieko Santoro, David Maholage and Tyler Stevenson established the other new meet standard.

Stevenson, a freshman, also won two individual events, finishing first in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle.

“He's a young freshman at 14 years olds,” Vic Santoro said. “He's our next up-and-coming superstar. He's already competing like a senior.”

Vic Santoro, relying on Franklin Regional's versatility, continued a trend that uses some swimmers in events other than their specialities. For instance, the Ruffing sisters — senior Kaitlyn and junior Alyssa — fared well in events other than their main ones.

Kaitlyn Ruffing won the 50 and 100 freestyles and along with Alyssa Ruffing was part of the Panthers' winning 200 freestyle relay team.

Alyssa Ruffing, the defending WPIAL champion in the 50 and 100 freestyles, did not compete in those events on Saturday, instead settling for a second in the 200 individual medley and a third in the 500 freestyle.

“I feel that it's what the team needed,” Alyssa Ruffing said. “I didn't mind it.”

Kaitlyn Ruffing, in turn, saluted her sister's unselfish efforts.

“Alyssa adapts well,” Kaitlyn said. “She's basically the next-best in those events.”

In last season's meet, Santoro used the same tactics with Kaitlyn Ruffing, then a junior, entering her in events other than her specialties.

“In an event like this,” he said, “it's about the team and not the individual because it's a team sport. Alyssa is such a good swimmer. She could have won a number of events.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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