Manolis represents Jeannette as swimmer in WPIAL meets
When swimmers in Western Pennsylvania gathered to compete this season, there was a new opponent on the starting block.
Maggie Manolis, a freshman, is representing Jeannette High School this season as a swimmer in WPIAL competition. She is the school's lone swimmer and the first to represent the Jayhawks in quite some time.
In a manner of speaking, she competes with the help of the Greensburg Salem High School swim team, but Manolis is in search of individual qualifying times during each swim meet.
By competing with the team, she's able to test her mettle against swimmers from all WPIAL AA schools that compete at the pools.
The points she accumulates during a meet don't count toward Salem's totals, in fact they don't count toward anything, Manolis uses meets to collect official times in her various events —specifically the 100 meter fly and the 100 meter breaststroke.
If one of her times matches or exceeds the qualifying times set down by the WPIAL, she is able to compete for championships in her two favorite events. Today and tomorrow, Manolis will compete for her first WPIAL swimming championship as a freshman. Her hope is to get a chance to compete at the state PIAA championships as well.
“I'm pretty much on my own,” Manolis said of the swim meets.
The Yough High School team has five swimmers, but Manolis is the only student at most meets who is representing her school by herself.
She competes with the YMCA Stingrays swim team, primarily with students from Penn Trafford and Hempfield. Manolis officially got her start in the swimming pool when her father, Angelo Manolis, took her swimming in the family pool days after her belly button healed after her birth.
A few years later, Manolis began competitive swimming as a first-grader.
Her best friend, Emily Graziano, was a member of a YMCA swim team and her mother, Kim Graziano, was a swim coach. Emily Graziano talked her friend into giving the team a try and, “I've been at the pool every since.”
Kim Graziano remains Manolis' swim coach both at the YMCA and in WPIAL competitions.
“I love practicing with her, it's like family. She knows how my brain works and I can talk to her about anything,” she said.
After nine years of swim meets, competing in the winters and summers, Manolis still feels at home in the water.
“It feels peaceful to swim it out after a bad day at school,” she said.
After years of competing in the YMCA program and seeing the older swimmers going on to compete at the WPIAL level, Manolis hoped to one day follow their lead.
“I would hear about it from the older girls who had that opportunity, so I talked to Mr. (Matt) Lebe about it. I was excited when it worked.”Lebe, Jeannette's athletic director, arranged for Manolis to compete at the various meets.
“In a way, I feel lonely. It's just me and my mom (Cindy Manolis). But I feel like it's important to show the school in a good way. It reflects on me as a swimmer and shows that our school has someone who can do this —who can go in and swim hard.”
She practices with the YMCA team at least three days a week, for just under two hours at a time. In the summers, she practices in the mornings for about an hour. This time of year, Manolis will be busy with swimming until the end of March. In addition to WPIAL meets, she is preparing for YMCA district and state competitions.
By the time summer rolls around, Manolis said with a laugh that her mother wonders why she doesn't spend more time in the family pool.
Her personal goals for the future is to attend a state PIAA championship swim meet and to place there before her senior year.
“I want to represent my school in a way no one else can and to make my school proud.”
Outside of school and the pool, Manolis participates in dance classes, she is a member of chorus and is a school cheerleader. She is also the freshman class president.
She lives at home with her parents and younger sister, Zoe Manolis, who is in elementary school. She has two older sisters, Elana and Tessa, who are Jeannette graduates.
“I want to thank my mom and dad for always pushing me to do my best even when I get mad. I love them and thank them for being there. I want to thank my sisters for coming to my meets and cheering me on and thank my coaches for being the first ones to make me love the sport. They made me the swimmer I am today.
“I thank my friends for always supporting me and cheering for me even if they don't understand swimming. They still care enough to support me in my dreams.”
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.