WPIAL qualifiers highlight Norwin swim teams' strong start

Norwin sophomore Hannah Rusinko swims in the 500-yard freestyle during a meet against Elizabeth Forward on Dec. 19, 2013, at Norwin High School.
Norwin sophomore Hannah Rusinko swims in the 500-yard freestyle during a meet against Elizabeth Forward on Dec. 19, 2013, at Norwin High School.
Photo by Doug Gulasy | Norwin Star
Doug Gulasy
| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 5:57 p.m.

Mark Patterson sees a big difference between the 2013-14 Norwin swimming team and its predecessor from last season.

“The whole attitude from last year to this year is 100 percent different,” said Patterson, a junior. “This year, we have a lot more determination. The first meet of the year, we had 15 WPIAL (qualifiers). That just set (the tone for) the year. We're really ready to see what happens.”

After the Norwin boys swimming team finished 23rd and the girls tied for 27th at the WPIAL Class AAA Championships in 2012-13, the Knights are off to a fast start this season. Both teams won their first five meets of the season, including last week's dual victories over Elizabeth Forward (89-76 for the girls, 95-70 for the boys).

Beyond the 5-0 starts, the team's success includes 40 WPIAL qualifiers after recording just 14 last season.

“Instead of walking in with one or two and a couple alternates, it'll be nice to have a nice group,” coach Neil Rushnock said.

The biggest reason for Norwin's improved success this season, said Rushnock and several of the swimmers, is increased depth. In 2012-13, Norwin lacked enough swimmers to fill certain events and “gave points away” as a result, Rushnock said. This season, that's changed.

“I know that many people who didn't make it to WPIALs last year have gone over and beyond what we need to,” sophomore Hannah Rusinko said. “These freshmen who have come up have really pulled it together. They're making WPIAL cuts that they didn't even think they could do in the beginning of this year.”

“I've known a lot of these guys in the past,” sophomore Eric Booth said. “I knew they were going to come in and we were going to have full lanes (and sweep events). I think the coaches know too, and they've been really concentrating on the other people — not just (lanes) 3 and 5, (the top swimmers). They've really come through for the outside lanes, and I think that's where we get our depth.”

Freshmen are contributing on both teams, Rushnock said.

“The future looks pretty good,” he said. “If we can keep getting a half-dozen freshmen (on each team) every year, it'll be nice.”

Included among Norwin's early victories was a sweep over Indiana, a team that traditionally got the better of the Knights. The boys team's victory over the Little Indians' was its first in more than 10 years.

“We were excited and hyped up for that meet,” Patterson said. “Everyone was cheering for everyone. I don't think anyone sat down the whole time. We were ready to beat them.”

Norwin's next meet is scheduled for Jan. 7 at Laurel Highlands. The Knights will open section competition at home Jan. 9 against Hempfield.

“Over Christmas break, we definitely can't take any time off,” Rusinko said. “Once we get back from the break, we're starting up with practices. We're not only working on just beating other teams. We want to have good technique, and we want to be really able to push it to not just out-touch people but to really win and drop times like we need to.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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