Seneca Valley freshman at home in the pool
The daughter of former standout swimmers, Ali Kozlina is making her own mark as a freshman on the Seneca Valley girls team.
Kozlina took first place in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events at the West Allegheny Christmas Invitational meet with times of 25.09 and 54.26 seconds, respectively.
She also was part of the winning 200 medley relay team, and anchored the 400 freestyle relay that finished second.
Her parents, Mike Kozlina of Hopewell and Melanie Buddemeyer of Penn Hills, were U.S. Olympic Team Trials finalists in the 1980s.
“Older coaches tell me all the time they know my mother and father,” said Kozlina, 14.
“There's some pressure living up to that.”
Kozlina trains at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, where her coach, Al Rose, also coached her mother three decades ago.
“Ali works hard and is coming along really well,” said Rose, noting Kozlina posted her best times at the Pitt Christmas Meet.
Rose said Kozlina and her mother — a U.S. National Champion in the 200-meter butterfly in 1987 — have similar temperaments.
“Ali smiles a lot, but has a strong competitive streak,” Rose said.
“My mother has always told me to be nice, but once you get into the pool, not to be so nice until you touch the wall,” Kozlina said.
Kozlina, who also played soccer, became serious about swimming several years ago.
“I knew I had to spend more time at it,” she said.
Her parents said they refrain from giving too much advice.
“I lend support, but she's her own person and has to learn to do things her own way,” Buddemeyer said.
Seneca Valley coach Brian Blackwell said Kozlina accepts criticism well.
“You give her a correction and she applies it quickly,” Blackwell said. “Some kids don't do that.
“Ali wants every set to be better.”
Kozlina, who has qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA championship in four events, has modest goals this year.
“I want to do well at WPIALs so I make it to (the PIAA championship),” she said.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.